I recently wrote an article to help people choose the next place to pick out a pet rat. I thought it would be worthwhile to post here for anyone interested.

Direct link: http://blackwolfrattery.com/gpage3.html

When looking for a breeder to adopt rats from, one should be careful and cautious. Just like in the dog world, there are good breeders and bad breeders. Pet rats should be viewed like any other pet: You don't just want the first animal you see, you want a very special animal you can bond with who has an excellent temperament and good health in its lineage. Many people know what makes a good dog breeder: one who breeds a limited number of litters a year, registers all dogs and offspring, acquires championships for all dogs before breeding, and performs all necessary health checks for the breed, as well as providing the best care possible. A person would not have to think twice about adopting a dog from a puppy mill or backyard breeder, someone who produces litter after litter just to fill a demand or make money with no thought to health, temperament, or structural integrity of the dogs. It seems like a no-brainerť that one just doesn't buy dogs from these sources, you may as well go to a pet store!

But what makes rats different? People never hesitate to buy rats from pet stores or the first breeder they meet, even if that breeder never seems to be without a litter and doesn't keep track of lines. We want good pets in our rats right? So why do we treat them so differently from our dogs? The true answer is, we should put the same amount of time and effort into finding good rats as we do to find good dogs. There are a number of sources to pick our rats from, but which one really is the best?


Pet Stores

This should NEVER be an option. Just like one would never buy a dog from a pet store, one should never buy a pet rat from a pet store, even a good pet store that actually gives its animals proper care. The animals you see in pet stores are often produced by mill breeders, again breeders who breed litter after litter to meet a demand or make a profit. Usually the extent of their selection is for the pretty or popular colors, markings, and fur or ear types. There is very little, if any, thought put into the health or temperament of their animals produced. All too often you hear of someone who buys their first pet rat from a pet store, just to be in tears a week later because the animal died. A young, apparently healthy animal, died within a week of purchase. Or another common complaint is that the person's rat suddenly turns vicious at six months of age. It wasn't anything the person necessarily did wrong, simply that pet stores are not good sources for pets. Not only are the animals bred without thought of health or temperament, but pet stores are inherently breeding grounds for disease. With a large number of animals in a small space undergoing constant stressors, disease can run rampant. Some pet stores attempt to control disease by separating obviously sick animals, but some diseases can lay dormant for weeks. That apparently health animal at the date of purchase can mysteriously die within one to three weeks. The simple answer is the animal was carrying a deadly disease that required one to three weeks incubation time before symptoms first start showing. Such diseases include Sialodacryoadentitis Virus (SDA) and Sendai Virus, which are hard to treat and often fatal.

Pet stores rarely separate males and females, and all females purchased are likely to be pregnant. Even if there are no males in the enclosure at the time of adoption, she was likely exposed to one or more males at some point in the last week. It is a common complaint that a rat is purchased from a pet store, just to have twelve or more babies within two or three weeks. Some pet stores will designate some rats as pets and others as feeders. This is a deceiving designation, and often an excuse to charge more for the so-called pets. In reality, these two groups of rats may actually be from the very same litter. They have the same lineage and family health, they may even have the same temperament (good or bad). The only real difference is that those animals designated as pets happen to be prettier or more popular colors or varieties.


Rescues and Shelters

Rescues and shelters can potentially be good places to adopt a rat that offers many advantages. Often the rats come from less-than-desirable conditions. Many report the rats know when they have been adopted by a good home, and reward the good deed with much love and affection. However there are good rescues and bad rescues, and shelters should be approached with caution. Often shelters specialize in cats and dogs. They may take in small animals, but not understand proper socializing. These animals may not be handled, may not even receive a proper diet. When adopting such animals, be prepared for much time spent socializing these animals. Such animals may possibly A good rescue should specialize in just rats, or a couple small animals, but not rescue every animal under the sun. This just takes too much work and requires too many resources. Good rescues should be not-for-profit, and are run by adoption fees and donations, as well as the endless effort of countless volunteers. Good rescues also know their limits and don't bring in any more animals than they have resources to care for those animals. Many rescues have a fostering system set up, where animals are placed in foster homes to receive proper care and socializing until they are adopted into permanent homes. All good rescues should charge an adoption fee. This fee may vary, depending on the degree of care and services applied to the animal. Some rescues require all animals be spayed or neuter before adoption, and often have a higher adoption fee to cover this cost. Others don't require spays or neuters, and have a lower adoption fee. One should not be scared away from a rescue because of the adoption fee. Keep in mind rescues put countless hours and manual labor into caring for these animals. They don't have a regular income, but operate on donations and adoption fees. Those adoption fees allow the rescue to care for other animals, as well as help rescue even more animals from horrible situations.

Bad rescues do exist also. These rescues may not have limits and take in more animals than they can care for. Some of these rescues will even breed the animals they have under their care, just to meet a demand or attract more adopters. Such behaviors are inexcusable, and these rescues should be avoided.


Breeders

Breeders are also good places to adopt a rat from. However not all breeders are equal. Technically anyone who puts two rats together and produces a litter is a breeder. This can be your neighborhood child who knows nothing about rats, or it could be an adult who has put countless hours of research into breeding and has gone the extra lengths to acquire suitable breeding animals. For these reasons, it is important for you as the adopter to put in your own extra effort to research breeders before choosing one to adopt from. The breeder you choose should not be the first one to answer your requests with babies available. Instead the breeder you choose should be one who is ethical, responsible, and reputable.

So what makes a breeder ethical? Ethics is defined as the principle of morals. This applies to rat breeding in how the breeder goes about their business as a breeder. It has to do with how the breeder chooses his or her pairs from which to produce litters, how he/she deals with the litters, when rats are bred, how many litters each rat is allowed to produce, and how the breeder finds homes for the resulting babies. Responsibility in regards to rat breeding has to do with the breeder's accountability for their actions. Reputable breeders are those which are held in high regard by others for their ethics and responsibility as breeders.

Unfortunately most rat breeders do not fit these three criteria. Some come close in some areas, but fall short in others. The "Breeder Red Flags" is a list of characteristics adopters should be wary of in a breeder. The "Not Red Flags" list includes those characteristics that are not warning signs, and may in fact be signs of a good breeder. Fancy and attractive websites should not be the only determining factor of a good breeder. Adopters should also not adopt from the first breeder to respond with available babies. Instead adopters should contact breeders and conduct their own sort of interview.


Breeder "Red Flags"

Direct link with full explanations: http://blackwolfrattery.com/gpage33.html

There are several "red flags" an adopter should look for when picking a breeder from which to obtain rats. These "red flags" are warning signs that may indicate a breeder who is irresponsible, unethical, or disreputable. For more details, click on the statements below.

1) Breeder has too many animals.

2) Breeder always has litters available or breeds multiple litters at a time.

3) Breeder fosters out half their litters in order to breed more.

4) Breeder produces litters he/she has no intention of keeping babies from or "just to have a litter".

5) Breeder breeds for adopters, to meet a demand, or make a profit.

6) Breeder breeds immature animals often.

7) Breeder weans babies at less than four weeks of age.

8 ) Breeder kills (culls) babies for reasons other than as a last resort for an untreatable or incurable disease or injury.

9) Breeder does not keep track of the health and temperament of their lines. Breeder expects adopters to make special effort to keep in touch.

10) Breeder claims their lines are free of all health problems or defects.

11) Breeder's only goals are focused on only one of the following: health, temperament, type, or color.

12) Breeder does not use proper standardized names for the varieties in their rattery.

13) Breeder charges more for popular varieties.

14) Breeder breeds wild rats or “hybrids”.

15) Breeder's pedigree only offers names and colors of the rat's ancestors. Breeder cannot share more in-depth knowledge of those rats.

16) Breeder provides minimal care or skips on important factors of care.

17) Breeder does not have a working relationship with a vet or avoids taking seriously ill or injured animals to the vet.

18 ) Breeder knowingly sells sick or injured animals.

19) Breeder does not observe proper quarantine.

20) Breeder is willing to ship by illegal means.

21) Breeder sells to pet stores or pet expos, or provides rats as reptile food.

22) Breeder will not take back animals they have produced.

23) Breeder asks for donations to keep their rattery running.

24) Breeder does not have an involved adoption procedure or detailed adoption agreement.

25) Breeder also breeds another species.


Breeder flags that are not "red flags"

Direct link with full explanations: http://blackwolfrattery.com/gpage34.html

There are some flags, or characteristics and behaviors, that some people may view unfavorably. Some of these are not really red flags though. They may in fact be the sign of a good breeder.

1) Breeder does not allow visitors into the rattery.

2) Breeder charges an adoption fee.

3) Breeder uses inbreeding or line-breeding as tools.

4) Breeder admits there are health problems in the line.

5) Breeder specializes in one or two varieties only.

6) Breeder also breeds another species.

7) Breeder has a quarantine home set up.

8 ) Breeder shows their animals.

9) Breeder is a member of one or several clubs.

10) Breeder makes a special effort to keep in touch with adopters.

11) Breeder specializes in unstandardized varieties, but is not making up names for standardized varieties.

12) Breeder has a combined goal for bettering health, temperament, type, and color.

13) Breeder weans babies at five weeks of age.

14) Breeder has an involved adoption procedure that requires the adopter to answer detailed questions, and requires the adopter to provide home address and phone number.

15) Breeder's pedigrees offer names and colors, but breeder is also able to provide detailed information about the rats on the pedigree.

There are LOTS of ways to find breeders/rescues near you.

First is word of mouth. Post a message on a forum like this stating your location (nearest city if not your home city, that's ok). People who know of breeders/rescues in your area will reply and let you know.

Another is to check breeder listings such as Ratster, or club listings. All of the links below have breeder listings in different areas. Many of them also have rescue listings.
http://www.ratster.com
http://www.niro-usa.org
http://www.rmca.org
http://www.ratfanclub.org
http://www.afrma.org (mostly California, but sometimes has other states listed)

If that doesn't work, contact the breeder/rescue nearest you from one of those lists (even if in a different state) and talk to them. Sometimes they (especially rescues) will have transport arrangements set up for you. Other times they will know of someone who is closer to you that you were unable to find.

Originally Written By: Sorraia--Thanks!