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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, this is something I've been thinking about for awhile and would love to hear other's experiences. I realize that a lot of people post on here when they have a question or a problem, so I might be getting a skewed impression. But, over the years, I've gotten 6 rats from the same pet store. And all of these rats have been exceptionally healthy. Because of this my experience has been that rats are healthy animals. However from the posts on here and research I've done, I feel rather lucky and know this is likely not the case.

I've posted in the health section a few times in the past, almost expecting or anticipating something to be wrong...but it never has happened for me. The 4 rats I've had in the past, have died suddenly or overnight. I haven't ever discerned the exact cause of death. Stroke/seizure? But no symptoms had been presented prior. They've also lived 2-3 years, which is average I think?

My two current guys have had the occasional sneeze, but nothing else really. Right now they're nearing or around 1.5 years so my fingers are crossed.

Now I know nothing about genetics, but could it be that this local pet store has a healthy "line" (don't know if this is the correct term) of rats? They keep them in pretty good and clean conditions, better at least than the chain stores I've been to. Have I just been lucky?

I'd also like to know if any other members on here have found a pet store where they've received healthy rats? I don't hear about this much on here (mostly the opposite, which I've also encountered enough of) so just want a general idea of how common this is. Again, I'd love input!
 

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I got three rats from the same store. One died the morning after I got her from pneumonia. Another has some pretty bad respiratory issues that come up a lot and I can't seem to stop her sneezing anymore. The third is actually extremely healthy. She got sick one time from dust in the cage, but it treated easily and has not come back since. I can't say for certain why one is healthy and one really isn't... Maybe your store really does get them from a good place. What store is it, if I may ask?
 

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I did a survey some time back and tracked several health related variables including where the rats were sourced from. I'm not sure what I expected, but the results were actually interesting. Many of, if not most of the rats that made it over 2 years old were in fact pet shop or feeder bin rats and very few rats actually made it to three years old from anywhere. There was a group that died young, often with health issues, but for the most part they were a mix of store, feeder and breeder rats, in other words you might get a sickly rat from anywhere, it's the luck of the draw. I also noticed that certain people tended to have longer lived rats than other people, but that was more of a extrapolation than hard data, kind of an eyeball trend. This might suggest that some people obtain rats from a source with a healthier strain or perhaps take better care of them than others.

The results really didn't prove anything conclusively. There were more healthy long lived pet shop rats than breeder rats, but pet shop rats outnumbered breeder rats in the sample by the vast majority.

The best conclusion I could reach is that pet shop rats and feeder rats do pretty well overall. Surprisingly, the data suggested that statistically you can find healthy long lived rats from almost any group, breeder, pet store and breeder. The subject really warrants further study.

That said, we adopted two feeder rats from the same store, both most likely came from the same commercial breeder, both were very healthy until they developed aggressive mammary tumors, one died at about 18 months one at around 28 months suggesting that mammary tumors may run in their strain, but really two rats don't make a fair sample.

So yes, your pet shop might breed or buy rats from a healthier strain than the big box chain stores, or you might just have gotten lucky. Also despite the number of sick pet shop rats we tend to see discussed in the health section the fact is that a greater number of them stay healthy and live a long time than you would expect. More pet shop rats get sick than breeder rats because pet shop rats outnumber breeder rats by hundreds to one.

Long story short, rats are actually pretty healthy animals when they are young, then they get sick and die usually by 30 months. Standard of care seems to impact a rats longevity by a couple to a few months as does source. If there are some terribly bad or amazingly good strains out there they haven't been identified so that you could easily find them or avoid them.

Currently, I'm in touch with someone who has obtained a rat from the same breeder we use, she's a vegan health food fanatic and feeds her rats the same way, our rats are junk food junkies... We're both over a year into our rats, and mine is a lot pudgier than hers, ours is also a few months older, but so far all of our rats are healthy. Ours is less active, but she also recently lost her best friend and has been living alone since. Again it's unlikely with a sample of 3 rats so far we are going to prove anything scientific, but something may be learned if one rat outlives the others by a year.

I'd say if you are having good luck with the rats you are adopting, it's not a fluke, most pet shop rats seem to be pretty healthy overall, it also goes to your standard of care. If you are happy with the rats you have been adopting, I'd try and narrow down the source of the strain and try and stay with that one as long as you can. Breeders and pet shops come and go and some breeders change up their strains by adding new colors or fur and ear morphs so you can't ever guarantee that even the rats you get from the same place are genetically similar.

For what little it's worth, I hope that helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Sabatea: It's a local place in southern Minnesota. I don't feel entirely comfortable revealing the exact location on the internet for the masses to see, as I'm paranoid it would reveal more about where I live. But if you want, we could discuss it privately!

Rat Daddy: I guess it really does make sense, when you consider the numbers. This particular place is local, but is large and has a rather high volume of animals (the actual store is pretty large too). So perhaps it's a mixture of my environment, the store's care and breeding, and luck. But I know next to nothing about what strains my rats are, or what that means. How would I figure that out?
 

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For the most part breeders tend to inbreed rats that they already have, over time the group of rats that they breed takes on a genetic similarity which might loosely be called a strain or location (as in the location of the breeder or wild population).

Naturally if the breeder crosses in and out rats from different strains or locations he comes up with something new that over time again becomes genetically homogeneous and becomes a new strain.

So if Barbie's pet shop breeds their own rats, from offspring of the same 10 rats they started with in 1970 and hasn't introduced any new blood since, their rats might be called "Barbie's Pet Shop strain". If you bought 10 rats from Barbie's pet shop, you would expect them to be very much alike in terms of health and temperament. If you then took those 10 rats to another breeder to continue to interbreed the same group without introducing any new rats to the mix, they would continue to be called Barbie's Pet Shop strain rats. And this can be shorthanded to BPS rats. This is why you will see some breeders list their rats by strain plus name such as BPS Norman and BPS Cinderella where the BPS stand for Barbies Pet Shop strain to which the name of the individual rat is added.

Strains can be improved (or destroyed) by either select breeding to weed out certain genes or cross breeding with rats from another strain to add different genes.

My background is in breeding exotic tropical fish, one of my friends is a world class tropical fish breeder. He's both produced some truly beautiful fish and wiped out some other strains by inbreeding or what's called selective breeding. Sometimes when you take out a bad gene, you take out a good gene that's linked with it and you wind up with a strain that's deformed, won't reproduce or is otherwise not viable. I always bred large populations of fish where I could to keep as many of the original genes in the gene pool. So I would normally get fish similar to the wild populations I started with and I would also get some really beautiful fish, some average fish and a few sub average fish in every generation. I didn't get the spectacular one's my friend did, but I didn't wipe out my strains nearly as often. Understanding if your breeder selectively breeds, or out crosses and how she maintains her gene pool is important in understanding what you are adopting. I don't breed rats, but breeding is a science and an art form. I've seen a few fish strains that were so close to perfection grow up to be non-reproductive or throw a next generation of mutants and it's tragic when it happens. Good breeders really need a sixth sense to pick the right parents and need to know when to leave well enough alone which is when science turns to art. This is also the reason most people shouldn't breed rats.

Note: This forum doesn't permit the discussion of intentionally breeding rats therefore the information contained in this post is only intended to give you some useful knowledge in understanding a little more about what breeders do and perhaps how to understand some of the technicalities behind what they offer. There's no information contained in this thread that would be useful to anyone considering breeding rats on their own... you need to have a way deeper knowledge than what's contained in this thread to even consider giving it a go... So just in case someone thinks they're an expert now, you're not... Even if you start with a known good strain, you can still go very wrong if you don't know what you are doing.

I'm not going into further questions on this topic as those may cross the line into discussing intentional breeding which is prohibited on this site.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Oh yeah I obviously have no intentions on breeding, I just ask because I thought there might be some way to determine where my specific rats came from...and keeping that in mind for the furture if I were to get anymore little ones from there. But it sounds like the best I could do would just be to keep adopting from the same place. I suppose I thought there was some visual cue that would reveal rats of similar background that I could look for at the pet store, shows how much I know about this all :p Thanks for the background though, nice to be familiar with some of the terms.
 

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Sorry, I couldn't help more, but with the exception of some really rare rats the genetics get cris-crossed like wildfire. Manx or tailless rats for example are so rare they are generally an uncommon offspring from a single strain and you can order certain fixed lab strains from scientific companies, but otherwise my black hooded rat and your black hooded rat may be so distantly related or unrelated that you and I are more likely more closely related. You can perhaps tell a bred for meat rat by it's broad shoulders and it's tendency to grow fast and get pudgy and a real show rat because it's comparatively sleek and huge. But even two rats from the same litter can look very dissimilar.

Some high end fish breeders dump surplus and culls in pet shops as do some high end rat breeders... somewhere someone is getting very lucky if they go to the right store on the right day, but even that's hit or miss.
 
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