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Discussion Starter #1
I was wondering what everyones opinions are on feeders as pets. I know from a few posts I've read here that most people do not wish to discuss feeders, but they are rats too aren't they? Most of my rats have come from feeder sections of pet shops. Are they more prone to disease or something? The shop I go to has a few ladies that breed the rats and care for them. They have a huge breeding program there and at any time they might have upwards of 100+ rats ranging in all walks of life. Most of my rats have come from there. The ladies will take out any dumbos or extremely well marked, or well behaved rats and put them into the pet community for sale as pets.

Anyway I saw a few people say "Never buy a feeder as a pet!" and I just wonder why. They've always made as great of a pet for me as a breeder raised pet from a private owner. But there could be something very important I'm missing! I live in a rural area and finding rat breeders is very difficult without having to drive for an hour to get to them. I don't have air conditioning in my car and it gets -really- hot here so I don't dare take my ratties in the car. I usually just get my rats from the local shop. There is a petsmart and a petco in town, but I don't really like their rats, they seem to never get any hands on experience while they are caged there. I've got a rat from petco before and it took a long time to tame him, and he still isn't as "human happy" as the rest of my ratties.
 

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The vast majority of feeders are produced instead of bred...like a puppy mill. Buying feeders raises the demand and creates more unwanted rats.

Unknown genetics create disease and distemperment. Furthering these diseases by breeding are an insult to the rat breeding fancy.


Yes, feeders are rats too, but it is hard for us to talk about a rat who will be swallowed by a snake while we hold on to our pet rats.


In general, feeders are poorly bred, mass produced, and just typically not good pets.
 

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I agree, I prefer not to buy feeders as for health and tempermant issues. Sure some feeders are perfectly fine and healthy its a risk worth trying to avoid IMO.

I have a few pets that were set as feeders but they all come from a fancy breeder. If he doesn't want to keep them or breed them they become feedersin most cases. but he sets them aside until the rest of us keeping/breeding go through them. Rarely will i buy a run of the mill pet shop feeder as a pet unless it has the near exact color/pattern i am looking for and even then poor health/conditions in the store/tempermant can make me change my mind.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I see, I see. Maybe that is my problem with my seemingly constantly sick ratties! Bad genetics from mass breeding/producing. I've yet to run into one that has been a bad pet though, I'm probably just very lucky on that front. I can agree on the poorly bred aspect, even though the ladies that breed them are very sweet and treat the rats very good, it's still a mass breeding program and I can totally understand why that is frowned upon. I never breed my pets, my dogs and cats are all neutered/spayed, and I'd probably consider neutering my males except 1. they are all males so there is no risk of unwanted babies, and 2. I've heard so many horror stories of ratties that died within a few hours or days after neutering and it seems too risky. Other than the obvious benefit of no rat babies, is there a health benefit that I should know about with neutering?

I don't want to sound heartless or anything here, I LOVE my ratties, but with rats having such a short life span it seems like a un-needed procedure. Again, I'm fairly new to the pet rats scene (about a year of owning them) and very open to learning new things about them! If there is something I'm missing or doing wrong I'd love to learn about it so I can correct it. :)

I own many many pets, a ball python being one of them. I won't get descriptive out of respect for those who get upset by feeding, I know how sensitive some can be about it. I usually only note that mother nature herself is a cruel beast that is far more unforgiving than the humane feeding of snakes. (frozen food)

It's very unfortunate how the food chain works, and it's one of the reasons I refuse to swim in the ocean, I don't want to be part of the food chain!

But back to the topic of feeders as pets, I only buy males so I won't have any worries of unexpected ratty babies. I've thought about just doing rat adoption from rat rescue places but I always run into that same problem of having to drive a great distance to get the rat, and I very much dislike putting them into the car. I've lost many a pet due to the extreme heat of cars and I just don't risk it anymore. They either go really early in the morning before the heat starts or late at night after the sun has gone down. My vet has always been really good about letting me bring my animals in very early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day.
 

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Lesath said:
is there a health benefit that I should know about with neutering?
Yes, in fact, neutering may lengthen your rat's life span. For males, it can chop off the territorial behavior and make them big cuddly squishes. In addition, it negates the chances of testicular cancer and other testosterone related health problems.

For females, the benefits are numberous. Greatly lowered risk of mammary tumors, cancer in the uterus and, of course, no pregnancy.


If I've left something out, please do add on.:D
 

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Another thing to think about is, that some rats are designated feeder by their lack of "desirable" colour.
If they are pritty they are put in the Pet cage, if they are regular rats they are thrown in the Feeder bins. :(

I have quite a few feeder rats, but I didn't purchase them, I adopted them from people who had purchased them. I would imagine a good proportion of my rescue rats are feeder stock.
My infamous Dilbert was supposed to be herp food. 8O

But overall feeder rats are bred to be fed to herps young and they want quantity not quality. No thought is put into health or longevity because they aren't supposed to be around for that to matter. Too much inbreeding, too much disease, etc. Plus the lining of a business's pocket makes me not "buy" feeder rats, now that I know where to find the homeless rats.
 

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Vixie said:
Lesath said:
is there a health benefit that I should know about with neutering?
Yes, in fact, neutering may lengthen your rat's life span. For males, it can chop off the territorial behavior and make them big cuddly squishes. In addition, it negates the chances of testicular cancer and other testosterone related health problems.

For females, the benefits are numberous. Greatly lowered risk of mammary tumors, cancer in the uterus and, of course, no pregnancy.


If I've left something out, please do add on.:D
Adding on for spay benefits :) ...no Pyometra (horrible uterine infection), lessened chance of PT (pituitary tumour - fatal) taking our rats away so young as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Well it sounds like it's the basic health perks as it is for most pets then, I only have male dogs but they have all been neutered to reduce the fighting, territorial behavior, lessen the risk of cancer, etc.

I assume that neutering males would cut back on the amount of scent marking? I notice the rats tend to scent mark a lot more after a very in depth cage cleaning so I usually keep a bit of old litter to add into the clean cage so they retain some of their scent. It cuts down on the amount of new peeing everywhere. Does neutering cut back on the amount of peeing the males do?
 

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I think feeders can make great pets just like any other rat, but I would never recommend that a person go out and buy them. It's kind of a gamble, you don't really know what you're getting...but that can be said for any rat from a pet store, not just feeders specifically.

I've only ever had 2 rats: both of them feeders from Petco. One of them was incredibly shy at first and would squeak if I came anywhere near him. He definitely got over that and warmed up to me a little bit, but he was still always a little shy. On the other hand, the other one wasn't very shy at all, and the reason I picked him out was because when I stuck my hand in the tank, he came running over to investigate. He was a sweetheart. They were both sweethearts, they never bit and weren't mean at all...I just don't think they ever trusted me 100%.

They were surprisingly healthy too--I never had to deal with a URI. The biggest problem I had with them was a small abscess, which was nothing to clear up. And the oldest one was 2 1/2 years old when he died, so.

In my opinion...it's the business everyone is against, and people are discouraged from supporting it. But it's not wrong or bad if you have a "feeder" as a pet. :)
 

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They are rats, and just like any rats they can have amazing personalities and be completely sweet. However, they have a lot more risk of being sick. Think about a breeder that doesn't care for the rats health or environment because they're "just feeders." They'll breed related rats (brothers and sisters) because they're just going to be handed to the snake anyway. There's no true goal to take amazing care of them because they're going to be snake food, which I don't agree with at all, but is part of the rat world, and snakes do need to eat to.

My recent rats were bought from a petco in the feeder section about three weeks ago. I just payed a 75 dollar vet bill for mycoplasma on pepper. It took the life of my other little rat sniffles at just two weeks after having him. Thinking the little "clicking" noise was cute was a bad decision on my part and almost took the life of pepper too. Now I wish I would have known why breeders are such a good decision in the end. They take individual care on every single rat and make sure they are healthy before even thinking about giving them away. Overall, if you have the money to pay for a feeder rat's possible and probable sickness, it isn't a horrible decision. They are still rats, and they are still adorable.

Certain ways to prevent the mycoplasma are listening for a clicking noise when you fist get the rat. Though it may still be dormant in the rats body, noticing this ahead of time can save you lots of money on vet bills.

Hope this helped some, though I don't know too much about the disease itself. I found out from my vet today that 99% of rats have mycoplasma, but only a portion of that flare up as a result from it. Flaring up can cause them to get pnemonia and once they have that you're too late to save your poor little rat. There also is no cure for it, only antibiodics that will stop them from flaring and being susceptible to pnemonia and other things that result from it. Chances are, if you buy from a feeder cage, your rat will have this. Breeders almost never do, and when they do, they have pedigrees to show you.

If any of this info was false feel free to let me know, as I'm still learning and mostly trying to remember what the expert told me.
 

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MagicalLobster said:
Chances are, if you buy from a feeder cage, your rat will have this. Breeders almost never do, and when they do, they have pedigrees to show you.

If any of this info was false feel free to let me know, as I'm still learning and mostly trying to remember what the expert told me.
All pet rats have myco.

All of them.

There is a strain of lab rats that have not been exposed to myco, but all pet rats have it.

It's the rats with lowered immune systems due to genetics, environment, stress, etc, that will flare. :(
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The Petco and Petsmart around here don't sell feeders. They have strict policies against it. I'd never buy from a 'pet section' for feeders, ever. I am sure that my problems from myco come from the fact that most of my rats were from a feeder section, not picked out for pets so much but ended up becoming pets after they are brought home.

So I'm sticking with private breeders from now on. I only live 2 hours from San Francisco so it shouldn't be too hard to find a good private breeder.
 

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My Petco sells as 'pets' as well, technically, but I see people in there all the time asking for 'that one, he's the right size.'

*Sigh*
 

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My first two rats were feeder rats. They were just as sweet and loving as any other rat I know. The only problem with feeders is that if you get one thats a bit older there may be social problems, and can have many different problems (health wise) down the road.
My second pair of rats I got from Petsmart. One had a respitory problem and needed to be taken to the vet for meds (he had fully recoverd in a week or so and is now healthier than ever) and the other rat who I got a month later was just fine, no problems with him whatsoever!
These next babies I will be getting will be from a breeder, only because I would rather pay more money for a healthy rat, rather than taking that gamble with a pet store.
 

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MagicalLobster said:
Hope this helped some, though I don't know too much about the disease itself. I found out from my vet today that 99% of rats have mycoplasma, but only a portion of that flare up as a result from it. Flaring up can cause them to get pnemonia and once they have that you're too late to save your poor little rat. There also is no cure for it, only antibiodics that will stop them from flaring and being susceptible to pnemonia and other things that result from it. Chances are, if you buy from a feeder cage, your rat will have this. Breeders almost never do, and when they do, they have pedigrees to show you.

If any of this info was false feel free to let me know, as I'm still learning and mostly trying to remember what the expert told me.
Mycoplasmosis is constantly attacking our rats immune system. A nice healthy rat fights it off without any signs. But as Forensic said, add stress, exposure to new illness, terrible genetics and you have a rat who succumbs more often. Some might be just a mild URI (upper respiratory infection), this is most common, sometimes it progresses to pneumonia (which is treatable but it can be a real fight). Others become chronic myco rats. Mycoplasmosis is not just respiratory, it also attacks the reproductive system as well.

All rats including breeder rats have myco sadly. The ethical responsible breeder (remember that there are a lot out there that aren't, and the word Breeder rat is not an automatically healthy animal) is trying to work with lines and get more myco-resistant rats. If a line ends up with a lot of myco-related problems they stop breeding from it.
 

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in my area there is no difference between what rats are sold for food and which are sold for pets. there is no different section in the store, nothing. and i've gotten most of my rats this way. in fact i only just got my first breeder rat a few months ago. i'm assuming that my rescue rats originally came from some store too. and i've had problems.

Nezumi died at 18 months from a horrible and mutating strain of URI.

Dust just droped dead at 20 months old. i went to bed one night and the next morning she was cold and stiff on the cage floor. she was showing no signs of illness or gave me any other casue to be concerned.

Myght died of cancer at 20 months old.

Lyiint died of a PT at 23 months and Pocket died at 25 months from various illnesses.

Snicketts i swear was autistic and died of cancer at 19 months. she came to me pregnant and most of her babies had temperment issues and most of them died of tumors (mostly internal).

Spider lived to be 30 months (the oldest rat i've had so far) but had a tumor removal at 25 months, was genetically fat (she could look at food and gain weight) and died of an URI. and ALL of spider's babies (again came to me pregnant) are fat with most of them dieing from tumors as well (quite a few didn't make it to their 2 birthday and many had multiple tumor removals).

Iedani ended up being a territoral biter that i could not get to stop biting (drew blood and everything) though her daughter Kakushi is a big squish.

Twix and Tween are both still alive but they stopped growing at five months though they are about 12 months now and Tween has the beginnings of a URI which i'll be getting her checked for as soon as the vet gets back from vacation.

Violet is somewhere around a year and already has a tumor removal which had complications that were a HUGE pain in the butt and extra money.

that's not to say that i would trade knowing any of these rats for the world but sometimes it can be a disappointment and extra heartache that just isn't needed. some were a pain to even live with when alive because of their temperment issues that could not be overcome. Snicketts HATED change, ANY change. even just a few degrees difference and she'd be in a funk and a cranky rat is not an easy rat to handle. Iedani was dangerous, she was unpredictable in her biting and would bite hard, often drawing blood. another rat not easy to handle. those were the hardest two. but Kakushi is a coward and would much rather stay in her cage or on your shoulder then play or explore like a normal girl. Twix is much the same way though instead of wanting to stay with you she'd rather just hide somewhere. Violet will give you tons of kisses but is the first off the couch and back to cage after only a few mintues of out time. except for violet, i've had all these rats since they were young (between 4 weeks and 5 months) and no amount of handling and loving has or will bring them out of their shell. its heartbreaking to think that because of their poor breeding and poor first weeks of life they are so scared that they can't act like normal and adventerous little girls. all rats have their own distinct personailty of course but this is a fear that they just can't get over.

having said all that though i have to defend them as well. i have gotten some very friendly and outgoing rats from the pet store too. Babydoll is one of the first to cage and the reason we brought her home was because she was so affectionate. Sweetipie turned out to be a real sweetheart as well. always begging for food and playing with my hair and exploring. Eyes will go adventuring for a while but when she gets sleepy it the lap she prefers to cuddle in. Ink is ALWAYS in trouble and into EVERYTHING, including your mouth and ears. Tween likes to cuddle with all the other rats and chase Babydoll around but she still comes back to me every so often for cuddles and stritches of her own. though Kakushi is a coward she the best shoulder rider i have. and stewart, though only a foster, is really stealing my heart with his big man squishyness and cuddle bug persona, though he will chase the cats...

then there's my neutered (so he can have his own harem of girls and because i'm allergic to buck grease) breeder rat, Bribery. he's a beautiful blue boy who was supposed to be a rex but his coat straightened out. he's a coward (jumps at his own shadow) and a complainer (will let you know quite verbally that his shadow is out to get him) but he LOVES to play and he loves his girls and he loves his mom and dad and human brother and likes to pretend he's breave with his feline brothers. essentailly he's a growing squishball of love. his grandparents are pushing three or thereabouts and his great grandparents lived to be almost 4 years old so i'm hoping i'll get a long time with him.

basically any rat can make a good pet and any pet you bring in you're assuring yourself of heartbreak as we normally live longer them but you make a bigger gamble with the pet store rats of unknown genetics. you don't know if they are going to end up like Dust and just be found dead one day or if you're going to have shell out easily over $1000 in medical bills for only 14 months of love like i did with Nezumi. or you can end up with a rat like Snicketts or Iedani and though you love them you also want to strangle them at least once or twice a week on a good week. at least with Bribery i know his lines better and know what to except or at least to hope for. and if i have any questions about his family history the breeder is only an email away. you can't know what you're getting into with pet store rats but that doesn't mean they're bad rats.

and for as far as supporting the pet store and creating demand for more poorly bred rats, well the few people that get them as pets over the ton that get them as feed aren't going to make a difference. they are in the feeder bin because there is a demand for their flesh and that isn't going to stop just because they aren't bought as pets. the snakes and lizards need to eat too and that isn't about to change. there will ALWAYS be a demand for quanity rats regardless of the pet rat communities feelings on it.
 

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twitch, you've made a lot of good points.

All of my rats are either pet store rats/one generation from the pet store/rescues/accidental litters. I don't know the ages of several of them, but the oldest ones are probably 1.5 years. I'm deathly afraid that I'm going to end up with spontaneous deaths and massive malignant tumors. I've already got tons of URIs to deal with!

Twice everyday I give 5 (out of 12) rats antibiotics for terrible URI problems. Some of my rats have damaged lungs, resulting from *awful* respiratory problems from birth. There's nothing more heartbreaking than a 2.5 to 3 week old ratty sneezing, rasping, and gurgling when it breathes... and those rats have ended up stunted in their growth because their lungs couldn't keep up with the oxygen demands of a growing rat body.

As it is, I medicate my rats with medication that I've purchased and compounded myself. My vet is okay with that - and he helps me with dosages and treatment plans for each rat through periodic visits & the telephone. If I didn't do things this way, the cost of supporting all of these rats would be astronomical. Fortunately I spent a lot of time in a lab as a kid and I'm very comfortable compounding meds.

There's no guarantee that a well-bred rat won't have these problems - but well-bred rats are a heck of a better gamble than that cute bright-eyed guy in the feeder bin. I've partially ended up with so many pet store rats because there weren't any breeders where I previously lived (and I'm pretty sure there aren't any in my new city) - but honestly, it's more than worth it to drive a few hours or have rats shipped to you than deal with the problems that come from feeder rats.

Finally, two of my recent additions are two boys resulting from an accidental litter, but their parents were both bred by a respectable breeder in Chicagoland. These boys are *so* friendly and such beautiful rats that I'm sold - I will never be purchasing a rat from a pet store ever again. It's a horrible business that I don't want to support.
 
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