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Hi. I'm a 40-something woman, have had pet rat on and off since high school.

I'm on Board of our local wildlife rescue, and they often give me baby wild rats to raise and release.

I have one wild female who came to me before her eyes were open. She did not "wild up," and I decided to make her a pet. Our local species are called "fruit rats," rattus rattus frugivorous. She's a delightful pet, though she only lets me handle her. She's a great climber and an avid "nester" and will not run in a rodent wheels, though I've tried a couple of models.

I recently acquired an abandoned pet domestic rat, rattus norvegicus, male. He's much larger than my wild rattie, and not nearly as agile or as good a climber. He plays in his wheel and does not build himself a nest. It's funny how differently he behaves from my wild girl. I have their cages next to each other, and they show excited interest in each other.

Is there any possibility of letting them play together? I doubt the male is neutered, and I've read the species can interbreed, though the babies rarely survive. I don't want pregnancies, though, nor would I want one rat to harm the other.

I wonder if anyone on this forum has introduced Norway rats to roof rats?
 

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Welcome to the forum! I wouldn't recommend letting the wildie and the fancy play together. They can breed in the blink of an eye. I'd suggest getting a friend for the male and a friend for the wildie girl. I've heard fancies and wildies can play together as long as they are the same gender and proper intros take place.
 

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I can't exactly say that mating would be the issue here since I think norvegicus is known to kill wild rat species. In either case, it's probably not a good idea. I believe there was a member here who attempted to introduce a roof rat and a baby mouse; don't exactly remember how that turned out though. Wild species can also carry diseases to which they've developed immunity but domestic rats have not, meaning an introduction or even not washing your hands between handling them could cause your domestic rat to become sick (and probably the other way around as well since domestic rat diseases have been evolving separate from wild species for a very long time). I'm not going to say definitely don't try to introduce them, just be aware of the risks involved.
 

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If it's a rattus rattus, the wild one is a roof rat who can't breed with our guys. :) Different species, our guys and the wild counterparts are rattus norvegicus. Roof rats, are better climbers (they spend a lot of time in trees), than norway rats, wild or domestic. Norways tend to be bigger than roof rats as well. In the wild Norways sometimes eat roof rats. However most of our pets are not really big killers, but I would be very careful and I don't think I would ever cage the two together. (not sure if they speak enough of the same language that they would get along in that way) Plus diet would be slightly different, with the roof rat eating more fruits/nuts than a norway.
 

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First I'm assuming your identification is correct and that you do own a female rattus rattus and a Male Rattus Norvegicus. While rats wild and domestic rats of the same species can interbreed rats of two different species can't. So if you have properly identified your rats you shouldn't have to worry about babies.

I'd honestly love to read any actual cases of interbreeding if such exist, as I've never heard of a mixed breed pregnancy or a mixed breed rat having ever lived. In any event, if it did happen, you very well might be making history and I doubt you would find a shortage of people that would want your pups.

I've owned a part wild R. norvegicus and yes she was very different than the domestic variety. She was a one owner/family rat too. But she did learn to live with a domestic friend... but both were norvegicus.

Generally wild norvegicus eat rattus, so for the most part the rattus tend to stay away from norvegicus for survival reasons. However there was a person here that owned a male rattus and got hin a young female norvegicus friend and they bonded very well. I believe that attempts to introduce the rattus to a second norvegicus didn't work out so well as the rattus was afraid of the new norvegicus.

As to whether your two rats will get along, there's no way to predict for sure.... We had one domestic brown rat (norvegicus) that used to raid the mice's playpen to steal their food and treats ignoring the mice, and our part wild brown rat would attack and kill and most likely eat mice on sight. I'm pretty sure we could have housed our domestic brown rat with mice if we had to and they would simply ignore each other, whereas our part wild brown rat would have exterminated each and every mouse in a matter of seconds. So a lot depends on how your male brown rat reacts to your wild black rat (rattus). Then it would depend on how afraid your black rat is of your brown rat. It's a meeting I would personally supervise very closely... They might become friends, they might ignore each other or your brown rat might kill and eat your black rat. I've never heard of a black rat attacking a brown rat, but I wouldn't rule it out entirely as as a possibility.

If you search the threads, there have been several black rats represented here by their owners, one even became a true shoulder rat. Most were boys, but I believe someone has girls too. Black rats were originally domesticated at the same time as brown rats but were mostly lost to the fancy in the early 1900's. They can become excellent pets and friends. They have special dietary needs and they need lots of room to run and climb. There are cases of inter-species friendships but none of inter-species breeding that I'm aware of. Vets with hands on experience with black rats are rare and black rats metabolize medicines differently.

You are certainly not in uncharted waters, but there is no good body of experience to draw from. You will find a lot of information if you search the threads here... search for rattus rattus, black rat, roof rat, ship rat or fruit rat and you might find some useful info. And please update us on your experiences. Because black rats are so underrepresented, every bit of information people post adds significantly to our body of knowledge and will make it easier for the next black rat owner to be successful.

Having raised a 'wild child', I have a soft spot in my heart for these most amazing animals, but sometimes they aren't easy. I certainly wish you the vest best of luck with your rats and look forward to hearing how everything works out.
 

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kksrats,

Thanks for the link! But from what I could tell, the author couldn't tell the difference between a male and a female black rat. She might have had 3 females and a male... Or one of several other scenarios might have occurred in which the females got pregnant. Perhaps the black rats weren't even black rats at all...

For something to have happened only once in history to change my mind about black and brown rats interbreeding, I'd really need to read something a lot more convincing. I won't say it will never happen, but before I am convinced that it ever did, I'd need to see something more convincing. Wild brown and black rats have co-existed in shared territories for thousands of years and no one has ever seen a hybrid or a hybrid population... so I remain very skeptical.
 

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kksrats,

Thanks for the link! But from what I could tell, the author couldn't tell the difference between a male and a female black rat. She might have had 3 females and a male... Or one of several other scenarios might have occurred in which the females got pregnant. Perhaps the black rats weren't even black rats at all...

For something to have happened only once in history to change my mind about black and brown rats interbreeding, I'd really need to read something a lot more convincing. I won't say it will never happen, but before I am convinced that it ever did, I'd need to see something more convincing. Wild brown and black rats have co-existed in shared territories for thousands of years and no one has ever seen a hybrid or a hybrid population... so I remain very skeptical.
I was more referring to the actual facts rather than the anecdotal "stories". I could not find any actual scientific articles related to whether or not mating actually takes place and if so what stage the offspring are deemed not viable (mostly since science like this does not really serve much of a purpose). The accounts of interbreeding could be riddled with misunderstandings and misinterpretations, but the information towards the bottom seemed mostly correct (from skimming) and is worth reading for those curious.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you everyone! You all verified my own thoughts, which were that it might be more risky than beneficial. I have also read that in the wild, Norway rats prey on smaller rodents. But I have no plans to get friends for my current pets--heck, I had no plans to get the pets I've got! Animals tend to just show up in my life.

I assure you my identifications of gender and species are correct. I couldn't imagine these two critters living together, they behave so differently in their spaces. Plus I do tend to feed them slightly different diets, my wild girl getting more fruits and seeds, my new domestic guy getting more blocks. Both get salad greens daily, too, and other foods as treats. My wild rat's cage is vertical with lots of stuff for climbing, my pet guy is horizontal with a big wheel for running.

I would hate to subject my little female to a pregnancy, even if it ended in miscarriage or dead pups, which I've read might be the outcome to their attempts at interbreeding.

I have to say, of all the ratties I've ever had in my life, the roof/fruit rat (her name is Rosanna, but I also call her Ratatooie) is my favorite. She is just so amazingly smart, agile, and playful, and her communications are crystal clear. She adores me utterly (I am the first creature she saw when her eyes opened as a baby.) She follows me around, comes when I call her, and would rather be with me than do most anything else. She hides from everyone else, except my husband, who she will allow to give her food, but she will not let him touch her.

I'm still getting to know "Roo," who is your common white domestic with pink eyes. He's sweet, and very happy to be out of the frigging hamster cage his previous owner kept him in, with a wheel so small he probably couldn't even run in it when he was a baby. I don't know much about his past life, a friend who runs a halfway house found him abandoned by his owners with note saying "she" loved cheerios.

I'm glad to have joined up with this forum for people who treat rats with the dignity and compassion they deserve!
 

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I don't mean to be rude here, but why are you keeping the male rat if you don't have any plans to get him a friend? I can understand keeping the wild rat alone, since there's always the chance on confrontation between species, but why does the norvegicus need to stay alone? Rats really don't do well without a companion.
 

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You might be interested in Rosanna's story: My wild rattus was found as a baby (not a pinkie, she had fur) in someone's yard under some trees, her eyes not yet opened. The homeowner brought her to the wildlife rescue where I work. I've raised several wild ratties that I felt confident sending off into the wild. Usually, at a certain age, they became unhandleable, and I just put them in a cage with very small wire (too small for snakes) in the trees outside my kitchen window (up high away from cats and under a cover of branches to hide from hawks.) Eventually, I open the cage, continue providing some food for the rat for a short while, and eventually, the rat comes around less and less and I take away the cage. I have a spacious yard with plenty of tree coverage and native fruits, perfect for our local wild rats, which are practically arboreal.

Usually, this works. I did have one male several years ago who found his way into my house and camped out under my washer/dryer for a few days before I was able to shoo him out, but he had no desire to be my pet, and hid from humans like a good rat should.

Rosanna, for some reason, never became unhandleable. Even after I moved her outside, she would love on my hand and climb on me every time I came near her. I attempted to force her to be wild for exactly one night. I opened her outdoor cage, and in the night was woke up by terrified rat noises. A male rat had found her, and they were scrabbling up against my kitchen window! As soon as I opened the window, she climbed up onto my shoulder away from the awful male.

With a sigh, I decided she sucked at being wild, and brought her back in my house. Of course, she was pregnant. She gave birth to five babies. I checked them and it seemed she was feeding them, at least at first. She was very young, though, and after a few days, the babies disappeared. I assume she ate them.

I have no idea why this rat refused her freedom and the other rats I raised from babyhood did not. But I admit I'm crazy about her and glad she decided to be my friend. She is about 4 years old now, and shows no sign of slowing down.
 

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@Sabatea, what else would I do with him? Surrender him to the shelter? I live on a two-by-four mile island in the subtropics. Our island's SPCA is already filled with rats, hammies, cavvies, and bunnies needing homes. The one pet shop here sells small animals like it's nothing, and to anyone. There is certainly no rodent rescue here on the island, or even within a hundred miles. Our Craiglist is filled with "free to good home" ads for small animals. I'd be truly surprised if I could find him someone rat-savvy with other rats, though certainly, if such a situation came along, I'd let him go. At least at my house, he gets out-of-cage time and proper handling, which I'm guessing he's never had before in his life.

I'm open to just being his "foster" mom, though, if anybody has any good ideas for rehoming in the lower FL. Keys.
 

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Ah, I see. I wasn't sure what sort of area you lived in. I'm glad you're doing your best for him then. ^^
 

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The only actual case I know of where a male black rat and a female brown rat live together here involved a hand raised black rat and the girl brown rat was introduced while he was still pretty young. Introducing a second brown rat later on didn't work as the black rat was afraid of the newcomer. So it might be too late for cross species co-habitation. Even then.... an arboreal rat and a subterranean rat don't have a lot in common.

I read the article about cross species inter-breeding and it's full of correct information when it comes to horses, but I still believe that the significant differences between the two rat species would even make conception impossible. World-wide the species have cohabitated for thousands of years and there hasn't been a single example of either a recent common ancestor, or a hybrid population. Horses and Zebras are geographically isolated populations of the same relatively recent ancestral progenitor animal. There has been some debate as to whether the same is true of black and brown rats which may be very distant cousins at best. Rodents are part of a very old family tree, much older than humans. The farther you go back to find a common ancestor the lower the likelihood of there still being enough genetic similarity for conception. There has even been some debate whether both brown and black rats should even stay in the same genera. So, honestly before I got too concerned about cross species pregnancy, I'd really need to see something more substantial than a general primer on cross species interbreeding. I think chances are likely better of there being a chimp x gorilla cross than a black x brown rat crossing. But just because I'm not convinced, nothing is impossible.

Both brown and black rats are social animals and would benefit from having friends of their own species. The abundance of unwanted pets on your island should solve the issue with your getting your brown male rat a friend, whereas obtaining a friend for Rosanna might be just a little bit harder. In any event, it's a really good idea to have two of each species. I do understand why we tend to sound a bit harsh and somewhat inflexible on this subject, but it's very important that rats have companionship nearly around the clock. Yes a human can fill this void, and we've kept an only rat and she was happy and well adjusted, but we literally spent 24 x 7 with her. She went shopping with us and on vacation and on weekend trips, she was never left home alone... This meant finding restaurants that served rats and rat friendly stores to shop in and only going to places that allowed rats, and it really made life difficult. We have two rats now, and can leave them at home sometimes if we need to go shopping to the supermarket for example. I actually had excellent reasons for only owning one rat and that rat grew up to become exceptional... but I would NEVER do it again!

So, yes it is possible to raise a healthy well adjusted single rat if you are a shut in or perhaps work at home or live in a very rat friendly community... but I'd never advise anyone to make this kind of commitment. I almost missed my best friends wedding for lack of a rat sitter and I don't think anyone should have to make that kind of a choice in order to raise a single rat.... it's just way too much of a radical life style choice.

If you want to get an idea of what life with an only rat looks like.... this was a day at the beach for us:

meet and greet at the beach.jpg at heel on beach.jpg

She was an exceptional rat... and we loved taking her places, but sometimes it's just nice to just go somewhere without a rat.
 

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I will give the idea of a pal for Roo some thought. I'm not keen on the idea of having any more pets, honestly, nor do I want to be caught in the loop of one rat dies so I have to get another to keep the survivor company (I have just come out of a sixteen-year loop like that with rescued rabbits, and finally have just one middle-aged, single neutered male who never got along with any of my other rabbits anyway.) I do feel bonded with Roo and don't want to have to rehome the poor guy again unless it's a better situation than what I can provide.

I work out of the home only three to six hours a day, and go out every other night or so for social life. I rarely vacation (my life is kind of a permanent vacation ;D.) Roo also has the wild rat and a free-range bunny living in view of his cage, hopefully we are enough company for him for now.
 

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Black rats are the best rats in the world! I let my black rat be free range. He only went to his cage for food and water and to go to the bathroom, he even slept in bed with me. He eventually chose to rejoin a wild rat colony that lives in my backyard. Your rat may eventually want to join the wild again. Best wishes.
 

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Black rats caught my interest early on as a shoulder rat trainer, I'd love the experience of working with a rat that isn't naturally afraid of open spaces. Second as a history buff, the black rat was actually the first "domesticated" variety. Both in an Indian temple and anecdotally as familiars for European witches before the incursion by the brown rats. Even in the Victorian times, black rats seemed to be common and rat shows had a category for black rats right into the early 1900's. There was actually a green strain of black rat at one time.

Black rats also tolerate higher temperatures for folks that live in warmer climates. The fact that they washed out of the fancy remains somewhat of a mystery... yes brown rats make great pets and they come in more color morphs, but there's got to be more to the story. For the most part everyone who owns black rats tends to report that they make wonderful and competent pets if adopted young enough...

I suspect that with more urban centers in warmer climates and more people learning more about these fascinating animals, they will either make a come back or we are going to find out why they all but vanished from the fancy in the first place. Either way, the more we learn from our relatively few black rat owning members the closer we are to seeing their return or finding out why it can't happen.
 
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