a summary of my ethics and rat care

My rats are primarily my pets, and not all are involved in my breeding programme. Unless I am working with a newly discovered gene (such as silvermane was), I only breed with healthy well tempered rats from established lines which have no apparent serious problems, however there are never any guarantees with genetics, and when an outcross is involved there will inevitably be a degree of unpredictability involved for a couple of generations. My motivation for breeding is to improve and develop varieties which are based on the american mink gene while ensuring the rats are well suited to life as pets, and maintaining and gradually improving their temperament, health, and fitness. I do not breed to satisfy demand for kittens, and therefore there is usually a period of waiting before kittens become available.

All kittens are handled regularly from birth, and are well socialised. I do not condone or practise culling (which means ending the life of a healthy animal), and only allow my rats to go to homes where I believe they will live a full and quality life. Contact with their owners is maintained throughout the rats' lives so that I may monitor their development, gather new information about my lines, and also to offer my support and advice. I require that any rats who cannot remain in their new home for whatever reason are returned to me, or rehomed subject to my approval.

My selected buck and doe only spend one night together for mating, and thus maintain their place within their home group. I aim for my does to give birth between 6 and 10 months old, and most will only have one litter. A second would only be considered if the circumstances were right and the mating justified. Mothers give birth in a low level barred cage (a ferplast mary) furnished with plenty of nest making material, and once the kittens have opened their eyes, accessories are added so that they can climb and explore. The family will move into a larger cage (a ferplast furet plus, or half an explorer) once they are competent climbers, usually at around 3 1/2 weeks. Buck kittens are separated from mum and their sisters at 5 weeks old to prevent pregnancies, and mum is gradually removed from her daughters by increasing the length of the periods she spends with her peers so that the doe kittens are fully independent by the time they and their brothers are ready for new homes from around 8 weeks, having completed their kitten moult.

I feed my rats on mixes based on the shunamite diet recipe (either homemade, or bought from Rat Rations), e.g. base food of straights or rabbit food (55 - 60% by volume), with added proteins (5-10%), processed cereals (20%), dried veg, herbs, and seeds (15%). This is supplemented by regular helpings of fresh veg (broccoli, curly kale, dandelion leaves, miscellaneous peelings, etc.), and occasional fruit. Kittens are given additional high protien meals regularly to support their growth (egg, chicken, tuna, nature diet moist dog food, vitalin, cooked pulses, with veg, cous cous, cooked pasta, noodles, rice, etc.).

My rats are housed in same sex groups in large cages with shredded cardboard (finacard) mixed with top quality shavings (kiln dried and dust extracted large flakes such as megaspread) as a substrate, 100% paper pellets (back 2 nature or breeder celect) in the toilet corners, and shredded soft paper, hay, and straw as bedding. A variety of furnishings and enrichment is provided in challenging layouts to keep the rats comfortable, stimulated, and fit (ropes, branches, perches, baskets, flower pots, igloos/huts, hammocks, etc).

Some views of my rat room (taken in 2019)

SRS cages along the left hand side
(all with basement extensions, and the first two also extended upwards).
These house 4 buck groups, 2 doe groups, and 2 sections are reserved for older litters.
Duetto cage (extended upwards with a mamble) on the right,
with shelving for temporary caging behind it.
The duetto houses 2 doe groups.

Shelving for temporary cages as and when required for young litters/visitors/introductions.
In this picture I have two young litters in mary cages, and an introduction in the furet plus.
If extra space is needed, cages can be stacked on a wheeled platform at the end.
In this case there is a litter and some visitors in the alaskas, and a mary set up for a mating.

Some example layouts

double SRS cage, fully opened out (no middle floor), for a large buck group an SRS basement, for a smaller buck group

a mary cage, set up for kittens aged between 2 and 4 weeks an SRS top, set up for kittens aged from 4 weeks

During free range time, various large scale toys are brought out as a playground (although the whole room does get explored).