How to Breed Healthy Hairless Rats (Sphynx Rats)

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Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.

Should I Try Breeding Hairless or Furless Rats?

Furless—also known as sphynx—rats are one of the hardest types of rats to breed. They often have reproductive issues and, depending on the line, may also be riddled with other health problems. They take a little more care then their furred counterparts. Because of this, one should really think long and hard about breeding. I highly suggest that you at least master breeding furred varieties before you try furless.

Furless Genetics 101

Before you even start to breed furless rats, you should first have a basic understanding of their genetics. There are at least four genetically unique versions of furless rats out there. This means that, occasionally, you can breed two furless together and get 100% furred babies. If it's at all possible, you should figure out which of the four types your breeding stock will be. I will be concentrating on rex-based furless, which I am most familiar with.

Rex and Double Rex

The furless gene I worked with, the one linked to the rex gene, is the most common. Rex (curly fur) was originally a spontaneous mutation. It's a dominant gene, meaning that a rex bred to a straight-haired rat will produce on average 50% more rex. If you breed two very good quality rexes together you may end up with more rexes, and you also may end up with double rex (or patchwork hairless). These rats almost look like they have mange. They have patches of fur that grows in and falls back out again. Double rexes bred for a few generations will eventually produce hairless.

Because of this common ancestry, breeding furless can also result in breeding rexes without really aiming to. Of course, two furless (of the same genetic type) bred together will result in entirely furless litters. However, it's generally healthier to cross furless, at least occasionally, with furry rats.

Recessive Genes

Furless is a recessive gene, meaning both parents must either display the gene or carry it in order for it to be produced in a litter. A furless bred to a furry non-carrier will produce a completely furred litter, and in rex-based furless they will also produce roughly 50% "sloppy rexes." These rexes generally look very curly before weaning, and as they age their curls get less and less dramatic, sometimes disappearing all together. This entire litter will be born furless carriers as one of their parents was furless.

What's the Best Way to Breed Furless?

The best way to breed furless (because of lactation and health issues) is to breed a furry mother (carrier) to a furless male. The litter will result in up to 75% furless with the remaining being a mix of sloppy rex and standard. If you really want to add genetic diversity, you can also breed two unrelated carriers. Of course in this case the number of furless born will be lower (25-50% of the litter).

Can a Rat Whose Parents Are Both Furry Be a Carrier?

Yes, a rat that has at least one furless ancestor in its pedigree will have a chance of carrying the gene. However the more distant the ancestor the less likely it is they'll be a carrier. Keep in mind that the above percentages are averages. Sometimes spontaneous litters can be born that break all the rules and come out with drastically different percentages. This is all part of the spontaneity of genetics. We can always give educated guesses, but when it comes right down to it, nature likes to occasionally throw curveballs.

Picking Out Breeding Stock

In order to start a line of healthy babies, you have to start with healthy adults. First, you want to pick out the perfect unrelated male and female:

  • Check to make sure their eyes are clear, properly sized, uninfected, and able to open and close.
  • Make sure their bodies are not too thin and preferably not too fat, either.
  • Make certain their lungs sound clear and they show no other signs of illness, ever. You want to try to avoid passing common furless health problems—many of which are genetic—to a new generation.
  • From there, pick the oldest (healthiest) male you can. It's very hard to breed for longevity through the female's line, but since males can breed until they die this means you can breed for longer-lived babies.
  • The female should be bred ideally at six months of age. At this point she's fully-grown, she's not too old or too young, and she's mature enough to have a higher likelihood of actually taking care of her litter. Make sure she's never been sick a day in her life. If she's never been bred before make sure she's under a year of age (at which point a female's hips will start to fuse together if she's never been bred).

The easiest way to get healthy stock is to consult your local ratteries and breeders who dedicate their time and energy to creating healthy lines in the first place. If this is not possible, use your utmost digression (and caution) to search out other possibilities.

Preparing for the Litter

When breeding furless rats, you should probably set up an aquarium for them. A ten-gallon aquarium is best for first-time mothers for the first week or two of the babies' lives, at which point they can be put into a bigger aquarium. The ten-gallon aquarium is best because it doesn't allow too much space (some furless mothers will run off and ignore their babies if they're given too much space for the first week or so of their babies' lives). Also, it's insulated and the smooth surfaces are safest for guarding against scratches and injury.

Providing Bedding and Food

Use polar fleece, paper-based bedding, or shredded paper in addition to the usual bedding so the mother can make a nice warm nest. From there, make sure to give the mother extra fat and protein in her diet (boiled or scrambled eggs make a fantastic supplement) and just make sure she's generally comfortable.

Breeding Mothers in Pairs

It's always advisable if you are breeding a first-time mother to also breed at least one furry or experienced mother at the same time (or ideally a few days before). This can prove to be a lifesaver if at any time you need a foster mother due to lactation problems or abandonment.

Monitoring the Babies

When the babies arrive, let them nurse on their mother for an hour or so, and then check their bellies. Pinkies have translucent skin for the first week or so of their lives, so you should see a white band going across their bellies and sometimes up their sides if they're really full. Keep checking periodically because furless rats can dry up before they're supposed to, sometimes very prematurely (within a few days).

To help the mother, make sure when the babies start nibbling on food on their own that you provide things they can eat. Scrambled eggs or bread soaked in milk can be great for them. Cooked oatmeal, yogurt, and other soft foods are also great.

Keeping an Eye on the Line

After the babies are all grown up and sent to their new homes, it is best to ask their new owners to report back to you if any of them have any health problems at any point during their lives. Also request to know their cause of death (and age) when they die. It sounds morbid, but this sort of data can be crucial to knowing early on if your lines have any problems.

Ailments and Line-Breeding

Generally, one case of any ailment can be spontaneous; however, two or more should be reason to reconsider perpetuating your lines. The more genetically diverse the line, the less likely they are to have genetic ailments. However, breeders do occasionally inbreed (called line breeding) if a line proves 100% healthy and long-lived. These lines have shown to be genetically very efficient, and breeding them together will eliminate the risk of adding problems into the line by outcrossing it with someone else. This all being said, line-breeding is not for the light-hearted; it should be done with utmost caution.

Cautions aside, I hope you all have a wonderful time raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted babies, and remember: Temperament is just as genetic as physical ailments, so make sure everyone is sweet as can be and you'll never be disappointed.

Cat on August 18, 2020:

Why the f are they hard to breed

Sarah on August 03, 2017:

I own a hairless rat that I got from a pet store about 1.5 years ago. No idea how old she is. She was a breeder that was eating all of her babies and they were going to feed her to a snake until I saved her. Her right eye was blind since I got her but it's been changing lately. It looks like it has popped out of the socket/ruptured. I don't know whether it is due to glaucoma or a tumor. The options offered to me are eye removal or an injection that kills the nerve to the eye, making it shrivel up (which I have only heard used in cats and dogs). I don't know which option is better for me considering we still don't know what caused this, I don't know her age, and I make next to no money. Someone please give me advice. Also, the vet is booked for three weeks. I bought pain meds for her (liquid gababpentin) but I cannot get her to take it for the life of me. She doesn't appear to be in much pain except with rats it's hard to tell and I'm worried her head may be hurting. Also she has been messing with the eye (I think she may be trying to groom herself and it's getting in the way or it could be bothering her-I can't tell). How can I get her to take the meds? I feel like the more I mess with her, the worse she feels. I don't know what to do.

Chelsea Raisin on March 09, 2016:

I have had one, female Dumbo Hairless which I randomly found at a local small pet store (northern California). She was so cute and sweet that I had to get her and still am so glad that I did. She and I went like everywhere together, I took her shopping, friends homes, exploring both outdoor and urban, I mean literally everywhere I went she was on my shoulder and if need be, hidden away and warm n the collar of a pea coat. I fed her like she was a health food junkie human, fish, veggies, fruits, chicken, cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, grains ECT.. She even slept curled up next to me n my bed at night, she started doing so bcause one night she got out of her cage and didn't runaway, she climbed up my comforter and nudged me n my side waking me up to play ~ I also played with her daily. All rats love to simulate wrestling with ur hand (gently of course), u just make ur hand stand up on fingers on the bed or whatever surface and scurry it about around em and softly place ur hand on top the rats body shaking and even tipping em on their back to gently hold em dwn, also very softly pinch the skin to simulate rat~play bites, they're gnna do it to u, but dnt be scared cuz nkne of mine ever pressed hard enuff with teeth to even hurt at all.

So, Chelsea Raisin (that was her name) , she lived just to make it 4 yr.s old then passed away

smiller on September 20, 2015:

I recently bought a hairless female abousolty love her. But 2 weeks after I bought her she had a litter of 15 didn't know she was pregnant an the pet store didn't tell me. But still love the babies can't wait to c if there hairless or not going to b surprised.

James Genes on November 26, 2012:

I want a female Hairless rat can someone get me one Please. 909-917-2480

Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on May 21, 2012:

krazykrissy are you talking to me? I bred hairless rats for ten years from my rattery.... back in the early days when we were forging healthier ones. I really miss it but I developed an allergy to the little darlings and had to stop. The photo in the article is of Godiva, one of my first. She was a wonderful little creature.

krazykrissy on May 21, 2012:

Hi i have two hairless one male and one female my female is almost two and no health problems i would. never find breed her my male is six months and just got my dumbo rex pregnant ......not on purpose i have buy hairless cause i love them i do breed but never hairless and to the person who doesn't like hairless you have obviously never owned one so shut up

Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on April 13, 2012:

Oh well, guess this article has been busy. Sorry I had no idea anyone was commenting. In any event I want to answer a few questions and concerns.

1) Having one baby hairless in a litter is not unusual. It usually happens when one (or more) of its grand parents or great grandparents on both the mother and father's side were hairless. Or it could be a spontaneous mutation, which is far less likely but can happen.

2)Hairless rats don't require too much extra care than a normal rat. However if you want an article describing some of the differences and what you can do to keep them happy and healthy check out my other article:/rodents/Common-Furless-Rat-...

3)"Rats don't have fusing hips" - Tell that to the two breeders I know who lost their does and the whole litter after breeding them too late.

4)For any of the people bashing me for writing an article on breeding, well... there's a few things I would like you to think about. The first is that ALL pets are here because someone bred them, so if you've ever had a pet you can't technically be ageist breeding. I realize lots of animals of all sorts end up abandoned at pet stores and shelters. Believe it or not good breeders don't want this to happen and work hard to make sure it doesn't happen to their animals (even going so far as to say they will take back animals from adopters who can no longer care for them irregardless of reason - this was something I always stipulated and I was not alone.) Also as far as encouraging people to breed things that are too "complex" for them... look, people are going to breed furless rats irregardless if they read this article or not. Would you rather they do it with no knowledge whatsoever or would you like them to be educated so they can help in the effort to make furless a happy healthy available pet to people? I know what I prefer and I will let you in on a little secret... good breeders do pay vivid attention of their lines, all lines, not just hairless. New unpedigreed lines are watched for at least three generations before their offspring are deemed good enough for other breeders to use. I've done foundation lines before. I made sure all my adopters knew they were foundation lines and had all of them report back to me on any and all health and temperament issues. Lines that had more than two occurrences of any health or temperament issue were discontinued. This is how I ended up breeding furry rats that lived on average past three years of age and furless who came very close to that. Now I can't bestow all my knowledge on others but I can give them a little bit and what they learn along the way could make them great future breeders. So please don't harp on breeders. We are here to make our breed or animal exceptional, healthy, and long-lived. We want to produce animals that are more stable both health and tempramentwise than what you can find at a pet store or feeder breeder.

Dawnage on January 21, 2012:

i love my hairless rat kojack. he is such a stud. and my best friend.

mindy rich on November 19, 2011:

just got my new rat today :), i remember having 1 as a kid and am super excited to have another 1, my last 1 lived for 3 or 4 years we took it to the vet and everything, we evently had to put it down because she got a tumer. excited to have soph... and loved this article.

christinepurr on November 12, 2011:

Newratowner~ Hairless aren't much different from furry ratties, other than they are more susceptible to extreme temperatures. Make sure they're not in a place that's hot or freezing cold. Give them cloth to cuddle up to, although all rats love cloth type stuff. There are plenty of great hubs on proper rat care, nutrition, rat toys, all things rattie! Good luck with your new babies!

newratowner on November 12, 2011:

i am a new hairless rat owner, honestly i went for the cuteness factor at first but i made sure my new addition was heathy and curiouse. i am now reserching how to best take care of her. i am new at this and do not want her to suffer because of my inabilaty to care for her properly. any help or advice would be helpful thank you.

christinepurr on November 10, 2011:

This is an awesome hub! Very informative. I totally agree with you in the sense that most experienced breeders want nothing to do with "newbies". I definitely think it's a fear of competition. I've bred rats for longevity and health before and had no help from the breeders in the area. :[ Not that I needed it, I'm pretty rat obsessed and pretty much know all haha. Although anytime anyone had questions for me, I was more than eager to help.

Anyway, I ran off on a tangent. Great article!!

RachyLovesRattys on September 27, 2011:

@NCats : THANK YOU!! I'm glad someone feels the same way I do! Confuesed rat owner, I don't even know why you'd find that type of comment appropriate here.

I've been taking care of rats for almost 3 years. In the process I've had dumbos, hooded, agoutis, PEWs, and of course hairless and double rexes. The saddest part of everything is that Confuesed rat owner clearly doesn't even have the desire to care for the little type of rat that I've been searching EVERYWHERE for.

Just because rats are cute doesn't mean they're happy, healthy, or well-tempered. I had 2 rats that were bred specifically to be "cute" and they both were anxious biters that died at only 8 months old. Both went through severe depressive episodes after experiencing the deaths of a few of their cagemates and eventually lost the will to keep going. The place I got them from obviously had a breeder that was just looking to make a quick buck off of stupid parents who think, "Oh, it's like a hamster. It's cute. The kids can practice taking care of it, and when it dies it won't be expensive."

My hairless came from a rescue, unwanted. He was party of an all furred litter and was the odd one out. He ended up being one of my most affectionate, loving rats and, despite the fact he required some extra care (like vitamin E on his little naked body for moisture and a blanket on cold nights.) I loved him, and ever since he sadly passed from a pneumonia infection that antibiotics couldn't treat, I've searched for another boy that I could save from people who only want "cute" pets.

Seriously, these animals get abused- by pet stores, by breeders, and sometimes even the people that take them home (you don't see anyone feeding your pet ferret to a snake do you?)... it seems no one looks at them as a REAL pet and the way most people act towards them just continues this stigma.

The love I feel for these animals is seriously beyond words. And the obvious love they have for my family and me makes them feel as though they are little people, with little personalities, just looking for affection and safety in the world.

People who could call ANY rat matter what it looks like...and say that a pet rat's only value is the cuteness factor----

well that sounds like a pretty ugly person to me.

Crobin28 from Pelham, Alabama on June 21, 2011:

I find it unwise to promote any type of breeding but ESPECIALLY something so advanced. There are thousands of rats in the world who still need homes and we are going to continue breeding in hopes of creating something different?? And not only are we creating MORE pets that will probably be abandoned by the impulse buyers, but we are also playing with extremely fragile genetics. Hairless rats already have more than their share of health problems. Inexperienced breeders trying to breed them will end up with nothing but disaster! But if you are going to go with this. I would suggest you keep ALL of your babies and watch every single one of them through their entire life. I have had a hairless female for nearly two years now and she has devoloped quite a large mammary tumor and has experienced many terrible eye problems. The breeder probably thought that her silky smooth skin and her perfect color was an indication that she was in good health. Boy was he wrong!

NCats on April 03, 2011:

@Confuesed rat owner [sic]:

Your attitude is "ugly and gross!".

I know you. I've seen you in the pet store oohing and ahhing over the "cute" animals. I've seen you pick one out without a second thought to researching its needs or weather it'll be happy and healthy or not. I watched you carry it around like a fashion accessory for a few months until you grew bored with it, at which point you neglected and even occasionally mistreated it if it got in your way or did something that inconvenienced you. I saw when you either gave it away to some irresponsible kid down the block or you forgot to refill the water for so long, the precious creature died. I've watched you then replace it with another "cute" animal.

You should never, EVER be permitted unsupervised contact with an animal and CERTAINLY should never be allowed to own one.

freudianslipper on March 06, 2011:

I loved your article. I have a hairless dumbo odd-eyed female who is probably pregnant since one of my males sneaked into her cage recently. I am a little worried because after reading your article, some things have become clear to me as to why previous litters of hers have not gone very well (her last litter ended up being eaten by her and I was horrified). I don't want this to happen again and I was wondering if you had any advice on how to possibly prevent this with the coming litter. I am also wondering what might happen since the male that was in her cage is her grandson. What would I need to look out for as far as problems with the babies? BTW your Godiva is so cute!!

Confuesed rat owner on February 22, 2011:

I bought two FURRED girl rats, hat ended up both being pregnant. all of the babies are furred except one! i thought it was the runt (im still sure it is the runt) but it has no hair... I dont understand! why did just ONE rat end up hairless? i dont even like hairless rats they are ugly and gross! furred rats are cute!

Clint S. on May 27, 2010:

I got a baby hairless rat like a month ago from the feed store. It was my first hairless one. The guy told us it was a boy. After a few weeks we just thought he didn't fully "mature" yet. So when we went back we got him another boy hairless playmate. And it turns out our first one was really a girl. So we will probally be having babies, unexpectenly!

Cyove on April 09, 2010:

I enjoyed this article, thanks. =]

elisabeth on March 27, 2010:

i think hairless rats are so so cute i might be getting one soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kary-Ann on September 19, 2009:

Rats don't have fusing hips, that's just guinea pigs and it's 7 months for them.

Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on September 17, 2009:

Kim, thanks for stopping by. Furless rats are perfectly capable of living long healthy lives, they just have a higher risk of some things than furred rats (much like some breeds of dogs have a higher chance of hip dysplasia or heart murmers.) Happy to see you're enjoying yours. :)

I hope you're feeding them domestic roaches and crickets (like the kind you buy at the pet store) because wild insects can carry internal parasites and possibly diseases as well. Otherwise a little protein boost can be a good thing. I had one who loooved crickets. I'd put him in a tank so he could find them amongst the bedding. Good mental stimulation!

Kim on September 16, 2009:

Not too important, but I'll say it anyways:

In addition to my 8 rats, I have 2 guinea pigs, 4 Robo hamsters, 2 fish, and several kitties.

My rats love - and I mean LOVE cockroaches, crickets, oranges, cereal. Feeding them cockroaches is like giving cookies to kids with a hard-core sweet tooth.

Kim on September 16, 2009:

I have two male hairless rats. I know their mother, Wrinkles - she belongs to a friend of mine. However, my friend didn't know Wrinkles was already preggy when she got her. But, my lil boys are doing great. So far, no problems.

Oh - by the way - I have 8 rats.

nicko guzman from Los Angeles,CA on April 08, 2009:

Anyone know where to get hairless rats around Los Angeles,California.

nicko guzman from Los Angeles,CA on March 28, 2009:

What I did was put the hairless rat kittens with a foster since the mother was not lactating.

Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on November 20, 2007:

I hear a LOT of complaints in the past five years that breeders aren't mentoring anyone anymore, that it's impossible to "break in." I'm not sure if it's a fear of competition, or more likely a lot of breeders seem to be taking on an unhealthy "I know better then all of you" complex. I help anyone I can because I think the more people doing responsible work the better. It's better that then people starting out totally alone and learning along the way (that leaves far too much room for really bad mistakes.)

Whitney from Georgia on November 20, 2007:

I think that anyone who is considering breedng rats should find an already established breeder in their area. The established breeder will mentor the new comer until the breeder thinks he is ready. Otherwise, the new comer may not know the ropes properly as to when to breed, how to, etc. Being mentored helps teach the tricks and tips to breeding rats.

On another note, I love hairless rats!

2) Rex

What Makes Them Unique

If I were to describe rex variety rats in one word, it would be this one: ‘perm’. These rats are nothing but giant balls of curly fur.

These are probably my favorite variety just because they’re so cute.

Their fur is extremely curly throughout their body – though the belly more closely resembled that of a standard rat. Even their whiskers are curly!

Male rats tend to have better, healthier fur than the females, though. In either gender though, the density and tightness of the curl varies.

One rex rat may have tight curls while another may have just the hint of a wave.

Possible Colorations

Like standard rats, rex rats must conform to a few certain colorations and patterns to be true rex rats.

Special Considerations

Rex rats are another fortunate variety as, like the standard rat, they don’t have any significant health issues.

Recommended Owner Level

These rats are also very good for beginner or first-time rat owners. They are also a great rat if you want to get into rat showing as, even though they can be difficult to breed, their curly fur is a fan favorite.

Do Hairless Rats Need Special Care?

Caring for your hairless rats takes more work because the lack of fur means they’ll have difficulties warming themselves.

It’s not enough to up your room temperature, even though that alone can be a challenge if you live in a colder environment. You also need to adopt a second or third furless rat to keep your bald rat company and to keep him warm. The extra stimulation and activity from a partner in crime will also help your bald rat warm up. Up the room’s humidity levels because dry rooms cause skin problems in furless rats, such as abscesses and calcified wounds.

The extra hard work furless rats do to warm themselves entails a higher metabolism. The result is a higher need for more calories in their diets, so you need to consult with your vet and prepare a special meal plan for your little one.

The fur is a protective layer that keeps animals safe from irritations or toxic substances. Hairless rats lack this protection, so you have to be extra careful with the bedding and the general planning of their environment. Furless rats are more susceptible to wounds and chemicals, so they need soft, chemical-free bedding. Steer clear from pine or cedar shavings, which cause respiratory problems. Aquarium cages are best for bald rats because they have a reduced risk of accidental scratches.

Cleaning a furless rat requires regular washes, once every ten days. You can use mild, toxic-free baby shampoo with good results against buildup if you think that rat shampoos are too expensive.

Pro tip: Look out for any scabs or bleeding on your rat’s skin. If you notice trouble breathing, lack of appetite or runny stools, contact your vet immediately. Don’t worry if your pet rat feels warmer than a furred rat because that’s just his metabolism working at higher rates.

Otherwise, hairless rats require similar health and care as furred rats, such as:

  • Plenty of toys and space to run around, hide, and dig
  • Lots of restful sleep in a dark, cosy hideout
  • Lots of love and attention
  • A safe enclosure where other pets can’t get in
  • Nutritious food composed from rat pellets and healthy treats of fruit and veggies
  • Regular visits to the vet

How To Care For A Hairless Rat And Everything You Should Know Before Owning One

Hairless rats, also known as Sphynx rats, are definitely of the weird and wonderful variety due to their distinctive looks and special needs. They are not as common as their furry cousins and caring for them can pose a bit of a challenge, but whether you find them cute or not, there’s plenty of pet owners out there that cherish their “baldies” for the way they are. If you are thinking about getting a hairless rat, you should consider a couple of things that we will hopefully clarify here.

Why Are They Hairless?

Naked, bald, hairless… Whatever you call them, Sphynx rats are just that… Furless. They can have very fine hair all over their bodies or in patches (most of them are double rex rats), but a truly hairless rat is completely bald: fur, eyelashes, whiskers and all. The hairless appearance is down to a genetic mutation causing the absence of the thymus gland, which is responsible for immune system in mammals. Because of the severe immune deficiency, sphynx baby rats can be born with a fuzzy fur, but it soon falls out, leaving them completely bald.

Special Needs

While furry rats are pretty easy to look after and require standard level of care, hairless ones are a bit different. Due to their unique characteristics and needs, they might not be the best choice if you are new to keeping rats, but with a few adjustments, can still make wonderful pets. Here are some basic requirements for a happy and healthy naked rodent.

  • Warmth. Because hairless rats have no fur to keep them warm, it’s extremely important that they have plenty of soft and cosy hideaways, fabric hammocks and blankets to burrow in and stay cosy. If you need inspiration on how to furnish your rat cage, check out How To Set Up Rat Cage And What You Will Need. Hairless rats prefer warmer temperatures, so it’s crucial their cage is not placed in a cold environment with draught coming through. The best cage choice for a hairless rat would be one with solid walls, like a fish tank, but with plenty of air coming in. You can also adapt a standard barred cage by hanging blankets down like tapestry to keep the chill out or place it near a radiator. And when that’s done, a furred rat companion (or two!) is advisable as there’s nothing better than a snuggle with another warm body!
Source: @southernrodents Instagram
  • Diet. Hairless rats are well known for running their body temperature hotter than their furry friends. The lack of fur requires their metabolism to go into overdrive and burn more calories to keep warm. A more rich, calorie packed diet and always accessible fresh drinking water are needed to sustain the required body temperature and keep a hairless rat healthy. Foods containing more fat and protein are the best choices when it comes to feeding your naked eat. Just be careful of overfeeding, hairless rats can get fat too!
  • Cage. As we mentioned above, hairless pet rats thrive in warmer environment and can be housed in fish tank like cages, providing they are big enough and have good airflow. However a standard cage with bars is also perfectly acceptable and with a few adjustments, can make a great home for your hairless pet. The most important thing when setting up a cage for a naked rat is eliminating any sharp corners and edges that might hurt its delicate skin. Even a small scratch can turn into a long-standing health risk, so it’s extremely vital to avoid injuries at all cost. Soft surfaces with no exposed wire floors and ledges covered in plush fabric are one of the best ways to keep your hairless pet cosy and harm free.

A squishy and fluffy bedding (substrate) like Carefresh should also be used instead of wood shavings (even Aspen, which is safe for furred rats) or shredded paper as their sharp edges can cause an injury to the sensitive skin of a hairless rat. You might need to change the bedding and any fabric items in the cage every couple of days to keep the ammonia smell to a minimum and make sure your hairless rodent doesn’t sleep in pee soaked material, which can cause skin infection.

Common Health Problems Of A Hairless Rat

As lovely and one of a kind as hairless rats can be, they are unfortunately plagued with many health issues, that can be deadly for them. Most of the common well-being problems stem from the hairlessness itself and poor immune system, which often means that a lifespan of a naked rat is much shorter than of its furry cousin (most hairless rats live to 1.5 years old compared to 2 – 2.5 for standard ones).

  • Scratches and wounds. These are the most common injuries seen in hairless rats. Because of the lack of fur, naked rodents have no protection against bumps and scrapes, sustained accidentally by brushing against something sharp or even by play fighting with their cage mates. Many injuries are unintentionally caused by other rats, whether it’s because of grooming or sharp and pointy nails. Any small wounds or scratches can normally be treated at home, but severe cases should be seen by a vet to avoid prolonged infections and forming of abscesses.
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  • Abscesses. Caused by a scratch or a bite, abscesses form on old wounds that failed to heal. Even though they can look gruesome and scary at times, they are actually fairly common in hairless pet rats and can be successfully treated at home, if they are not infected. An abscess will normally look like a lump on your rat’s body and can be topped off with a dark scab. You can help your rat with healing of the abscess by making a warm compress (a wet washcloth soaked in water or saline) to soften the scab and allowing the wound to open. Once the scab is loose, a puss like substance will drain out and then the area can be cleaned up with a sterile dressing. After draining, keep and eye on the injured site to make sure no infection if forming and if needed, consult your vet. An untreated, prolonged abscess can calcify (turn hard) and might need to be cut out surgically.
  • Grease. Noticeable especially in male rats, the so called buck grease is an oily substance that moisturises the hair and skin of a furred rat. In a case of its hairless cousin, it can be clearly visible and sometime can cause blockages in the hair follicle grooves, leading to formation of oily build up. The easiest way to avoid any skin infections is to give your hairless pet a nourishing bath. At least once a fortnight, prepare a luke warm bowl of water with a very mild baby shampoo or another organic soap solution. If your rat is not keen on water, you can use a wet washcloth to wipe off any dirt and grease of his/her body. Some rats are fine with going under the tap or in the actual bowl, so it’s down to you to determine which option will stress your rat out less. After a bath, give your naked friend a good drying off with a soft cloth and use organic coconut oil to moisturise their body. The taste of the oil might just be enough for your rat to forgive the ordeal you just put him/her through!
  • Eye problems. Even though hairless rats are mostly bald, some varieties retain tiny hairs here and there, which can cause irritation. The most common issue with ingrown hairs is curling of the eyelashes known as entropy. It often leads to painful eye infections and can even result in blindness. Because of their limited genetic make-up, hairless rats are also prone to birth defects, including enlarged or unable to close eyes, small or missing eyes and will often suffer with eye infections at least once in their lifetime.
  • Cancer and respiratory issues. As two of the biggest causes of death in all rats, cancer and difficulty breathing are even more dangerous when it comes to hairless rats. Due to inbreeding and therefore a small gene pool, naked rodents are highly susceptible to contracting those diseases and often experience trouble with shaking them off. Their poorly developed immune system sadly cannot withstand serious infections and they quickly become chronic, leading to untimely passing.

Should I Get A Hairless Rat?

That’s the question only you could answer! If you can put the time to research and create a healthy environment for a hairless rat, they will love you just as much as a furry rat would.

Even though a naked rat might not be the best choice for people, who are just beginning their journey with rats of any kind, with a few adjustments it’s fairly simple to take good care of a hairless rodent. As long as you go into the experience with your eyes open and knowing all the facts about their needs and rather short lifespan, owning a sphynx rat can be a true joy… Plus your mobile phone will be full of cute pictures!

And if you are allergic to animal fur and struggle to find a pet, that won’t set a frenzy of sneezing off, a furless rat might be the answer! Just remember, rats need at least one same sex companion in their cage, so instead of getting one “baldy”, get two!

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How to Breed Healthy Hairless Rats (Sphynx Rats) - pets

My Name is Kristen Leedom. I’ve been breeding sphynx for 22 years. I was born an animal lover. As a child I was able to connect with animals better then people. I spent most of my days in the woods at the park spending time with toads and frogs. I was the girl who had a pocket full of worms. My best friends were my pet rats who were the first animals I was to ever breed.

As a child I was very ill. I had severe respiratory issues. I developed an allergy to my rats which complicated my health issues. I tried to hide it as much as I could. Having to part with my pet rats would had been devastating. I was heavily medicated on steroids and other medications which also made me sick. I learned to live not being able to breath. Walking up a flight of stairs or going from hot to cold from inside to outside in winter would immediately cause my bronchial tubes to close. I started receiving experimental antibody transfusions when I was 12. The transfusions continued until I was a Jr in high school. My respiratory problems slowly went into remission.

I had never had a pet cat or dog before. My only pets were my rats which I had become highly allergic to. (long story short, I attempted to get hairless rats a few years ago because I love rats and they make great pets but sadly I am still highly allergic to them.)

22 years ago, when I was 21 years old when I purchased my 1st sphynx. I was at my parents one summer day sitting out back by their pond having a few drinks when we got into this conversation about cats and whether there were different breeds of cats like dogs. (Keep in mind the internet didn’t exist then) I grabbed the Sunday journal where they had a section for people who sold pets. I saw an ad placed from someone selling sphynx kittens…. a hairless cat. To me this was wild. I couldn’t imagine such a thing. I called the number and the next day my mother and I took a trip two hours north. It was love at 1st sight. I purchased a blue and white male kitten.

I brought him to my parent’s house so my dad could see him. He looked at the kitten and fell in love with him and said he wanted him. So, I let my dad keep him. The following day I went back up north to the breeder and purchased his brother for myself who was also a blue and white boy.

I fell under the spell of these amazing cats and purchased a pair for breeding and then the house across the street from my parent’s where I had grown up. My dream was always to be a veterinarian. Breeding sphynx I think was the next best thing.

When I started breeding sphynx there were maybe 20 other breeders in the world. The internet didn’t exist, so we advertised in magazines such as Cat Fancy and Cats USA as well as newspapers. Years to come I was one of he 1st breeders with a website.

The sphynx became my passion…my life. I’ve dedicated everything to them. I never get a day off and can’t go on vacations. What I do isn’t easy. There are very few people in the world that have been breeding sphynx as long as I. I am very passionate about what I do and take it very seriously. Countless hours go into each of my kittens and cats. In 2004 I founded the Elf of which people and now breeding all over the world. In 2009 I founded the Skinderlop.

Watch the video: How to breed rats!

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