Hairless Rat Care by Debbi J. Needham
There is no other oddity in the animal world than an fur less creature. An animal lacking fur would never survive except in the homes of their cherished owners.
Keeping one of these bizarre and incredible creatures welcomes both conversation and delight. However, to enjoy this special animal you must provide special care.

Without fur a rat gets colder!
Hairless rats need more warmth. Period. Summer temperatures will keep a hairless rat adequately warm. But in the winter, the temperatures should not fall below 60F.
Degrees (with multiple rats) or 70F. Degrees with a single rat or pairs. Providing a hairless rat with a same sex companion, with or without fur, is essential to its
survival. Not only will it provide a social partner, but in the cooler evenings they will snuggle together. A warm lamp over a corner of the cage or a heating pad taped to
a side are two ways to increase the housing temperature if your home is on the cool side. Make sure there is an area in the cage that they can get away from the heat.

No fur equals higher metabolisms.
Hairless rats need eat more often to keep warm. A normal rat needs a well balanced diet of grains, seeds, and a protein source. Hairless rats eat more of it. Also,
although not proven, a higher source of protein seems to benefit their health. Generally, a quality, non-allergenic dog kibble can be added into the diet to meet these
needs. I feed my older hairless rats either lab block or dog chow, pasta and oats twice a day. I do avoid corn in the diet as much as possible.  Furred rats require
rodent lab block or dog kibble with a lower protein ratio. Hairless rats drink more water than furred rats, so make sure that you fill the water bottle often.

Hairless rats are prone to Illness
Generally, hairless rats are fragile creatures in comparison to furred rats. They may have more allergies and may be more susceptible to environmental stress causing
them to become ill.  This is especially true of strains of hairless deriving from laboratories and passed onto the pet stores. Diseases common to laboratory and pet store
hairless rats are cancer and tumors, excessive abscessing, wasting, kidney and bladder infections, heart disease, eye disease, diabetes, excessive respiratory
infections, head tilt, and skin problems. Just in the last few years since the first publication of this article, fancy rat breeders have made great strides in breeding out
health issues that formally plagued hairless rats.  Now, some lines of hairless rats from reputable breeders are just as disease resistant as furred rats and can be
expected to live as long, two to three-years-old. Reputable breeders eliminate tendencies for these diseases through selective breeding. They monitor their lines over
time and end lines where offspring continually have health problems that crop up before two-years-old.  Good breeders choose only the healthiest rats to breed. Hairless
rats not selectively bred can be expected to live 18-24 months.  Out crossed hairless rats to furred lines tend to be more robust and live longer than those born to
hairless parents.

Allergies/Bedding
possibly lead to bacterial respiratory infections that will require antibiotics to cure.  Selectively bred hairless are heartier. Signs of eyes issues include weepy eyes
which may come from a increased sensitivity to allergens or possibly dry eyes. Many hairless rats wake up from long naps with this. You may see them clean their
eyes. If the problem is severe, treat the eyes with an antibiotic eye cream called Terramycin, a couple of times a day.
Removing the allergens by using a Hepa Air Cleaner and by avoiding wood bedding and those with high dust content. I have had the most success with recycled
newspaper pellets. These can be found in grocery stores as Yesterday Mews Cat Litter, Good Mews Cat Litter and at feed stores as Crown Animal Bedding. Farm
feed stores usually carry it for half of the price of grocery stores.

Stress/Cage Cleaning
Environmental stresses are too low or too high temperatures, drafts and chills, such as when a window is left open, and not enough food or water. Also, urine build-up
in a rats cage or aquarium will lead to health problems. Cage cleaning is essential and should be done weekly to discourage a urine build-up which stresses the rats
lungs and compromises their immune systems. Change bedding weekly and wash down the cage with hot soap and water, a sanitizer, or a Odor neutralizer and
cleaner.

Breeding Heartier Hairless Rats
Most reputable breeders will seek to breed heartier hairless rats. We do this by breeding in genes from haired rats into our hairless lines. We breed a hairless male to a
furred female that carry the hairless gene. Then, we choose only the healthiest hairless males from pedigreed lines. The litter will consist of 50% carriers and 50%
hairless rats. These rats are usually healthier and heartier than those born from two hairless parents. By 2004, hairless rats bred at Odd Fellows Rattery are living as
long as furred rats, with some living even longer to almost 3-years-old. Hairless babies are either born hairless and stay hairless or they will grow fuzz after birth and
loose it by their 8 week-molt. Both kinds can retain some fuzz or become completely naked by adulthood.

Breeding "True Hairless" Females equals Disappointment!
I get many emails each week about hairless rats being terrible mothers. They eat, squish or starve their babies. At Odd Fellows Rattery, in 2001, we bred four different
does from different backgrounds. The resulting babies from all of the litters were either cannibalized, squished, abandoned or starved due to poor parenting and/or
inadequate or no lactation. Only one hairless doe (born to furred parents) lactated. However, she cannibalized more than half of her two litters, but lactated and protected
the remaining babies. With that said, this does not occur in every hairless female. Those that have been out crossed with furred rats may inherit positive qualities that
allow them to rear babies normally. But, how do you know if your rat is like this? Avoid the disappointment and breed a hairless carrier female to a hairless male and
the chance is high all offspring will survive. At Odd Fellows Rattery, all of our hairless rats are out crossed with furred rats.

Bathing Your Hairless
Most healthy rats do not need more than an occasional bath a couple of times a year. A healthy hairless rat does not need them any more than a furred rat. However,
some people may prefer to bathe their rats more often, which is fine. We sometimes bathe up to 15 rats before rat shows, so we have mastered the technique.
It can be done in just a few minutes. For best show condition, I recommend it be done a few days before a rat show and not the night before. To bathe our rats, we fill
the bathroom sink full of warm water. Then, with one hand, I dunk the rat under the water to the head, which I keep over the water at all times. Then, I lift it up a bit.  
With with the other hand, I lather the body with a very small amount of human shampoo. Very gently scrub the tail with an old soft toothbrush. Then, I rinse all of the
soap off. I dry it in a towel and place it in a clean aquarium. We use a heat lamp over the aquarium until the rat is completely dry. To clip our rats nails, we use a small
baby nail clippers. We trim just the sharp hooked tip off. Be careful not to clip anywhere near the pink part of the nail or your rat could bleed for a while. Then, I place the
cleaned rat back with its buddies in its regular cage. The next day, you may find just a small amount of dry skin on your rat. This will go away in a day or so as the
oils under the skin are released. But, you could use some aloha Vera on your rats skin, if you like.

Enjoy Your Hairless!
With all of this in mind, hairless rats make great pets! They are social, friendly, fun and love to play like other rats. They make great show animals with their lack of fur
and their baggy skin. They can be taught to beg, chase your hands, come when called, shoulder sit and allow for petting. Males tend to larger and mellower than their
frisky female counterparts. Odd Fellows hairless rats have continually succeeded at Northwest rat shows. OFR Pharaoh, a standard hairless, won Best of Variety
twice and took Best in Show at RatPacNW Rat Show in September, 2001. His daughter, his competition, also won a First Place ribbon and Best of Variety hairless at
RatsPacNW shows. D61 Piggy Jr. and OFR Leonard, both dumbo hairless, have also had long, successful show careers.
In 2004, OFR Leonard, a dumbo hairless, won Best in Show Reserve.

Enjoy Your Hairless Rat!

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Hairless Rat Care  by Debbi Needham -  Updated 4-2005 - Repost 2010
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OFR Hairless Rats
Breeding Hairless Rats
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