Rats Make Wonderful Pets
Rats are wonderful pets who make a great addition to almost any household. Intelligent and fun, I've often described rats as the dogs of the rodent world. You can train them, cuddle them, and play with them just like a dog, but they come in a small package!
Though your first choice of rat should be based on health and temperament, maybe you would like to get a certain type or color of rat, or maybe you already chose your rat and are interested to know what his unique coloring is.
There are many types of rats, and many more colors of rats—far more colors than I can really cover here, so I will stick to some of the basics.
Each type will be marked dominant or recessive. If the gene is dominant, it only needs one copy of the gene to show. If it is recessive, it needs two copies of that gene to show.
So, for example, agouti is dominant and black is recessive, so a black rat must get a black gene from each parent, but an agouti rat needs to receive an agouti gene from only one parent.
Rat Body Types
|Type||Recessive or Dominant||Description|
Normal, wild-type rat ears
Ears are larger, rounder, and set lower on the side of the head
Tailless, smaller, and slimmer
1/3 size of regular rats
Dominant trait — A standard eared rat has just the normal, wild-type rat ears. They are normal sized and set on top of the head.
Recessive trait — A dumbo rat has ears that are larger, rounder, and set lower to the side on the head. They have a rather sweet appearance, and it has been said that dumbo rats tend to be friendlier than standard eared rats.
This might have been true when the dumbos were first being bred as pretty much all dumbos were being bred specifically as pet rats, however now I don't find that this is still the case as both are easily found bred to be pets, and dumbos can even be found as feeders.
Recessive trait — A Manx rat, much like a Manx cat, is tailless though some have partial or stub tails. They tend to be smaller and slimmer than their regular rat counterparts. As tails are important for balance and temperature regulation in rats, Manx rats may need some extra special care.
Recessive trait — As their name suggests, dwarf rats are smaller than regular rats, usually around 1/3 the size.
Rat Coat Types
|Type||Dominant or Recessive||Description|
Normal coat, straight hair
Curly whiskers, patchy hair
Dominant trait — Normal, straight coat of most rats. In males, this coat tends to be a bit coarse and thick, while in females it is softer and finer.
Dominant trait — Rex rats have curly hair and whiskers which is curlier as babies. Females tend to lose most of their curl as they grow older, but males tend to keep more of it. A so-called “bad rex” may simply look messy all the time, but you can tell by curly or straight whiskers whether they are truly a rex rat.
Double dominant trait — A double rex rat has two copies of the rex gene, which make the hair so curly that it breaks and falls off before growing very long. These rats are also sometimes called patchwork rats because their hair grows in patches on the body, which change every week as hair grows and breaks in different places. They also have curly whiskers.
Recessive trait — Hairless rats grow no hair at all and are entirely naked. They tend to need more food and protein because they have a higher metabolism to keep warm. Even so, special care should be taken to keep hairless rats out of drafts, cold rooms, and away from objects that may scratch their unprotected skin.
Rat Base Coat Color
|Base||Dominant vs. Recessive||Description|
Brown, the color of wild rats
Base Coat Colors
Dominant trait — This is the color of wild rats. They are brown with banded individual hairs, which gives them an appearance of many colors all mixed up in their coat. They have a lighter, almost creamy underbelly. The color can rust with age to brown and yellowish tones.
Black (AKA non-agouti)
Recessive trait — Their color is solid black. As babies they tend to be very dark and clean, however as they grow older most rats “rust” which gives them brown spots or makes them look brownish all over.
How Modifiers Affect Base Coat Color
|Color Modifier||Recessive vs. Dominant||Effect on Agouti||Effect on Black|
Red eyes, turns coat fawn
Red eyes, turns coat tan
Pink eyes, amber coat
Pink eyes, creamy beige coat
All white with pink eyes
All white with pink eyes
Silver/gray/blue coat, silver belly, hairs are tan at tip
All blue coat
Reddish brown, cinnamon coat
Grayish to chocolate-colored coat
(only shows on mink/cinnamon rats), gold color with silver mixed in
(only shows on mink rats), called pearl, looks gray and creamy
Recessive trait — This dilute does not just change the eye color of the rat, it also dilutes the coat color. An agouti rat becomes fawn, a beautiful light color that is almost orange-ish with a lighter belly.
It still shows much of the agouti banding on each individual hair but it is very mild. A black rat becomes beige, a light tan all over the body.
Recessive trait — This dilute changes the eyes to pink and dilutes the coat ever more than the red-eyed dilute. An agouti rat becomes amber, a light orange with an even spread of light hairs. A black rat becomes a warm, creamy beige called champagne.
Recessive trait — An albino rat is all white with pink eyes which can occur on agouti or black. A rat may look like an albino but actually be a pink-eyed white (PEW), who simply has so many dilutions it looks like an albino.
Recessive trait — There is both Russian blue and slate blue, but for the purposes of this article we will combine them into one. Blue rats are cast bluish silver, some very light and others dark depending on which blue and other dilutes the rat might have.
A blue agouti is silver/gray/blue, ticked with blue guard hairs, and with a silver belly. Individual hairs are blue at the base and yellow/tan at the tip. A black-based rat with the blue gene will be a uniform blue across the whole hair, giving a very smooth and even appearance to the blue rat.
Recessive trait — Mink dilutes the coat color and makes it more brown. A mink agouti (called cinnamon) is lighter than mink, reddish brown in color with banded hairs, and brown hairs ticked through the coat.
A black-based mink rat is simply called mink, and it lightens the black to an even brown color varying from grayish to chocolate.
Dominant trait — Pearl is yet another dilute, but it only shows on mink rats. It lightens the individual hairs and also intersperses the coat with cream colored hairs, and tends to blue or gray cast.
A cinnamon rat (agouti plus mink) with pearl is called cinnamon pearl, and it has hair banded cream, blue, and orange with silver guard hairs, giving it a golden color mixed with silver. A mink rat (black with mink) with pearl is simply called pearl, and it looks gray and creamy.
Solid-colored with a colored top, but white feet, belly, and tail-tip
Blaze on the face between eyes to the nose
A rat with color on its head, leaving the rest of the body clean and white
A rat with color over its head, neck, shoulders, and down the back in a stripe to the tail
A solid-colored rat with white paws, and a spot on either the chest or belly
A white rat with a rectangle or oval of color over the eyes
Born solid but color fades over time
Shading and Patterns
Dominant trait — We'll start with merle since we just covered pearl and merle only expresses on mink-based rats such as pearl. Merle in rats is very similar to merle in dogs, spreading a pattern of colored spots and splotches over the rat's body to create a unique and handsome picture.
It is most distinct on young rats, fading as they get older. I had a pearl merle rat who was very obviously spotted as a young rat, and while his spots did lessen as he grew older he did keep several large, subtle spots.
Even though this gene is dominant so you only need one copy for a merle rat, it is believed that two copies of this gene result in a baby rat that dies in the womb and is reabsorbed long before the birth of its siblings.
A self rat is completely solid, though some may have white feet. The belly might seem lighter since it doesn't have any guard hairs, but it won't actually have any white hairs.
A solid-colored with a colored top, but white feet, belly, and tail-tip. The belly is supposed to be evenly colored, but usually it looks splotchy. A downunder berkshire has a stripe down the belly.
A colored rat in any face-coloring pattern that has a wedge shaped blaze from between the eyes to the nose.
A rat with color on its head, leaving the rest of the body clean and white. The color generally covers the entire face and extends to the back of the skull, and it should stop before reaching the neck in a show animal but many pet animals have more color.
A rat with color over its head, neck, shoulders, and down the back in a stripe to the tail. It often extends onto the tail as well. Often you'll see them with imperfect stripes and belly splotches too.
A bareback is similar to the hooded but without the stripe down the back, and a downunder hooded has a stripe down the belly.
A solid-colored rat with white paws, and a spot on either the chest or belly.
A white rat with a rectangle or oval of color over the eyes
These rats are born solid, but as they grow older they silver and fade, often until they are completely white. While fading, the pattern often resembles the markings of a husky dog, creating a striking rat.
- What Rat Is That? - This is a cute site from Australia with more pictures of rats and information on markings and colors.
- American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association's Official Guide - This site has brief descriptions of rat coat, body, color, and marking types as well as photos of each.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Airbear on September 03, 2020:
Two weeks ago I bought some males from a AFRMA registered breeder.(so someone very official, not a backyard breeder) They were all berkshire, and most dwarfs. One of the dwarfs, a pink eyed champagne rex, has lost all color from his back. So now instead of a berkshire he looks like a cap. It has been several days now, and I'm not sure if he's going to grow it back. I can't find anyone talking about it. Have you seen this before? For context he is going to be 8 weeks old in 2 days.
Kii Synth on March 26, 2019:
I bought everything I need for rats-- in the next week or so, I will be getting two (or more, If I can get my father to agree that we NEED them!!). We already have 6 cats, 2 dogs, 3 spiders (about to get 7 more!!!!) and we are thinking about getting pygmy and fainting goats and chickens.
If I put my face against my cats, I have an allergic reaction, and I HATE long, thick fur, so no animals at all- other than rats- are allowed in.
Will my ratties be okay with the other animals?
Ric Byrum on March 09, 2019:
I have loved and raised rats about 40 years. I am yet have one that just like another, clearly people too. It takes time to make an enviorment because they chew, there teeth like our nails. I have there cages open and they come go. They fresh veges, grains and fresh fruit. In there water bottles with Smart Water. You got love these guys!
Angi on March 04, 2019:
And what about velveteen fur and siamese and himalayan color hm?
Puma&nugget on March 04, 2019:
I miss my little tailless rat, nugget and my other female, puma. They were my babies
Jeff on October 21, 2018:
Rats are cool
Ric Byrum on May 12, 2018:
Picture, just for a minute an Agouti, a Harley and Dumbo mix, now hear me out the long thinner snout of the Agouti, the robust build of a Harley and the ears and size of the Dumbo. That is a Wooley, thy get a bad rap because of there UK roots. In the UK they are considered pests not pets. The American Wooley that the Fancy Rat people do not recognize them but they are. The first Wooley I had as a Companion some years ago, KC a male at full grown was 21" from nose to tail and weighted right at two Lbs.The ones I have know, the guy I met in Shelby, N.C. had to get them from Las Vegas, NV. They came to me just weened, so we are still getting to know one another. I will be glad to post pics showing weight and size latter. If you want a BIG rat this is it. KC years ago was allowed to run free in a home with 3 cats, none of them would touch him.
Emma on April 03, 2018:
i have 3 male rats
Amber hasbrouck from Rochester my on March 21, 2018:
i have a baby rat that is 2 weeks old and it looks like blue or Russian blue how can i tell the difference
Alex on March 15, 2018:
thank you for this information, this really helped my 12 year old daughter tell what her 4 pet rats were, for her unschooling, she chose this subject to learn.
Jenn on February 05, 2018:
Great descriptions, but accompanying pictures would be so helpful.
clawskitty on January 16, 2018:
so wish you had a chart for the colors, so i could see them and who the colorblind bf. Would also be perfect if the markings were represented in some sort of chart as well, just a thought, but im still very lost on colors mostly
Cupid on January 04, 2018:
I cant find anything that sounds like my rat Cricket, he is mostly white with a black spot on his ear and a few on his back and he is a dumbo.
Alyssa on January 04, 2018:
I have a black hooded rat with black eyes and a fawn hooded rat with ruby eyes. If I breed them together what will the litter look like? Is it possible to get any grey hooded at all or what two rats together can give me that result?
Alexis on November 14, 2017:
I've got a pink eye, dumbo ear, double Rex, Himalayan female rat, what would I breed her with to get a chance of more Rex/double Rex? Or for more chance of dumbo ear? Or even for more of a chance at having Himalayan babies?
Miss Cellany on October 29, 2017:
I've seen a photo of a black and tan rat (similar to the pattern on a doberman or rottweiler) I really want a rat this colour... Does anyone know what that pattern / coat colour is called in rats?
Honey bea seastrand on October 28, 2017:
I've had my rat for some time now and I've been wanting to find out what kind of rat she is so thanks
Little pup on September 24, 2017:
Wow this link will really help me when I'm getting a pet rat for Christmas.
So so so want a white rat.
sam on August 29, 2017:
littlerattiesauntie on August 07, 2017:
Excellent information! I've never seen it all quite so concise and comprehensive! I hope you won't mind if I refer people to your site! ;-)
Jennifer on July 17, 2017:
Thank you .Great job very helpful .
Can anyone tell me of a great breeder in Ontario Canada that has had there rats tested and cleared?
Felicity on May 11, 2017:
idk why some people are afraid of rats they are sweet & lovable animals I miss my little female rat she was my baby
ectothermalia on April 28, 2017:
You have left out quite a few things so maybe it's time for a rewrite of this? Some coat types not listed above are Satin and Bristle. Some coat colours not listed are Platinum, Champagne, Beige, and Chocolate. I also forget if you mentioned Odd-eyed or not... Anyway! Some patterns not listed are Lightening Blazed, Spotted, Siamese/Himalayan, Dalmatian, Down Under, Bareback and Essex.
amanda on April 12, 2017:
I have a tri color standard and I have 5 possible albinos In the litter 4 females and one male the father was a chocolate standard she had a total of 12 pups they were born april 9th
MusEquus on March 18, 2017:
I didn't realize domestic rats' colouration could be so varied until I found my pet Iloni a while back who was blazed, after this article, I now know that rats are nearly as complex as horses.
TheFancyRatVet on February 02, 2017:
Thanks for the info, Mindbglin!
Mindbglin on February 01, 2017:
Rat vet! It sounds like you have an agouti hooded, and Some pet! It means that both parents were double recessive for albino and black, or a double het as It were. Het being short heterozygous, meaning non visual trates, and homozygous is the visual, hence the albino and black.
TheFancyRatVet on February 01, 2017:
Interesting! Apparently, my 4-month-old rat Scabbers (who's sitting on my lap right now, BTW) is a hooded rat. But he has a tiny bit of light brown mixed with grey hood & stripe. What would you call that?
Shana on December 15, 2016:
Informative! I'm actually in NEED of a Jumbo rat bestie. I have been searching for month's without any luck. Any help would be appreciated! Preferably within an hour drive.. Located in Kalamazoo, Michigan
August on November 19, 2016:
Thank you! I have a (standard) Red Eye Dilute. I've never payed much attention to the eyes. But the coat is fawn. Thanks! (Ah, they're an Agouti)
Owner of some rats on October 07, 2016:
I bred an agouti female with a black capped male, I ended up with 2 albino males and 1 black female. Does this mean that the mother (the agouti) had a parent that was black and a parent that was agouti?
tinkerspell on September 29, 2016:
I have been raising rats for a while now and the way to sex them as babies is the females will have nipples while the males do not. Also the male organ will protrude a little more, this is not always easy to do as some have too much hair to tell and others are just too wiggly to let you check but usually within 2 weeks the males scrotum will start to drop and show.
Tanya on September 01, 2016:
Susan this article was posted like 8 years ago so this guy isn't answering anymore. Look at your rat...... if it's a male you will see it's balls. Male rats have huge balls and this is just plain n simple.
susan beiting on August 23, 2016:
My grandson found a rat outside about 3 months ago. White body with a few light gray spots, and a gray head. He/she was obviously a domesticated rat that somehow got lose or was set free. He ran right up to him and made friends. We all love our little rattie-rat now. Very healthy, playful and loving. I am so sad to find out they have a short life. I do not know if it is male or female, therefore we call it shim (she/him) when referring to its sex. I think it is a Berkshire from what I read on this site. Anybody know how to tell the sex?
kathleen on June 06, 2016:
rust colored rat with white on belly found outside trying to figure out if it was someones pet and got away or a bad outdoors rat how can I tell. gave him some water and millet
izzy14 on April 19, 2016:
i have 2 feamale hooded ratties love of my life they are so spoiled
Dave March on April 01, 2016:
Unable to identify my rat that I photographed steeling from my bird feeder.
I know rats having had them in a house I once live in and saw many rats on the ships I served on in the Royal Navy. This one has the typical rat shape ears and long thin tail. But it has a white underbelly and its top colour is the same as a weasel. Can you help identify this animal?
Emmanuel on October 16, 2015:
I have 5 babes of dwarf rat and 3 males and 2 female dwarf rats, how can rear these rats.
Marko on September 29, 2015:
I have a new dog and he is a rat killer.I am soooooo happy!
awa on December 23, 2014:
Hey, you dont have any siamese or himilayans on here!! :) I have a male siamese dumbo and a semi-hairless dumbo rat and would love a section on the siamese :)
Talareda Rashda on November 19, 2014:
hi every body do you guys now how much do a rat weigh?
Emily on July 18, 2014:
This was very detailed and helpful. Apart from that, some of the rat pics were really cute!
peter griffen on June 15, 2014:
peter griffen rat!
amber on March 18, 2014:
what kind of rat is a rat with red eyes and is wite?
Peto on January 11, 2014:
Well written and informative, thanks.
karaminsa on November 19, 2013:
this has helped lots thanks to HUBPAGES!!!!
vibesites from United States on October 13, 2013:
I have cared for rodents but not yet with rats. Thanks for this very informative hub.
ram on May 22, 2013:
black only expresses when a rat good
Allyembley on March 12, 2013:
hi i have a rat he is about a meter long (with tail) black and white splodges everywhere on him also on his tail. is mom is about 1 1/2 meters long (white) father 1 1/2 meters (brown). Pelet (his name) loves to eat watsits!
What type of rat do i have?
p.s. i bought him in china.
jade on March 07, 2013:
i have a siamese with red eyes, japanese hooded rat (lovely dak grey and white), champagne girl with red eyes and a husky dumbo girl with ruby eyes. love my babies so much :D
bethany on March 02, 2013:
thanks you have helped me find out more about pet rats i have two my self both brothers however they fight a lot dose anyone know why this is .
Bre on March 02, 2013:
I have a Siamese with pure red eyes :) I think you forgot Siamese/Himalayans in this
Lilia on February 24, 2013:
I don't like rats I'm just searching this for a project:/
Dennis on July 25, 2012:
You've forgotten the golden himalayas rat
rosie on June 11, 2012:
Hi i possibaly think i have a rare rat, a siamese rat with pure red eyes,is this rare do you think
Rat Lova on March 28, 2012:
I have 2 female ratties... the LOVES of my life... besides my human children! lol! Anyway, I think I get it, but what does Agouti mean??
vullnoid (author) on March 23, 2012:
David: I would assume that the "tan" rat you bred your black rat to was an agouti with either the red or pink eyed dilute gene. We'll assume the father was pure black, and the mother was fawn (agouti + red eyed dilute). That would make their genetics this:
These are the only ones we can assume based on the phenotype of the parents. However, based on the coloring of the babies, we can further assume:
Since black only expresses when a rat is a/a, and red eyed dilute only expresses when a rat is r/r, all the babies would be plain agouti rats. However, if bred to the right rat, the babies would have the potential to produce black, agouti, black + red eyed, or agouti + red eyed.
Gromit on February 16, 2012:
I have been looking online everywhere to find what characteristics are recessive or dominant in rats, and this helped a lot. Thank u! If u or anyone knows more on what other traits are and if they are a dominant or recessive one, I would appreciate it
David Hubbard on November 04, 2011:
I'm no geneticist, but as a teenager I had pet rats and bred them while reading a book by B.F. Skinner (I believe that's the name). Anyways, I'd always wanted agouti rats but had never actually seen any. The usual "hooded" variety was most abundant, as were albinos and occasional black rats. I raised a black rat (white belly patch) whose father was albino and mother colored like him. I bred it with a tan ruby-eyed female. Imagine my astonishment at getting a litter of pure agouti rats! To be sure, the same two bred again with the same result. No white patches on these agouti rats, their bellies were a smooth faded gray. I couldn't quite figure out how all these dominant genes snuck through all of the parental recessive features.
JasonPLittleton on July 11, 2011:
Very nice pet.
Eternal Evolution from kentucky on July 06, 2011:
Didn't know there were dwarf rats, that's a new one on me. Great hub!
vullnoid (author) on February 04, 2011:
Thanks everyone! I'm really glad this hub helped. :)
K: Thank you for the input, but I have checked some sources again and do believe I am correct. Agouti (wild type) is A/- genotype, black is a/a genotype. My sources agree, and it also makes sense as this is how it generally seems to works in genetics. Horses are the same. The wild type, also called agouti, is A/-, and black is a/a.
If you've ever bred rats and noticed that breeding black to agouti you got a lot of black rats, then the agouti rats you are using are A/a. A/a bred to a/a would result in half black and half agouti. An A/A agouti rat, however, would never have black kittens.
K on February 02, 2011:
A nice read, but I disagree with the color black being "recessive". Was always dominant in my other readings and experiences.
ttrash from Australia on January 31, 2011:
Great hub, very detailed! I've figured out through this hub that I've got a black/red eye dilute/hooded rat and a black/pink eye dilute rat. Thanks :)
hellonico on January 18, 2011:
I am impressed by this hub. I am quite surprised not more people have read this.