Fancy Rat

Scientific NameRattus norvegicus domestica
Common NameFancy Rat
Care LevelModerate
Lifespan2-3 years
Adult Size9-11 inches (including tail)
OriginEurope (from wild brown rats)
TemperamentSocial, Intelligent, Playful

History & Domestication

The Fancy Rat, known scientifically as the Rattus norvegicus domestica, is the domesticated version of the wild brown rat. The term “fancy” in the context of the Fancy Rat denotes an interest or hobby. Thus, a “rat fancy” is a community or group interested in rat husbandry. The domestication of rats is believed to have started in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Initially, these creatures were bred for blood sport, but as the times changed, their gentle nature, intelligence, and endearing characteristics were recognized, and they began to be kept as pets.

Over the past century, Fancy Rats have gained popularity, particularly in Western countries. Breeders have carefully selected traits over generations, leading to a wide array of coat types, patterns, and colors that we see in Fancy Rats today.


Adult Fancy Rats typically measure between 9 to 11 inches, inclusive of their tail. The body is sturdy and robust, with males usually being larger than females. While the body itself might range from 5 to 7 inches, the tail can be an additional 4 inches or so, often serving as a distinctive feature that adds to their charm.


The average lifespan of a Fancy Rat ranges between 2 to 3 years, although there are instances of rats living up to 4 years with exceptional care. While their life might seem short compared to some other pets, they make up for it with their vibrant personalities and interactive nature.


Breeding Fancy Rats requires an understanding of their genetic traits and careful selection to promote health and desired physical characteristics. Females, or does, reach sexual maturity as early as 6 weeks of age, while males, or bucks, mature at 8 to 10 weeks. A typical gestation period lasts about 21 to 23 days, resulting in a litter that can range from 6 to 12 pups.

Unique Features

Fancy Rats come in a delightful variety of colors and coat patterns. From solid colors to hooded, capped, and more, their coats can be a visual treat. Additionally, their coats can range in texture from smooth to curly (Rex rats). Another unique feature is their tail, which, though devoid of fur, plays a vital role in balancing and regulating their body temperature.

Behavior and Temperament

One of the standout attributes of the Fancy Rat is its sociable nature. They are gregarious animals, often forming close bonds with their cage-mates and human caregivers. Their intelligence is commendable, allowing them to be trained to perform tricks, understand commands, and even navigate mazes. Additionally, their playful demeanor ensures that they are constantly engaging, whether it’s exploring their surroundings or interacting with toys and puzzles.


Gentle handling is pivotal for building trust with your Fancy Rat. These creatures are usually amiable and curious, making them relatively easy to handle. Regular interaction from a young age can make them more comfortable with human touch. However, sudden movements or loud noises can be startling, so it’s essential to approach them with calmness and patience.

Grooming Needs

Fancy Rats are fairly self-sufficient when it comes to grooming. They regularly clean themselves, much like cats. However, periodic checks are essential. Their nails might require trimming if they become too long. Rex-coated rats or older rats might need occasional assistance in cleaning as their coat can become oily or they might not groom as efficiently.

Diet & Nutrition

Being omnivorous, a Fancy Rat’s diet is diverse. Commercial rat pellets can form the primary food source, providing essential nutrients. Fresh fruits and vegetables supplement their diet, offering additional vitamins and minerals. Occasional protein sources like cooked lean meats or eggs can be given. Fresh water should always be available.


Fancy Rats thrive in moderate temperatures, typically between 65°F to 75°F. They are sensitive to extreme heat or cold. Thus, it’s crucial to place their cage in a location free from drafts, direct sunlight, or any heat sources.

Common Health Issues

Fancy Rats can be prone to specific health issues, including respiratory infections, tumors, and dental problems. Regular health checks and prompt attention to any changes in behavior or appetite can help in early detection and treatment.

Habitat Requirements

A spacious cage with horizontal bars (for climbing) is ideal for Fancy Rats. They are active creatures, so ample space is necessary. Including toys, tunnels, and hammocks can enrich their environment. Bedding made of paper or aspen shavings is suitable, but cedar or pine shavings should be avoided due to their aromatic oils.

Cost of Care

While Fancy Rats themselves are often reasonably priced, the cumulative cost of care, including housing, food, toys, and medical care, can add up. It’s imperative to budget for the initial setup (cage, bedding, toys) and recurring costs (food, health checks, replacements for worn-out toys). Investing in quality items initially can lead to savings in the long run.

Fancy Rat FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)