Now that we have everything you need for your ratty- how do you actually choose one (or two or five) to take home with you? Of course there are an infinite number of colors, ear styles, and sizes but personality, health and gender are more pressing issues to consider before appearance.
First important decision- males or females? As I’ve stated multiple times now, a rat shouldn’t fly solo- they need interaction with other rats. With the assumption that you will be bringing in more then one ratty to make your pets let me say that same sex pairs are highly recommended unless you want babies up the hizzy. Rodents breed at an exponential rate- the parents get it on- followed suit (sooner then you’d expect) by their offspring. Males are aggressive towards babies- attacking and even sometimes devouring the young. Females will do the same if they feel the babies will threaten the food supply or space availability.
As far as personality- most people say they don’t notice a difference. However- I do. Males are much more drawn to cuddle and play time. They need scritches and snuggles, and more often then not- encouragement to exercise. Females are much more active and need each other much more then they need you- though they still enjoy their human time.
Males are much more aggressive and territorial. Females can be as well but it is in the nature of the male to protect it’s territory. Males fight more with each other due to this- if fighting stresses you out- stick with the ladies. Males do go through a moody stage- around 4-5 months of age, due to raging hormones.
Each gender presents in own health issues. Males are more prone to obesity due to their mellow nature. They develop weak legs in old age, and can get testicular cancer. To prevent this (and to mellow out your territiorrial dude) get him neutered by an exotic vet.
Females are extremely prone to mammary tumors, a study suggests over 50% of female rats die due to this disease. Save your rat from this painful fate by getting her spayed at an early age. This will also omit the possibility of an infected uterus (pyometra).
Of course there are other health concerns, but these are the ones to be aware of when choosing the gender.
Size and appearance
Males- also referred to as “bucks” – as in most mammal species, grow much larger then their female counterparts. And certain, *ahem , body parts become very apparent. In case you missed my subtlety, their testicles grow quite large. They mark their territory with urine, and can have a musky smell to them. This smell helps other rats recognize whose territory is whose- but it can be irritating to some pet rat parents. As stated previously they are more prone to obesity and in general have a stockier body type
Females, or “does,” are quite dainty. They stay up to 50% smaller then males, but need just as much room- if not more, then males due to their higher activity level. This also makes them more slender and lithe in their appearance. Does have a smoother coat, and due to their lack of testicles and territorial marking ways, they have relatively no odor to them (if their cages are cleaned on a regular basis).
Can’t choose between the two? Can’t blame you- both are irresistibly cute and fun! Males and females due tend to get along just splendidly! But be a responsible rat owner and spay and neuter your pet rats to prevent breeding! Baby rats are cute, but there are so many out there who still need homes!
This general understanding of the differences males and females have to offer should help you narrow down your selection! Next topic? How to pick a healthy pet rat!