My first rat was a little silverfawn hooded girl, named "Misty", given to me by a friend(Theresa) for my birthday, back in 1986.
At this time I was in the cavy fancy, having been introduced by a school friend(Matt), who is now in the mouse fancy and has been since a bit before me. It wasn't long after (around 3 months in fact) that I was introduced to the next rattie, I would take home. A black hooded girl named "Jellybean" also from Theresa.
My next two rats came from Petcetra in Mitchelton, a little dove hooded boy I named "Jinx" and a little mismarked black cardigan girl called "Possum". Well cute little Jinx with the not-so-little family jewels, was in demand, as I began breeding my first ever ratty litters.
Misty had 14 babies, 9silverfawns and 5 doves, all hooded. Jellybean had 12, 5 black and 7 dove also all hooded & Possum had 2 lovely little dove cardigan daughters(pictured above), of which I kept one "Carawatha Deedee".
After these litters it was decided that we'd (more my folks than me) have Jinx neutered. Back in '86 surgery on a rat was pretty much unheard of, and even riskier than it is today. Although he woke up from the surgery and seemed to be doing well, we found him passed away in his cage 5 days later. After this we didn't get another boy until 1989.
At the end 1988 my lovely ratties all passed away of old age, and it took me a few months before I even felt like getting any to replace them. When I did decide to look in the ratty section of my local pet shop I noticed an agouti hooded female that was over twice the size of the other younger, paler ratties in the tank with her.
She was sitting in one of the corners looking rather sad, I just wanted to reach in and pick her up, & when she looked up at me with that 'come rescue me' look, that I'm sure so many of you are familiar with, how could I resist.
I reached in to let her sniff my hand, and she climbed right on. That day I gained a new friend and the rattie that would be the start of Carawatha Rodents. We still have her line today, It's attained the name sad-sack
Can you believe, the pet shop staff actually tried to warn me off her, saying she was not to be trusted and was bad tempered. Throughout her whole life we never saw any of the so-called bad behavior.
We had to pick a name for this lovely rattie, She was very long in body, and her movements so graceful, we decided to call her "Coco Chanel", as we're sure that in the rattieworld she'd have to be model material.
One night I got a call from a girl I knew, asking if I wanted to take her rat, because it didn't like her boyfriend and he was getting sick of it. This is how we came to adopt our second ever rattieboy.
It was obvious right from the start that he had been abused in some way. He was so timid and scared, especially of men. It took me a bit over 3 months before he would trust me enough just to wander out of his cage and onto my lap. We had his cage in the living room so he was around us all the time. If we were there then his door was open.
It was during this 'taming' period that he gained his name. We called him "Spud" because of his unbelievable appetite for potato in any way,shape or form.
"Spud" quickly became my mum's favorite rattie, and he learnt the exact time each morning that mum had morning tea, and came to give him a fresh date as a treat. "Spud" was such a gentle rat, he never once tried to bite any women, even though in his early days he did try it a few times with men. He finally accepted men in general a bit over a year after we got him. My boyfriend at that time was so amazed at the turn around in "Spud's" attitude toward him that he became a ratlover after this, and ended up getting his own rattie, a girl named "Muffin" a few months later.
I cried my first tear of rattiejoy because of "Spud". About 2 months after he'd come out of his shell (so to speak), he wandered over to me, & climbed up onto the back of the couch, one evening while I was watching T.V.
I noticed him doing this, but didn't try to pick him up or anything, as he was still a little wary of this, you had to give him plenty of notice that you were going to touch him or he'd get a fright and dash off.
Well he just sat there, seemingly staring at me for a few minutes, and then he scuffled over closer to me, placed his front paws on my right shoulder, and reached over and licked me a couple of times on my cheek. It was like his way of saying - '"Thank-you for being patient, for not giving up on me", and I'm not ashamed to say, it made me cry, and I still get tears in my eyes when I think of this today.
After that night, he never flinched again when I touched him or picked him up. It was like the turning point where he'd decided that I was trustworthy. Because of "Spud" I am all the more willing to give difficult rescue cases the benefit of the doubt. Whereas before we'd give them around 3 months for rehabilitation, I now give them a lot longer and am reluctant to ever give-up.
From the moment "Spud" arrived in our care to that precious evening, was nearly 5 months. It makes me sad that somehow we don't have any pictures of "Spud", I was sure I'd taken some, but have been unable to find any.
We were to find out over a year later, that the girl we got "Spud" from, had a boyfriend who used to torment the poor little guy, and apparently used to hold him down against the floor/wall of the cage with a ruler, while he took the food bowls in and out. Apparently because he reckoned the Spud used to wait for him and lunge at his throat. "yeah right" is all I have to say. No wonder "Spud" disliked men so much.
"Spud" became "Coco's" partner, and together they started the line of rats that was to be called our sad-sack line
. We still have this line today.
"Muffin", a little mismarked black bareback girl, was the last rattie we bought in. After this we bred our own ratties.
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We bred our first bareback baby in Fall of '91.
(see pic further down page, of 3 week old ratpups)
In summer of that same year we discovered an unusual baby in one of our young litters. "Carawatha Raphael" was our first fawn hooded rat. At this stage he was being called a ruby eyed apricot. As back then Silverfawn rats were called apricot, and this new type looked like a dark-eyed version of that.
While there has been new blood introduced to our lines from time to time over the last 11 years, we've largely stuck to improving on the lines of the three ratties we started with.
Through keeping detailed records from the very beginning we have ratties today with pedigrees nearly 10 generations long going back to Coco & Spud. Two of these ratties are "C.Gnala" & "C.Genie", who can be found on our female rats page
Carawatha have bred almost all the breeds, colours and patterns available in fancy rats today, including the newer variety DownUnder rats. About the only one we haven't bred is Sphynx rats, although some of our DownUnders do have these in their pedigrees way back. We've even been lucky enough to witness the spontaneous mutation of a Manx rat "C.Maverick"
in one of our bareback lines.
We breed for 'Pet' rats. By this I mean, we pay special attention to their temperament. Where possible we also try to breed to improve the type and colour of the various varieties, by using ANRA's breed standards
as a guide.
We have strict guidelines to our breeding practices, and now only breed one or two litters at a time, to ensure we can give the pups enough attention to raise them well.
All our females must be at least 4 months old and weigh at least 200grams before they can be considered for breeding. We also don't like to breed females for the first time, if they're over 10 months old. While there have been times that we have bred first-time mums a little older than this with no problems, there are possible risks involved and we don't advocate this practice.
Female rats should never have more than 4 litters a year. They must have a minimum rest period of 4 weeks between litters. While to some this may not sound like many at all, if you break it down, you'll realise it's a very full schedule.
*Once the rat falls pregnant, she will gestate for approx. 3 weeks, then she lactates for approx. 4-5 weeks, followed by a 4 week rest. Add this up and you get 3 months, multiplied by 4, for the year* Definitely a full schedule.
We prefer for our females to have no more than 2 litters per year.*
The longevity of our original line is around the 4year mark. Bearing this in mind, our 2-3 year old females are still middle aged, and don't usually look old at all. Hence we have had some rats mother litters when they are over 2 years old themselves. We have never had a birthing difficulty, nor lost a pup from this line yet.
You can tell the look of an old rattie, they lose muscle tone, and feel rather fragile & saggy to the touch.
This lady is over 3 years old in this photo. We bought her from Petcity in 1995.
Females from our Sad-sack line average a weight of 400grams and the males 550grams. With our heaviest ever rattie "C.Banjo" being 820grams. However we've recently been amazed by "Carawatha Chester" the boy from this line who went to NZ. tipping the scales at the 2kg mark!!! a truly amazing size by any standard. Jenny sent us this photo of him recently.
While the females weight/age is the major consideration to breeding, the males also have to be a decent weight, at least 250grams, and at least 3 months of age before being bred.
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There are very important reasons why rats should not be bred too early. The most common one that most people would think of is the size of the animals, but this is only one reason. The mother rat needs to be mature enough in herself (ie. past the baby stage, and well on her way to being fully grown skeletally) so that her body is going to be able to provide enough calcium to her young.
Rat mothers provide their female offspring with enough calcium in their systems to last them to their first litter. If the mother is bred too young, then her own system is in need of extra calcium and one of two things may happen. 1. Either the developing ratpups do not receive this calcium reserve from mum and may also have lower bone density themselves and/or be undersized. (Thus future generations will also be affected)
2. Or the mothers own bone density is compromised due to the developing babies within her. Her body will leech calcium from her own bones, in order to develop her young in-utero.
With mother rats bred too young, there is also the issue of how the mother will deal with the babies. It's been observed that some mothers, don't appear to know what they're doing, and may neglect or even hurt their young.
Pregnancy and lactation is very taxing on the female rats system. They need to be in tiptop condition prior to breeding. How the mums fare during the whole process is a very individual thing. We've observed some that seem to be largely unaffected by the whole process, some that have lost considerable condition in spite of eating nearly their own body weight in food daily, and then others who have actually gained bone density and size throughout the time. The way mother rats fare is a hereditary thing to a large degree. Mothers who do well tend to come from a line where all or at least a majority of females in that line also fare well.
When the mothers are lactating we supplement their diets with a number of things. Wholemeal bread soaked in organic soy milk (Vitasoy brand), Nutrigel a couple of times a week, and regular treats in the protein and haem-iron families. Usually by 2 weeks the babies are sampling foods. We use Gerber brand toddler foods daily from 2-4weeks of age.
We wean our ratpups between 4 & 5 weeks old, usually mum dictates to us when she's had enough. We don't sell pups under 5 weeks old, and in a lot of cases keep them until they are 7 weeks before selling them. All our pups have been wormed with small animal wormer after they have been weaned, and not before they're 5 weeks old.
We worm our rats with small animal wormer every 3 months and treat them with an ivomectin paste once every 6 months for more broad spectrum coverage. We don't advise using ivomectin on rats under 8 weeks of age.
It's important to note, that rats should not be wormed from the week before they're intended for breeding, right through the whole breeding cycle, until after the pups have been weaned.
To do so too close to breeding and/or while the doe is pregnant, can cause deformity in developing foetuses and/or in-utero death.
To do so while she is nursing can cause the death of the pups by filtering through her milk. The pups systems at this age, are too immature to handle the drugs/chemicals used in worming preparations.
We don't like to breed our rats during the hottest months of the year, as we have found that rats do not tolerate the heat well. It appears that while mice tolerate the heat better than rats, rats do seem to handle the colder weather over winter much better than mice.
All our ratties come with papers, and are registered with ANRA Qld. Even if a rat is not fully pedigreed (4 generations) they still come with a 1, 2 or 3 generation history data sheet. All our rats have a breeders guarantee of hereditary soundness. If you are getting a show/breeding quality rat, then you can be sure that the rat will indeed be this. Likewise any pet rat you get from us will be a well socialised 'pet' rat. We guarantee it.
While on occasion some of our rats will go to pet stores, we do not condone, and do not sell any of our rats as feeders, nor any that would go as breeders who's babies will be feeders. In the event of a rat we have sold, being offered for resale or rehoming, we will usually offer to take this rattie back.
For housing we have found that aquariums with wire mesh lids are the most functional and easy to keep clean. However at the moment we are in the process of making a large mansion for all of our 21 girls to live in. It measures 6ft wide by nearly 7ft tall and 1ft deep. It will be a six storey affair, with many ladders,nooks and open areas. Each level will also be able to be sealed off if needed in the future. We have the frame built and are in the process of doing the walls and floor at present. We'll put up pics as soon as we've finished it.
We give our ratties logs/branches from safe trees, hammocks, tunnels (largePVC drain piping), various boxes both wooden and cardboard, ladders, ropes, wheels and hangings to play with. We use a variety of bedding products, Breeders Choice re-cycled newspaper pellets, lucerne pellets & Max's pet litter. If we can get hold of wood shavings that are guaranteed to be from a hardwood tree, which we do from time to time from a carpenter friend of ours, then we will use shavings.
Our guys enjoy a diet consisting of a dry mixture I make up myself, containing 7grains, rat&mouse cubes, premium lucerne and a high quality animal pellet, usually horse show pellets(never any type of poultry pellet). To this mixture I also add various cereals & uncooked dry noodles.
They get fresh fruit and veggies at least every second day, and as treats they get tidbits of what we eat, and some leftovers. When giving rats treats you need to be aware of how much protein they're getting. A rats ideal diet contains a level of around 15%protein. Diets with a consistently higher level than this, can cause some health problems. This would appear to affect males more than females, this is most likely due to the fact that females in almost every mammalian species use more protein, and synthesise both protein & Iron more effectively than the males of the species, who appear to store it up, rather than using or eliminating it.
Protein sensitivity syndrome manifests itself most commonly, as small irritated (usually scabbed over) areas that are very sensitive and quite painful to the rat. Many a rat has been misdiagnosed with lice/mites and thus treated for that, in turn making the problem worse. A rat with this condition should never be bathed in anything, as the skin is very often cracked, and bathing will sting the area. Some people may be tempted to put some type of soothing balm or ointment on the lesions, but from experience this irritates the rat more as you're applying it, than it does to aleve the condition.
To treat this condition, remove all protein from the rats diet for an initial period of 2 weeks. Proteins include:-
All pelletised foods,
legumes(peas, beans etc.),
all meat and meat byproducts (ie cat/dog bikkies),
all dairy products,
all soy products,
all fish products (dietary supplements often contain these)
modified cereal products (ie most commercial breakfast cereals have had a myriad of added minerals/vitamins etc.)
Fruit and veggies that don't fall into any of the above categories should be fed along with the modified dry mix.
If your rat is indeed suffering from a "too rich" diet, caused by too much protein, then the rat will start to improve within about the first 5 days after all protein sources are removed. In my experience after the two weeks are up, not only have the scabs and lesions gone, but the fur from these areas has already begun to regrow.
In cases where the condition has not eased completely, just keep the protein-free diet going another week or so, and remember that when you do reintroduce the protein to the rats diet, do so gradually, or you'll more than likely trigger a relapse within days.
Rats can have a genetic predisposition to protein sensitivity. One of our bareback lines is like this. Which means that we just need to keep an eye on who gets what. In this particular line we have even had females affected too, which isn't common. With observation and sensible dietary management this condition is easy to avoid.
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Every third month we supplement our rats water with an echinacea tonic. This herb has many benefits when used in small quantities from time to time. Echinacea should not be used for prolonged periods of time as it can have a toxic affect. It is simply an occasional immune system booster.
A couple of times a week each ratty gets a chewable kids garlic&herbs tablet too, which they really love. Sometimes we make them work a bit for it, by hiding it inside a small packet or box, or wrapping it in several layers of paper, stuck down with a safe nontoxic toddler glue. They seem to sense when I'm coming with a box of 'little presents' and start leaping over one-another and generally being really silly. They really do enjoy having to work just that little bit harder to find the treat. We also do this "wrapping maniacs" trick with other treats.
We hope you've enjoyed reading about how we run our Rattery. If you'd like to contact us for any rattie related reason, or even just to say hi, please do. Our e-mail contact is at the end of this paragraph. We can help out with any enquiries about rats health, breeding, general care or more complicated genetics info.
Although I'm not currently working, I am a qualified veterinary nurse, with extensive experience in all rat & mouse matters. While I'm not a vet, & in most cases you will need to consult a professional, should a health problem arise, I may still be able to assist with advice on many health issues. Our own vet is a rodent expert, he is also ANRA's
official vet. We highly recommend Drs. Michael Pyne and Amanda Hulands-Nave at the Brighton Vet Clinic.
Yours in Rodents
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