Dumbo rats certainly look different from standard pet rats. The most obvious distinction is their ears, which are set far lower on the head than usual, giving the animal a sweet, innocent look. These rats have a few other minor differences, and there may be some with regards to temperament.
The ears of dumbo rats appear at the sides of the head, rather than near the top as is the case with most rats. The standard is for the ears to be large and rounded, emphasizing their unusual position, but they come in all sorts of shapes, often small, tubular and/or wrinkled. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you plan to show your pets.
Dumbo rat skulls tend to be fairly flat and wide. They are often raised at the back. A pronounced raise gives the rat a hunchbacked appearance, and might be considered a fault at rat shows, but is not likely to cause any health problems.
Although the gene or genes causing the dumbo mutation have not been scientifically investigated, dumbos seem to have the same intelligence and learning ability as other rats. Like those with less striking ears, dumbo rats are generally intelligent and quick to learn.
Opinion is divided on whether this variety shows much difference in behavior compared to standard rats. Most dumbo rats do appear easy-going and placid, but this may have as much to do with upbringing as with genetics. Dumbo rats are usually bred to be pets, not, for example, used as food for snakes. This means they generally get plenty of gentle handling from an early age, unlike most feeder rats. However, nearly all pet rats are good-natured provided they have been looked after properly.
Dumbo rats have no specific care requirements. Like other pet rats of the species Rattus norvegicus (which is nearly all of them), they need a large multi-level cage, a generous amount of paper-based substrate and bedding, nest boxes and a food designed to meet their specific nutritional needs. Rats should be kept in single-gender pairs or small groups, as they are very social. It is fine to keep a dumbo rat with a standard rat but, if you are introducing adult rats, especially males, take your time and provided separate cages in the beginning. Change the water daily and clean the cage out once a week.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.