If you're considering getting a pet rat, think about a dumbo. His big ears give him a unique appearance that's sure to melt your heart. While he looks a little different, care for a dumbo is the same as for any other pet rat.
What Are Dumbo Rats?
The dumbo is a mutation of the more common fancy rat, and therefore a domesticated brown or Norway rat. His ears are large, round and set low on his head. His lower jaw is a little smaller than a typical rat's, giving him an undeniably adorable expression. Since dumbos are raised as pets only and not as feeders for snakes, they usually have had plenty of handling and socialization from a young age. This means they generally have a cool, calm demeanor and love to play and get attention from you, rarely biting. Like all rats, dumbos are social, so he should be kept with at least one same-sex pal.
The biggest investment and most important item needed for your buddy is his cage. The bigger the better. Since you'll be adopting at least two rats, they'll need a fairly spacious cage. They should have multiple levels to explore and a floor lined with paper bedding, as pine or other wood shavings could hurt rats' paws or irritate their eyes and noses. (The floor should be solid, not wire, to prevent the condition called bumblefoot.) The bars should be relatively close together so the rats can't slip out. Make sure the latches are very secure since they are excellent and playing Houdini.
Of course you'll need to provide your little guys with something to eat. Dumbos are omnivores, meaning they can eat a wide variety of foods. A pellet diet formulated for rats is a good baseline—don't feed seed mixes formulated for other rodents, as rats have a much higher protein requirement than other species. Your pets will also appreciate a variety of treats to round out their diet. They'll love apples, carrots, cooked chicken or cooked eggs. Offer these treats in moderation to prevent your pals from getting too chubby. And of course make sure fresh water is available at all times—rats also need more water than most rodent species.
Socialization and play are extremely important to your rat buddies. They should be taken out for supervised play at least one hour every day. Ferret or parrot toys can be a good option to provide the mental stimulation they need. PVC pipes, paper towel tubes and paper sacks all make great playthings for your buddy. He'll need to have something safe he can gnaw on. Pieces of untreated wood or dog biscuits make great treats he'll love to chew and play with.
Rat image by txori from Fotolia.com