If you've been thinking about adopting a rat but don't know where to start, you might want to think about a hairless variety. With absolutely no hair -- not even a whisker to speak of -- they certainly are unique in the looks department. But hairless rats are docile rodents, an excellent choice for someone new to the rat world. And because they have no hair, they're one pet who won't aggravate your allergies.
To Bathe or Not to Bathe
If you don't know much about rats you might be surprised to learn they are very clean animals. They groom themselves often and don't need much help from you. If your hairless rat gets into something particularly sticky or messy you can lend a hand by wiping him down with a warm, damp washcloth or moisturizing baby wipes containing aloe.
When Baths are Helpful
In general your hairless rat won't need bathing more than a few times a year. However, hairless rats are prone to developing sebaceous cysts, and if your rodent buddy is one who experiences them frequently, biweekly baths with antibacterial soap can help clear them up and reduce the chances of more developing. Towel off your rat thoroughly after a bath and keep him warm with a heating pad or heat lamp until he is completely dry, as hairless rats can easily catch a chill. In addition to antibacterial baths, you should have your rat see his veterinarian if cysts are a problem in case he needs antibiotics to ward off infection.
Oil Him Up
Dry skin is an issue that can plague your hairless rat even if you don't bathe him often. Fragrance-free mineral oil mixed with pure lanoline is a safe and effective moisturizer to rub on your naked rat's skin. Another dry skin fix doubles as a treat: pour a few drops of olive oil on a piece of bread and give it to your rat. As he eats, the oil will get on his skin, and when he grooms afterward it will spread around and soak in.
Tooth and Nail Care
Rats' teeth should naturally wear down as they gnaw on food and toys, but if your hairless rat seems to be getting a little long in the tooth, take him to see your vet instead of trying to file them down yourself. Also, keeping your hairless rat's nails trimmed is more of an issue than with furry rats because his delicate skin is exposed and can easily tear and become infected just by scratching an itch. Nail grooming, like dental care, is an issue for the vet to deal with. Your rat's nails are small enough that, unless you are a vet or a trained rodent groomer, it would be easy to cut them too short, causing your rat pain and introducing the possibility of infection.
- Rats for Sale: Hairless Rats
- Rat Chatter: Hairless Rats
- Hairless Rat Care Sheet: Grooming and Hygiene
- Skyclyde.com: Hairless Care
- American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association: Beginners Corner: Flaky Rat
- American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association: Beginners Corner: Hairless Rats
- "Rats Around Us"' Rachel Eagen
- "Pet Rats"; Colin Patterson
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.