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Breeding any animal is both an art and a science. You should not take it lightly. Here are ten major questions you should ask yourself before you start breeding your ratties:
1. Why do I want to get into breeding? If your goal is to improve upon the parent rats with each successful generation, then you're on the right track. However, pedigree alone is not enough to go by when deciding which rat to breed. Before breeding, be extra sure your rats are free of defects in their appearance and behavior.
2. Have I considered the costs involved? If you are willing to take all the necessary steps and precautions involved, you will be lucky to break even. Before you can sell even one baby, you will face expenses for:
- Additional food
- Proper bedding
- Vet Bills (you never know when an unexpected C-section will be necessary.)
3. Am I prepared to deal with a large litter? Let's face it. As a first-time breeder it will be difficult to sell the babies – even if you end up with a show quality animal. That could mean up to 15, or even more, extra mouths to feed for months at a time. So what is your backup plan?
4. Am I aware of the risks involved? It can be extremely satisfying to witness the miracle of birth and to see the doe's maternal instincts kick in as she tends to her litter. However, there is always that chance that your female rat will give birth to deformed or stillborn babies or that she will need to go a caesarean section, particularly if she was bred too early in her life. Rathermore, not all does cut out for motherhood. She may wind up neglecting her young, or even worse – killing them.
5. Do I have the time to devote myself to this hobby? At best, breeders will dedicate a good amount of time with each baby: several minutes each day for the first two weeks of their lives. After that, handling time can double as they grow. Both the mother and the baby will need special care and attention, not to mention meticulous cleaning. Also, be sure to factor time for:
- Filling out paperwork and pedigrees
- Interviewing Buyers
- Taking care of sick or neglected babies
6. Will I take the time to educate others on proper rat care? When you create a life through breeding, you are responsible for that life. Otherwise, your babies could end up being put to sleep after facing starvation, illness, abuse or neglect. Being responsible means refusing to sell your rats to irresponsible or misinformed owners. This also means being willing to take your rat back in the event that it does not work out in its new home.
Breeding organizations such as the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Society set strict standards of excellence. These standards are the idea that breeders aim for when promoting their animals. While standards address the aspect of the animal's appearance, excellent temperament and health are also qualities a breeder should strive for. Here, breeding can be a tremendous challenge and responsibility.
This brings us to the last four questions, which, if you answer "yes" to any of them, are good reasons why not to breed …
7. Do you want to breed rats to make "nice pets"? This is an over-simplification of all that breeding entails. Furthermore, with all the unwanted rats that would make "nice pets" up for adoption and in pet stores the responsible thing to do would be to go and adopt or buy, not breed
People who buy from breeders are typically looking for a specific variety or pedigree. Many times, a litter of rats will naturally include sub-standard colors or markings that will do fine as pets. However, this should not be the goal.
8. Do you want to make money? As previously discussed, there are far more secure business ventures out there without having to risk the welfare of animals. At best, a responsible rat breeder looks at the hobby as a way to defray costs, not a way to fund their retirement.
9. Do you want more rats like the one you have? This, by itself, is not a good enough reason to breed your pet rats. There are simply too many risks involved. As dear as your rattie may be, you may discover that 15 little darlings that no one else wants can be a bit much for you to handle.
10. Do you want to make more of a specific color? While it may be true that breeders will find themselves specializing in a particular color or variety, this is really the result of their hard work and efforts. For a truly responsible breeder, this will never be the reason for what they do.
In conclusion, breeding rats takes a lot of time, effort, and planning. If, after researching and looking into it, you want to get serious about breeding, visit some rateries. Volunteer for one, if possible. Interview different breeders and, if you can, establish a rapport with one. See if you can establish a mentorship relationship so that you will be well prepared and informed before embarking on your new hobby.