Types of Pet Rats

Lauren Jones, VMD
Written by:
Published: July 22, 2022
Types of Pet Rats

Pet rats are fun, inquisitive, social, clean, and friendly creatures who can make a great addition to families. Pet rats are also known as fancy rats. Humans selectively breed pet rats for specific characteristics—typically physical or behavioral traits, as well as longevity. Breeders even started showing their pet rats as early as 1901. Through this selective breeding, there are now seven different recognized types of pet rats.

While there are more than 60 types of wild rats, all pet rats come from the same species: Rattus norvegicus. Because all pet rats are R. norvegicus, different types are known as varieties—not breeds. Below are the most common varieties, colors, and markings currently recognized by the American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association (AFRMA).

Pet Rat Varieties

  • Standard

    • Standard rats have short, smooth, and glossy hair coats. Male rats may be larger and have coarser hair coats than females. This variety comes in many coat colors and is the closest to the wild brown rat. They have no unusual diet or medical needs.

  • Rex

    • Rex rats, similar to other Rex pets (cats, guinea pigs, rabbits), have curly fur with few guard hairs. Their whiskers may even be curly. They may feel wooly, especially male rats. Rex rats may lose hair as they get older. Sometimes this variety is also called a Manx.

  • Tailless

    • Tailless rats are quite simply named. While most rats have a tail as long as their body, tailless rats are bred to have no tail whatsoever. These rats may be stockier with a rounded rump than other varieties. Breeding tailless rats can result in physical deformities and medical issues. Specifically, this variety can have hind leg and vestigial tail deformities and bladder or bowel problems. A tailless rat may also be referred to as a Sphinx.

  • Hairless

    • Hairless rats are also aptly named. This variety does not have any hair at all, with smooth, imperfection-free skin. They may or may not have whiskers. Hairless rats can easily acquire illness and especially need added warmth. Because they often get sick, this variety may have a shorter life span and some breeders are pushing to limit or stop breeding of this variety altogether.

  • Satin

    • Satin rats have long, smooth, silky coats. Their whiskers are long until the very end with a tiny curl. Satin rats may come in many colors and markings.

  • Dumbo

    • Dumbo rats are one of the more common varieties. They have larger, low-set ears, conjuring images of the Disney classic elephant character. Some rat fanciers believe dumbo rats are more friendly and may even live longer—however, this has never been scientifically proven.

  • Bristle Coat

    • As the name implies, bristle coat rats have coarse coats, like a wire brush. Their fur may even feel crunchy, like the coat of wirehair terriers. Young bristle coats may have curly hair similar to a Rex but will change as they mature. They may have curled tips of their whiskers, like satins.

Rat Coat Colors and Markings

There are over 40 distinct colors of fancy rats with black, ruby, red, or pink eye colors. To describe a rat’s color and marking, they are first grouped into sections, and then further broken down by more specific colors and markings.

  • Self: The entire body is the same color.

    • Beige, black, blue, blue-beige, champagne, chocolate, cocoa, lilac, mink, platinum, powder blue, Russian blue, Russian dove, sky blue, black-eyed white, pink-eyed white

  • Any Other Color (AOC): The body is the same color, but the individual hairs may have two or more colors.

    • Agouti: coat is dark gray at the base and rich brown at the top. The coat also has evenly distributed black guard hairs. The eyes should be black, and the belly silver.

    • Blue Agouti: coat is gray at the base of the hair and yellow-tan at the top. The coat has evenly distributed blue guard hairs. The eyes should be black, and the belly silver-blue.

    • Chinchilla: similar to agouti, but silver-gray instead of rich brown.

    • Cinnamon: similar to agouti, except russet brown instead of rich brown.

    • Cinnamon Pearl: coat has three bands of color from the base—cream, blue, and orange with silver guard hairs.

    • Fawn: deep gold with a lighter belly. The eyes should be ruby.

    • Lynx: gray-tan with lighter gray at the base and brown guard hairs.

    • Pearl: the palest shade of silver with gray tips.

    • Russian Blue Agouti: Dark steel blue with fawn color at the top of the hair and blue guard hairs.

  • Any Other Color Pattern (AOCP): a combination of two or more colors other than white. These colors may resemble similar markings in other animals (dogs, cats, rabbits).

    • BE Siamese, Blue Point Siamese, Burmese, Himalayan, Russian Blue Agouti Burmese, Russian Blue Point Siamese, Seal Point Siamese, Merle

  • Silvered: white hairs are evenly distributed throughout the coat.

    • Amber, Silver Black, Silver Blue, Silver Chocolate, Silver Fawn, Silver Lilac, Silver Mink

  • Marked

    • English Irish: white triangle on the chest

    • Irish: white feet, a white tip on the tail, and a white mark on the abdomen

    • Down Under: marlins on the top and similar belly stripe or spots

    • Berkshire: white abdomens, tails, feet, and a small spot between the ears

    • Essex: similar to Berkshires, but with a more muted color

    • Variegated: colors on the head and shoulders, a white spot on their head, white abdomen, and color splashes everywhere else

    • Blaze: white blaze on the face

    • Dalmatian: different color splashes throughout the body, similar to the dog breed with spots

    • Hooded: white body with a colored head and a marking down the spine

    • Bareback: white body with a colored head and neck

    • Capped: white body and a small color marking on the head similar to a hat

    • Masked: white body and only a mask of color around the eyes

References

  1. Zarbock, Marylou. Lafeber. What Is A Pet Rat?

  2. American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association. AFRMA Fancy Rats. 2018.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Irina Ilina


Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Ringworm in Rats
Ringworm in Rats
Connect with a Vet

Subscribe to PetMD's Newsletter

Get practical pet health tips, articles, and insights from our veterinary community delivered weekly to your inbox.