Q & A

From the March/April 1999 Rat & Mouse Gazette

I was just getting used to the standards as they were, and now I hear that they're changing. What is changing and why?

First of all, the reason that the standards are changing is because there are so many new mutations that have popped up. They would eventually make it impossible to get through a show in one day if we judged them all separately.

Secondly, it is the opinion of many people who have been involved in rat shows for a long time that changes were made in the standards along the way that should not have been made.

Basically, a ďVarietyĒ was always a ďcoat type,Ē until Tailless rats appeared on the scene. At that time, nobody really knew where Tailless fit in, and they were only in smooth coats at first, so they were made their own Variety. That was a mistake.

Then, when Dumbos started being shown, they, too, were made a Variety. If we continued this pattern we would have way too many varieties, which, in addition to time constraints, would make it too difficult for the clubs to purchase awards. Examples are as follows: Standard, Standard Tailless, Standard Dumbo, Standard Tailless Dumbo, Rex, Rex Tailless, Rex Dumbo, Rex Tailless Dumbo, Hairless, Hairless Tailless, Hairless Dumbo, Hairless Tailless Dumbo, etc... Itís just too complicated.

Instead, the varieties will be returned to coat types only. Any body mutations, such as Tailless and Dumbo, will compete side by side with rats with a tail or rats with normal set-on ears, according to their coat type (smooth coated Standard, curly coated Rex, and Hairless) and according to the standard written for each body type or mutation. All rats will have a chance at Best In Show in this manner.

There will also be two additional classes that will not compete for Best In Show. They are: Best Dumbo and Best Tailless. These classes will be judged in the beginning of the show along with Best Kitten, Best Unstandardized, and Best Altered.

This is going to make the shows go faster and will eventually make it easier for all exhibitors to enter their animals.

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Can you please tell me how to safely clip my ratís toenails?

Itís much easier if another person can help you, but itís not necessary. The best tool Iíve found is a simple human fingernail cutter. Trim off the tips of each nail while another person holds the rat and possibly distracts her with treats. It is easy to see the quick of the nail; do not get too near to this.

Some people also recommend a scratchy rock, such as pumice, for the cage. Mine prefers to chew on pumice, so I just clip her nails once a week.

Vets will ream you for this simple task, often charging $8 a rat to clip nails. Once you learn how to do it, youíll become a pro in no time and you can spend the money youíve saved on rat treats (what else)!

~ Jennifer Crandall

Clip off only the sharp tip at the end of the nail. If you cut into the pink of the nail it will bleed and will be difficult to stop the blood flow. Some people use styptic powder to stop bleeding if the nail gets cut too close (rats are often hard to pin down for the nail clipping process). I prefer to use cornstarch and cinnamon. First, dip the hand or foot into the cinnamon and then the cornstarch, it usually stops minor bleeding.

I usually bribe my rats with a treat, and while they are busy eating I get a family member to gently restrain the rat. I pick up a hand or foot and press so that nails are extended a bit and the fingers are spread, and then cut off the sharp tip with human nail clippers. I have also taken emery boards to a few rat nails for rats who are too squirmy to clip. Be firm and quick. I always reward good behavior (like not shredding my arms and body by trying to get away from the nail clippers).

~ Meg Stephenson

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If I have a new pet rat, sitting there in her cage, and I would like to move her (be it to another cage, onto my shoulder or into a pocket), how should I do this so everyone has fun?


First of all, rats are very social animals and should be kept in same sex pairs for company. Depending on the age of the rat you now have, you must take certain precautions about introducing a youngster into her territory as well. There is an article on the RMCA web page about introducing rats Ė we wonít go into that now.

As far as picking her up, itís not a good idea to pick her up by the tail. In an emergency itís okay to carefully lift her by the base of the tail, but itís not recommended. It makes the rat feel very insecure. Never pick up either species by any other part of the tail or you may pull off the delicate tail skin resulting in necessary surgery to amputate the affected part of the tail.

Itís best to train your rats to come to you when you open the cage door. Do this by offering a treat and calling her name. It will take a little time and effort on your part, but it will be worth it in the long run. Rats bond very closely with their people and this method of getting to know one another helps that bonding process grow quickly. After a while of letting your rat come out of the cage to you, you should be able to reach in and carefully pick her up around the mid-section when you need to get her out of the cage. Also, be sure to have a cage large enough and with enough toys and goodies in it to stimulate her mind, as rats are very intelligent critters.

~ Mary Ann Isaksen

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