Pet Rats - The Difference Between Boys & Girls
Doe's or Buck's?
Unless you plan on breeding rats you shouldn't keep both males and females in a cage together so you're really going to have to think about which you would like to keep. There are many differences between the two genders and reading this article is a great idea to find out which would be best for you.
- More active
- Less Aggressive
Female rats, or Doe's as they are commonly known as are a great choice if you are looking for a pet you can play with for long periods of time. They will spend the majority of their playtime exploring, climbing and playing. They require that extra 10-20 minutes of time outside the cage compared to your average buck because of their considerably higher energy levels. Because of their high energy levels, they are in general higher maintenance and will require a lot of toys to keep them satisfied.
Your average doe will grow to around two-thirds the size of your average buck. A healthy doe will weigh between 200-500g.
Doe's will generally get along well with other doe's as unlike male rats, they are not very territorial. If socialized correctly they should never bite their handler. The exceptions are if they are very ill and in some cases when they are pregnant, however you would normally see the warning signs on approach so you must always be aware of a rats body language.
Doe's are generally cleaner than males, when toilet trained they will rarely pee or poop anywhere other than their litter tray.
Doe's are generally more prone to tumour's than bucks so always be on the lookout for pea size lumps. Keeping your rat on a low fat diet is the best thing you can do to prevent this from happening. It is also worth watching out for bleeding from the vulva. If you doe is not pregnant, this indicates an infection of the uterus. This can mostly be treated by vet prescribed antibiotics however if it was to continue, spaying would cure it.
- More Cuddly
- More Aggressive
Male rats, or bucks as they are commonly known as are a great choice if you are looking for a slightly more chilled out companion. They are still social and inquisitive like a doe, but when fully grown they will spend less time exploring and more time curled up in your sweater or a dark cosy corner. They will still require a good supply of toys to keep them stimulated and entertained.
Your average buck is considerably larger than your average doe with a healthy buck weighing between 400-700g. As bucks are generally less active than doe's, keeping them on a low fat diet is important to avoid your rat becoming obese which could bring on a variety of health problems.
Bucks can be very territorial which can sometimes be a problem when keeping two or more together in a single cage, however allowing them to fight it out will allow them to build a hierarchy which is natural among groups of rats. When a buck reaches 4-6 month old, it is not uncommon for them to build up large levels of testosterone (who can blame them with testicles that big!) and can result in the rat becoming quite aggressive to other rats and even their handlers. If your buck is getting to the point of biting the handler and other rats to the point he is drawing blood, you should consider getting it neutered for the safety of yourself and your other rats. As I mentioned with doe's, there will always be warning signs before a rat will bite so always be on the lookout for changes in your buck's body language.
Bucks are generally very clean; however they can sometimes be a little lazier than a doe when it comes to using their litter tray. If you catch your rat pooping anywhere other than their litter tray you should pick him up, along with any poop and put him in the litter tray, he will soon get the idea that is the only place he should go.
When it comes to your bucks health, as long as your keeping him on a low fat diet, there is less to worry about than with a doe so just be on the lookout for changes in his behavior. If your rat is uninterested in food and attention, spends more time curled up and is generally less active than normal, your rat may be ill and you should consider taking it to a vet.
Rats As Pets
Remember, like people, rats all have their own personalities and traits so use this article only as a guideline. You may find some bucks remain very active throughout adulthood and at the same time you may find a doe that would rather nap on your lap than explore the unknown.
Whatever you choose, if you can commit the time each day to interact and play with your rat you will be rewarded tenfold. Remember a life without playtime and freedom is not a life worth living.