- Pets and Animals
How to Care for a Hairless Pet Rat
Caring for Hairless Pet Rats
Hairless rats (also known by the name Double Rex rats for carrying two of a particular gene), like their furry brothers and sisters, make great pets. Both smart and clean, they almost never bite and bond quickly with humans. They come in different color patterns, too, only the pigment is in the skin instead of the fur. Their whiskers, like furry Rex rats, are curly, and they have very soft, warm skin. However, they do require a little extra care in terms of temperature, diet, skin conditioning, and allergy care.
Photo Attribution | Alexey Krasavin | Flickr.
Would you keep a hairless rat as a pet?
Hairless Rats Lifespan
Q. Do hairless rats have a shorter lifespan than furry rats?
A. No. Hairless rats have the same life span as furry rats (approx. 3 years, occasionally 5 years). However, they are more vulnerable to drafts, and drafts make all rats more prone to sickness.
Hairless Rat Nutrition Needs
the differences between the dietary needs of furry rats and hairless rats
For the most part hairless rats have the same nutrition needs as that of a furry rat. However, did you know that hairless rats need a bit more protein than a furry rat? Yup. Up to 2% more.
Too much protein in a rat's diet can cause a plethora of problems. That being said, hairless rats, of course, lack hair. As their bodies try to stay warm they burn more calories, protein calories in specific, than that of a furry rat. A hairless rat without enough protein will too easily lose weight.
Additionally, a hairless rat's skin, without the protection of fur, dries out much more quickly than that of a furry rat. Their skin will benefit from the addition of olive oil or flax seed. You may want to feed them oils or flax seeds separately from furry rats, though, as the additional oils make furry rats' fur a bit more oily--and stinky!
Healing a Hairless Rat's Dry Skin
Dry Skin Prevention
A hairless rat's skin, without the protection of fur, dries out much more quickly than that of a furry rat. To help keep their skin moisturized and soft, as it should appear, massage their skin with olive oil for 5-10 minutes (until the skin is no longer oily) about twice a week, more often as needed.
You can also put a bit of olive oil or flax seed in their food dish or feed as a treat each day.
Aspen wood bedding can cause mild dryness as well. If dryness is continuous discontinue its use.
A warm-mist humidifier helps hairless rats' delicate skin retain moisture, too, without cooling the air.
SPECIAL NOTE: Never use anything on your rat that you wouldn't eat, because that's exactly what he's going to do as soon as you're out of view. Olive oil, for this reason, is a great choice. Never use commercial lotions or hand creams.
Healing Recurring or Severely Dry Skin
If your hairless rat's dry skin continues or if he develops severely dry skin:
Soak a small piece of whole grain bread in olive oil and give it to him as a daily treat until the dry skin clears. I've read many success stories of oil-soaked bread curing very dry skin in about two weeks. My own rat's skin very noticeably improved within two days.
Supplies for Your Hairless Rat - skin oil, vitamins, and bedding
"Organic" ensures your rattie isn't getting repeated exposure to traces of pesticides or other poisons
Vitamins are especially great for sick and stressed rats including those recently moved to a new home. I like Oasis brand because this bottle has a convenient dropper that screws on as a lid.
I like to buy Yesterday's News in bulk. Watch out! It's heavy!
Hairless rats are better for some allergy sufferers. Ask to play with one to see if he's a trigger.
Hairless Ratties Have Allergies Too
Hairless rats are bred to have to no fur but they're also bred, incidentally, prone to allergies, especially to certain types of bedding. If you notice sneezing, scratching, watery eyes, dry skin, and/or a raised rash on the skin your rat is likely suffering from allergies. Try a new type of bedding and see if symptoms lessen within 24 hours or so. Since allergies in each rat are different you may need to experiment with four or more types of bedding; buy in small amounts until you find the right one.
After trying three other bedding types I finally found that my hairless, Ratticus, did well with Yesterday's News which I found in the cat section. Yesterday's News brand also makes a "Ferret Litter" and a "Small Animal Bedding." These were not available at my local pet shop but I imagine it's about the same as the one branded for cats, and I've found its use satisfactory. Unfortunately, Yesterday's News doesn't seem to me as odor absorbent as CareFresh or other beddings I've used, but hairless rats do require extra care--in this case more frequent litter changes.
If your veterinarian decides it's beneficial, such as in the case of severe scratching, your vet can also prescribe a topical antihistamine spray. The one I'm familiar with is spritzed on your rat 2-3 times a day for up to two weeks (or longer, as prescribed). These antihistamines act only as a bandage, though, so it is still important to find the root of your little rattie's allergies.
Photo by | Alexey Krasavin | Flickr
keep them warm!
Furry rats have a nice, warm coat of fur. A hairless rat, though, is like a naked human with no coat to keep them warm. Keep the temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit and away from fans, vents, and leaky windows. House them in the same cage as furry rats whenever possible so they have a furry buddy with whom to cuddle and keep warm. You'd do them a favor to warm your hands before playing with them, too. No one likes cold hands on their skin when it's not excessively warm.