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How to Care for a Hairless Pet Rat

Updated on January 25, 2012

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.

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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-by_ShandiGP
hairless_rat-by_ShandiGP

Hairless Rat Nutrition Needs

the differences between the dietary needs of furry rats and hairless rats

Protein

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.

Fatty Oils

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!

Soak bread in olive oil and feed to hairless rats to heal dry skin
Soak bread in olive oil and feed to hairless rats to heal dry skin

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

Olio Taibi Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 16.9 oz
Olio Taibi Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 16.9 oz

"Organic" ensures your rattie isn't getting repeated exposure to traces of pesticides or other poisons

 
OASIS  #80260  Vita Drops for Hamsters, 2-Ounce
OASIS #80260 Vita Drops for Hamsters, 2-Ounce

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.

 
Purina Yesterdays News Regular Cat Litter 30lb
Purina Yesterdays News Regular Cat Litter 30lb

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 Rat cleaning itself, as rats very often do.
Hairless Rat cleaning itself, as rats very often do.

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

hairless_rat-by_ShandiGP
hairless_rat-by_ShandiGP

Temperature

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.

Supplies for Your Hairless Rat - warm-mist humidifiers and room heaters

Rat Care Tips - share your tips of hairless and furry rat care!

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    • profile image

      GetSillyProduct 6 years ago

      Keep your rat house clean, clean it at least once a week. Try to teach your rat to use the bathroom in a designated area by moving its poop there! Both of my rats figured this out after a few weeks, not all rats will pick up on it though.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      Excellent advice and tips! I loved the suggestion to house them with furry friends so they would have cuddle buddies :)

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Oh my, if I ever wanted to have a hairless rat for a pet I would know where to learn about caring for them :)

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 5 years ago

      These rats are too cute!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 5 years ago

      My rat Biscuit has hair, these hairless rats are too cute. I love your directions for caring for them. So much love is in your lenses; you can tell how much you care for your pets. Lovely to see.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 5 years ago

      I had a pet rat many years ago. I had her for three years before she died and it just about broke my heart. Maybe I'm a bit strange but I think these little critters are absolutely adorable! If my husband didn't have such an aversion to rodents, I'd get one in a heartbeat! Great lens!

    • JessyGene profile image

      JessyGene 5 years ago

      I love rats! And I think hairless rats are really cute, but my boyfriend doesn't so I have never had one. But hopefully one day I'll be able to convince him.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i love rats and i have one, thanks for the information....

    • profile image

      glutenallergy 5 years ago

      I honestly never knew there are hairless rats. Makes sense, since there are hairless cats. They are pretty darned cute!

    • profile image

      Tina McCain 2 years ago

      I had my first litter of baby rats to be born Oct 23 2014. She had 13 of them 3 were hairless 2 boys 1 girl one of the boys pinkie is my pet now, my best friend got the girl, the other boy is sold. Thanks for the information, it will prove very helpful. Again thanks.

    • profile image

      Desiree Peterson 2 years ago

      I breed rats I have 9 rn I've had rats since I was 4 years old I love hairless I have 2 right now named bonie n Clyde and Clyde sleeps with me every night bonie is Clyde's sister and she's with my other fur babies blue my blue Russian is prego rn with Mikey my Simease i find hairless rats perfect

    • profile image

      Deb 2 years ago

      I have 2 males 9 weeks old had them since they were 5 weeks great pets spoild and let me know when dinner snd snack time is both are half dumbo one albino other has black accents they are litter mates one is cuddly the other reserved but very friendly the albino ( Julius) hada sore ithealed nowits a lump but hes fine it might be an absess not sure ceasur ( the darkker one) never hsd any is this normal

    • profile image

      jessica 2 years ago

      What about using coconut oil? That is what I use on my hairless dog

    • profile image

      Batta 2 years ago

      I will have my first hairless rat tomorrow,and your site is very helpful and informative,I saw it on the internet and of course I am a little worried,

      I might get a nasty,bad-tempered biter....but even then he will have a nice cage.It is hot now and I keep my temperature like 24 degrees Celsius.

      I have plenty of warm stuff for him/her to hide in.

      Stupid question:anyone out there who lets their hairless rats wear clothes?

    • profile image

      Madison 15 months ago

      Thank you so much for the helpful tips! I am getting a Hairless Rat for my 11th birthday and I want to make him/her feel special and I want to care for him/her the best I can. It is okay if I make him/her special fruit and veggie salads to keep him/her healthy?

    • profile image

      me 2 months ago

      i need to seee more :D!!!

    Reader Comments

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      • Ramkitten2000 profile image

        Deb Kingsbury 6 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

        Oh, how cute! And wrinkly. They look so naked and cold. I'd love to touch one.

      • shandigp profile image
        Author

        shandigp 6 years ago

        @Ramkitten2000: When their skin is healthy they feel like warm silk. :) The one sniffing the curtain is mine. I love putting my cheek to his warm side.

      • NorDac LM profile image

        NorDac LM 5 years ago

        Not a big rat fan (even less hairless), hamsters, Guinea pigs, yes. Maybe I'm just prejudice :)

      • LPerry60 profile image

        LPerry60 3 years ago from East Coast United States

        Your Raticus is the cutest thing ever! I would love to have one as a pet. With my animal spoiling tendencies, I could see myself knitting tiny sweaters and legwarmers ..... A very informative and enjoyable read :)

      • profile image

        Desiree Peterson 2 years ago

        All I can say I don't recommend people breeding rats unless you have homes for the babies because at 5 weeks of age the will breed and you will have more I breed and sell or give them to people who have rats already and to petstores who don't sell as feeders I know where all my baby rats are and my brother has 7 FN and he has 127 rats all together males n females separated and all the babies are from my rattles he loves them he has a 3 level FN's my oldest rat is Mikey and he's gonna be 4 this year rats life span is 1 to 2 years of age

      • profile image

        Janis 24 months ago

        Finally getting a hairless rat. Pestered my husband for years. He broke down. Can't wait. Will keep up with your site so I can better care for my little one.

      • profile image

        Silver1 10 months ago

        I have 2 dumbo and 1 hairless ratties, they are the best. The 2 dumbos are real brothers (Topper is a totally deferent from his brother Nichlus just like human brothers) Two-Gray is my hairless (of course a character )

        I have interduced all of them together, the 2 dumbos sniff him but do not care about Two-Gray. (I would never put them in either cages together!)

        Two-Gray loves to play with me, he is very close to me of course so are the other 2 boys.

        Anyways all of them are a hand full but I would not have it any other way!

        Remember, winter is on its way and all hairless babies need to be kept warm and at lease 6 inches (There cage) of the floor (all ratties cages)

        Two-Gray has a sweat sock he slepts in all the time.

        Well everyone I can keep going on about my ratties but I will stop.

        We are all the ratties parents and we are here to take care of them.

        Take care all!

        James

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