Rat breeding ethics

August 20, 2007

Firstly, the definition of ethics: is the study of values and customs of a person or group. It covers the analysis and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and responsibility.

Obviously everyone has different ideas of right and wrong and different things are more important to some people than others. On the fancy-rats thread someone was talking about a gauge of ‘ethicalness’, ie: this particular person graded breeding healthy rats above breeding healthy attractive rats. A person doing the former would get a (virtual) ‘score’ of 100, whereas the latter would get 96 for instance. I think is quite a good way of looking at it, rather than a black and white right or wrong, good or bad attitude.

Here are some of the things I feel are important and I would look for in a rat breeder and what my standards will be when / if I ever breed myself:

  • Rats are looked after correctly. They are kept in suitable cages, cleaned regularly and don’t smell, fed on an optimum diet with life stages, health etc taken into account when feeding. This obviously goes without saying, yet I feel it is important to include the simple things as they are so often overlooked when researching into something.
  • Rats are provided with mental stimulation and regular time out free-ranging and daily handling. This was an issue discussed on the forum and to me it is important all the rats are at least handled daily, even if daily free-ranging isn’t practicle. If daily free-ranging wasn’t provided I would need reassurance that the rat’s regular environment was interesting enough for it not to become bored and that free-range was provided, at least a couple of times a week.
  • There are not too many rats to cope with. This is pretty much tied in with the previous point. Personally, for me, too many rats would be when I didn’t have time to let them out and give them individual attention daily or keep the cages clean enough, or funds were stretched meaning healthcare could suffer. My maximum number will be different to another persons.
  • Care and attention is given to finding homes. This may be through adoption questionnaires, meeting people, talking on the phone or a combination. The person supplying the rats should ensure the rats they have bred will go to good homes. To me, this means not supplying pet shops and using pet only contracts unless providing specifically for breeding. Kittens should also not be homed singly unless proof can be supplied that they will be going to live with similar aged rats.
  • Aftercare. Once kittens are placed in a new home the breeder  should provide support and aftercare throughout the life of the rats. This includes taking them back should they ever need re-homing. In fact, in my opinion, an ethical breeder would insist on this.
  • Records should be kept on the history of current and previous rats. This is particularly important to determine the health of a line. Kittens placed in other homes need to be checked on throughout their lives. Breeders should also be happy to share this information. I would be suspicious of a breeder who was unwilling or unable to discuss the history and health of their lines.
  • Temperment and health should be bred for before colour and type. Type and colour is important, after all a rat should look and behave like a rat! However, to me, there seems no reason to be breeding lovely coloured rats that are sickly and grumpy, hence why temperment and health should come first.
  • Rats should only be bred from known, healthy, friendly lines. Rats should not be bred purely to supply a demand, they should be bred to improve the breeders lines and to produce better rats. A breeder should also have homes lined up or know they will be able to home their rats or be prepared to keep them all if homes do not materialise. Each litter should be carefully thought about and planned with specific aims.

As I said, those things are important to me, and may be completely different to another person’s ethics. They may well also change. I think it is important to discuss issues such as ethics, so breeders are aware of what people expect and discussion may also raise an issue that a breeder or potential owner hasn’t thought about.

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