Dumbo rats are named for their resemblance to the Disney character 'Dumbo the Elephant', due to their extra-large droopy ears which, unlike other rats, are placed much lower on their heads. This gives them a unique but extremely cute appearance.
Identifying a Dumbo Rat
Dumbo rats definitely have a unique appearance as compared to other pet rats. The first thing you will notice are that these rats have their ears at the side of their heads, rather than at the top, which gives them a look of innocence. Although most of these rats have large, rounded ears, you can also find some whose ears are small, wrinkled or tubular in shape. However, this is not a special breed, rather dumbo rats are regular rats with a mutant gene that causes their ears to grow in this peculiar way. Most dumbo rats have wide and flattish heads that are raised towards the back. Healthy adults are usually 15-22 inches in length, when measured from nose to tail, and can weigh up to 1.5 pounds. The rats reach this size in around 4-6 months. Their coat may come in a wide variety of colors, such as black, blue slate, white, gray, brown, or a mixture of 2-3 colors. The eyes may either be red or black depending on the color of the fur.
Choosing a Pet Dumbo Rat for Your Home
When you have decided that you want to get your pet home, the best option would be to purchase two or more dumbo rats of the same gender. Buying more than one rat is always highly recommended, because a single rat can easily feel lonely and get depressed. Buying the rats from a good breeder or rescuer is a better option than getting them from pet stores. This is because breeders raise the rats in a good environment, and they know about any specific requirements that need to be taken care of. On the other hand, the rats from pet stores come from pet mills, where the rats have a poor environment, which can cause behavioral and health problems later on. When getting your rats, make sure that they do not exhibit any of the following signs.
- Reddish discharge coming from the eyes and nose
- Heavy and noisy breathing
- Cloudy or dull eyes
- Pooping in liquid form
- Laziness or excessive shyness
- Wounds on the body
If you do buy dumbo rats of different genders, make sure that they are neutered or spayed, unless you intend to breed them yourself.
Choosing Appropriate Dumbo Rat Cages
Dumbo rats need large cages that have multiple levels or ramps, and a sound flooring. Each rat should have at least 2 cubic feet of space for itself; remember bigger is better. Using a cage with a wire floor is harmful for the rat's feet, and causes a condition called bumblefoot. The cage should be big enough to hold the water and food dishes, without reducing the space for the rats to run around. Ensure that the cage has plenty of chew toys, mazes, climbing ropes, hiding places, and bedding material made of hemp, cloth, or paper. Wood shavings may cause respiratory problems for the rats. Make sure that the bars of the cage are close together to prevent the rats from escaping and running away.
A regular diet of lab blocks, food pellets, and grain mix, with an occasional treat of fresh fruits or vegetables, will keep your dumbo rat in good health. Citrus fruits, corn, and alfalfa are to be completely avoided. Most rats cannot digest dairy products easily. Also, you should avoid commercially-made rat food which has seeds and nuts as the main ingredients, as the excess protein and fat in the food may cause cancer. Dog food with a low fat content can also be given occasionally. Drinking water should be changed daily
Maintaining the Habitat
Cleaning the cages thoroughly, once every week, will keep your dumbo rats healthy and disease free. Avoid using chemical cleaners, like bleach, as they damage the respiratory system of the rats. Litter training your rat will help in making your job easier. Always keep the cage in a place where it is safe from sudden drastic temperature or humidity changes. It is best to keep the temperature near 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Training and Socializing
Having dumbo rats as pets is a real pleasure, as they are generally very intelligent and learn tricks fairly easily. These rats usually have a very calm and relaxed attitude and love to spend a lot of time playing and cuddling with their owners if brought up with care and regular socializing. The owner must spend at least an hour with the rats everyday. Holding, talking, and training the rats is good for their mental health, and will make them comfortable in your home. With the help of treats such as sunflower seeds and unsweetened crispies, and positive reinforcement, such as praise, you can litter train your rats, you can also treat them to jump through hoops, give handshakes, stand, or run around in circles. Never punish or scold the rats as this will confuse them, and make it difficult for you to train them. The key to training dumbo rats is persistence and patience.
A healthy dumbo rat usually has a lifespan of up to 4 years. The better you take care of them, the longer they will live. Respiratory diseases and tumors are common in many rats. It is therefore important that you contact with a vet specializing in small animals like mice and rats, as soon as you buy your own. This will help you to get your rats prompt help, rather than rushing around searching for a vet during an emergency. Mites and parasites are common problems for rats. Consult the vet for an appropriate flea medication that is safe for rats. Another health problem is obesity. This often results due to overfeeding treats, and not enough space for the rats to run around and exercise. Overgrown teeth may also cause problems. Keeping a piece of unprocessed wood or a hard dog biscuit for the rats to chew on will solve this issue. Before you bring your dumbo rat home, start saving money to pay the vet's bills. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
Dumbo Rat Care Tips
- If a rat is really happy and satisfied, it might show its pleasure by chipping or grinding its teeth together, sometimes doing this may cause the eyes to pop out a little, but you need not worry, as this behavior is quite natural in healthy rats.
- While training, use more of praise and gentle petting instead of treats, otherwise your rat will start associating the training with food and will not perform without a treat.
- Always pick your dumbo rat by the body and never by its tail, as pulling the tail causes a lot of pain and discomfort to the rat.
- Female rats are more active and love to explore their surroundings as compared to males, so if you want your pet to sit with you for longer periods, choose male rats.
- Dumbo rats like to keep their bodies cool, so keep a large bowl of water for them to splash around in the summer, otherwise a glazed tile is a great cool surface for the rat to lay on.
The above information will make caring for your dumbo rat a fun experience for you and your rat. So, look after this adorable pet well, and it will give you years of joy and affection in return.