My Code of Ethics!
This article has come about because it's been brought to my attention that there is a long running thread on Goosemoose (started back in 2009) where my rattery is being bashed by people who don't even know me, have never met me or seen my rats or my rattery. This is an article about how I operate my rattery and things I believe in and follow. I'm hoping by spelling out how I function, it will lessen people's need to make assumptions and say mean things about me on public forums.
Areas of Black and White
The things listed in this part of the article are things I'm very steadfast on. I follow these principles 100% of the time and have never deviated from them in all my years of breeding pet rats. No exceptions to the rule!
1. I do not cull my pet rats! Every animal born here has a chance for a good life. I will keep rats with health problems and offer proper treatments for their problems. I will even offer a quality life to rats with bad personalities...though through selective breeding I've not had any mean or ill-tempered rats born here in the last nine years.
Rats with health problems and temperament issues are not used in my breeding program. All my pets are healthy upon pairing up or they don't get bred. If a rat I used for breeding develops a genetic health issue later in life the line gets monitored...I try to fix and make problem areas better, through selective genetics processes, and if I can't, I discontinue the lineage...and have done so.
2. All the pet rats that are part of my breeding program, "My Children" they live out their lives here. I do not adopt out pet rats older than eight months of age. At that age they are considered full grown. I do not adopt out my retired rats to new homes. I feel it's too traumatic for them to readjust to someone new later in life. I also wish to keep track of how their health is as they age, the problems they encounter, and how long they live. I track all this information in health records within my Breeders Assistant database. If I were to adopt them out I might not know these details. Though you can ask someone to keep you updated, adopters rarely do.
Shades of Gray
In this area of the article I will cover areas I follow 99% of the time, but there are always exceptions to the rule and I take each instance on a case by case basis for evaluation.
Some of these policies I've adopted will be controversial, therefore I've also offered my reasoning behind them. All my theories have been time tested within my colonies.
1. I don't breed my pet rats before four months of age. There have been a couple exceptions to this rule over the years (very mature, large sized ratties for their age) and there may be exceptions in the future, but the majority of the time I stick with this rule.
2. I don't breed my pet rats past 15 months of age. There have been exceptions to this rule in the past, (rats that stayed very healthy late in life), but the majority of the time I stick to this time frame. I like to breed my mama rats for their first litters between five months and ten months of age for the most part. I have found less complications to the child birth process using these principles. I look at each rat individually to determine variables regarding this rule. I may start earlier than this if the rattie is large, mature and healthy for it's age.
3. I wean my boy rats from their mama's and sisters at four weeks of age, as research has shown some rats are able to reach sexually maturity at this age. I keep mama's and daughters together until they go home to adopters. I watch the boys carefully to make sure they are eating well on their own and keeping a good weight on. I start to adopt out my rats at 5.5 weeks old as I feel it's easier for them to bond with their new owners at this age. They are very impressionable about this age and adjust quickly to new situations. The older they get the harder it is for this adjustment as they get use to my routines and form very close bonds with me the longer they stay here.
I therefore spend time with each adopter when they pick up their kids to make sure they understand proper care and handling and I teach them bonding techniques that assures their pets will be contented with their new owners and vice versa, upon leaving. I look for certain "indictors" of acceptance of their new owners when they come to get their kids. This extra time I devote has really helped the new owners be able to bond quickly with their pets, as well as reducing stress related illnesses. Because of this time I take to educate new pet rat owners I don't expect them to have all the answers before they adopt, like some breeders do. I make sure they understand everything before they can leave with their pets. Therefore, I do not meet people in parking lots or do exchanges on the fly. I have to be able to sit down with each adopter for at least an hour or I won't adopted out. I'm a very hands on type of person. I need to make sure both the ratties and their new parents are happy with each other.
4. The majority of the time I believe in only having one litter for each mother rat. However if pairings fail or the health of a perspective breeder is not good enough for her to become a mother I have done two breedings with females whose health is excellent and they proved great mom's with their first litters. In 2009 there were instances where Mothers were breed three times in their life time. That was an exception to the rule and is NOT my normal mode of functioning. I don't normally burden my Mothers with constant child raising...some of my mamas have been excellent mamas and loved their children so much they deserved another chance for having them. I base it on a case by case basis of how well the mama rat does raising her litter and how healthy she remains.
In 2009 I bred the most litters I've ever done and have been criticized for this. I fell victim to trying to keep up with the demand for a pet rat from a quality source. I've since realized I can't keep up with the demand and I only breed the amount of litters per year I can comfortably handle. Though there are people out there who still feel that is too many...many of the pairings are for dwarfs which only produce a couple babies in a litter...so it's not as overwhelming as some people make it out to be. And because I'm retired I have time to devote to extra litters if I want to. I normally only breed six months out of each year. I give myself and my ratties six months off each year.
I can assure everyone reading this that three litters for a mama is a rare thing. I won't say it will never happen in the future but if it did if would be an exception to how I now run my rattery...so please forgive me for past errors...I've learned from my mistakes and am moving forward to do better.
5. All my pets get medical assistance when needed. All my pet rats get humanely put to sleep if they are suffering and terminally ill where their quality of life has diminished. How do I determine that it's time for them to leave for the Rainbow Bridge? If they are no longer interested in favorite foods or won't eat or drink. If they are hunched over and their breathing is labored, gasping for air and medicines can not stabilized their breathing or condition.
I stand behind the genetics of the pet rats that I'm breeding. If an adopter purchases a pet from me and it dies within the first year of it's life and cause of death is determined by a vet to be a genetic issue such as heart failure, kidney, stroke etc. I will offer a replacement for the rat free of charge. I can offer this guarantee because my rats rarely die that young. The longevity of my lines is normally 24-36 months, with the average being 30 months.
6. I feed my pet rats a healthy diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. I DO NOT feed my rats lab blocks! I use a quality dog food that mimics the lab blocks but tastes better. Here is a page regarding more information on this subject. Before you go criticizing me for not feeding my pets lab blocks do yourself a favor and do a test for yourself. Take a cheerio, a chunk of quality dog food, and a lab block and give all three to your rattie. My research has shown your rattie will first eat the cheerio, then the dog food and the lab block will always be the last choice! Then take this test one step further. YOU eat the cheerio, take a bite out of the dog food and a bite out of the lab block and then you determine which tastes better. You will find the lab block very bland...tasteless...processed junk. The dog food will have some flavor to it. Why do this test? Because a pet rats tasting mechanisms are as developed as our own. Why would you feed something to an animal that enjoys such taste sensations as our own and give them something that tastes like cardboard?
There is research emerging that is showing longer lifespan in pet rats fed human table scraps and a healthy based human diet. There is a psychological aspect to this. Rats enjoy eating good tasting food so much that, menu's with variety and taste sensations actually give them something to look forward to.
There is controversy over feeding pet rats peanuts, cracked corn and soy based products. Until a firm decision can be reached on these subjects I do not feed my pet rats any of those options.
7. I do not use pine or cedar beddings. I use a natural hardwood bedding and a shredded paper bedding as well as fabric scraps as bedding.
8. I adopt in same sex pairs. I do not adopted out to households with mixed genders in the households. Though most people try to be responsible, I've learned, never under estimate the determination of a female rat in heat. I will not risk an accidental breeding.
All my pet rats are adopted under a non breeding contract and will be registered with the national registers as such.
In the past I've allowed a few single male rats to go to homes where I felt the family had a tremendous amount of time to spend with him where he wouldn't be caged up very often. Some males do very well living on their own. Some actually prefer it...but there are articles emerging that are leaning toward the psychological well being of pet rats being kept in pairs or trios, even the males, so I am no longer adopting out single males unless someone already has a male at home to keep it company. I've never adopted out females by themselves as they are too social. I have allowed a single female to go to a home where it was a companion for another female, having recently lost it's playmate because it died.
9. I do not like keeping my pets in cages. I know that statement will create a lot of controversy. I've found they become very territorial when kept in cages, (in a colony setting). Whenever possible I believe pet rats should have a free roam room or homemade housing set up, void of bars. I feel cage bars resembled prison bars to our furry friends and I've seen them trying to grab and chew the bars to get themselves free. It's very frustrating to them. They can stick their noses out and their hands out but they can't get the rest of them out...but it makes them want to try. They are like small two year old children and if they feel part of them can escape they will try to get the rest of them to escape and can hurt themselves in the process. From a psychological perspective pet rats in cages is almost like a form of teasing them.
I use plastic homemade totes with wire meshing around all four sides. This meshing allows them to climb around the sides of the unit and see out, plus offers cross ventilation. These types of housing units don't give the pet rat a false sense of perception that they can get out of the unit. They realize immediately they can't get out and therefore nothing can get to them either and this makes them feel safe within their houses, almost mimicking their natural underground dens.
Picture this ..you are sitting at the top of a hill inside a cage with bars. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, there are predatory animals all around looking at you...moving closer...it starts to rain. The rain is blowing inside the cage through the bars...or picture yourself inside a dwelling with four solid walls a window view on each wall with a screen on the outside to keep things out and the elements aren't getting in nor the predatory animals. Which scenario feels safer to you?
These plastic tote houses also keep out spiders and flies and other insects that can bother our little pets. Plastic totes without all four sides cut out for good ventilation and opportunities to climb are not acceptable housing, not even for birthing Moms. I've seen people put meshing on the top of these tubs with nothing on the sides. That is not acceptable housing it's as bad as an aquarium would be. There needs to be cross ventilation.
I stopped using metal cages about eight years ago I found all aggression within the males of the colony stopped. I believe it's because the totes allow me to sanitize them more completely of "marking" urine. Males mark their territory and that is very hard to get off of the floor and ramps, shelves and bars of a cage unless you literally take the cage outdoors and power wash it with bleach each week, and most people can't do that type of regular cleaning. Any odors of males left inside the housing and then trying to introduce a new male, means sure injury to the new male even if vanilla is applied to the noses of the males.
The totes allow the housing area to be cleaned so thoroughly that the space becomes neutral territory...no ones marking scents are left behind...lol...unless you don't do a good job cleaning that is.
Though cages allow for a lot of climbing, letting your pets out to free roam in a safe rat proofed area daily will give them the same health benefits, especially if you give them fun stuff to climb on.
All my housing units have running wheels in them for opportunities to exercise. The wheels I use are backed by Foster's and Smith as a safe choice and thirteen years of successful, injury free usage. All housing units also have igloo plastic huts for the ratties to sleep in.
In a natural environment wild rats do more running then climbing. You'll see them running across the yard into their under ground tunnels and eating bird seed spilled out of feeders and run under your deck when scared...you won't however see them climbing trees like a squirrel and sitting on a tree branch out in the open looking down. Being out in the open leaves them too vunerable to owls and hawks. They have a hide and peak nature. They want to be in a safe, dark, warm place.
Maybe you don't want to use this type of setup...that is fine...but don't criticize me for liking them and having valid reasons for using them...that's the point I'm making. Cages are great for people with just a couple rats, so I'm not knocking cages for pet only options.
9. I won't breed a litter unless I have adopters pre- screened for babies from that litter. Rest assured if you see breedings planned I have people waiting to get a pet rat from them. I always have loving homes waiting for my pets...if I didn't I wouldn't be breeding, as providing quality pet rats is the only reason I'm doing this. I'm trying to offer an option to people within driving distance to me for a healthy, friendly pet other than having to go to a pet store or rescue a feeder bin rat. And I offer something those places don't, a lifetime of assistance for all my pets after they leave here, including behavioral and medical guidance. And I don't just help my own pets but I assist anyone who has a loving pet rattie and needs some help, regardless of where they got their pet from.
10. If someone can't keep a pet they get from me they need to return it back to me, or arrange an approved transfer of adoption to a new owner I agree with or offer to them. It is the owners responsibility to get the rat back to me, not me have to come and get the rat back from them. I do not allow anyone to list my pets on Craigslist or take them to a rescue or shelter. Please report to me anyone suspected of doing these things with a RDPY prefixed rat. All of these terms are spelled out in my adoption contract and will be legally enforced. Please read this contract thoroughly before contacting me as a potential adopter.
11. All my pet rats are periodically treated for mites and lice. Mites and lice are a natural part of our environment and are very hard to spot on a pet rat until they are very infested with the pests. All babies leaving for adoption will now be treated for lice and mites regardless if I see a problem or not. I have not done this in the past and have had a couple reports of problems soon after...I will no longer take a chance on the fact that an infestation is still so tiny, that I can't see them within the fur or hair follicles. I'd rather be safe then sorry.
12. I use to register all my rats in a national registry known as NARR. I discontinued doing this tedious clerical duty in 2013 because this database is only available for other breeders to access. Since the general public can't see the data about my rats I list all this information directly on my web site. All my rat children have profile pages. On this page is their picture, and description of their looks as well as personalities. There is also a section for health data and any health related issues get posted here along with data on their passing. A listing of all ancestry for each rat can also be found there, the same pedigree information that use to be in the national database that no one could see but other members. I am still a member of this national registry, paying my membership dues yearly.
I update my web site pages yearly between the months of January and March. I update my Breeding Schedule page weekly on Thursday evenings during the months I'm actively breeding. I breed in the months of September, October and November, for litters available in October, November and December. And then again in January, Febuary and March for litters available, March, April and May. I take June, July and August off from breeding. I clean my rattery weekly, on Thursdays. It takes me most of the day to complete this task.
Final Note: I'm trying to make improvements to the way I operate my rattery. I'm trying to get "in tune" with what the majority of the community feels is ethical. I'm able to learn from past mistakes and would hope people will take a look at how I'm operating in the present moment and not hash up mistakes they've seen me make years ago. Operating a rattery is a ongoing learning experience. If anyone reading my code of ethics has a problem with them I would appreciate you contacting me directly to address your concerns rather than bash me on Goosemoose or other forums where I'm unable to defend myself. Having people take things they see off your web site and use them out of context, thus judging you and pointing fingers at you when you are unaware, is a mean and cruel thing to do and I'm sure if the tables were turned you wouldn't want people doing those types of things to you.
The rat breeding community is very politically based and I do my best to stay in the middle on most controversial subjects.
Created on: 02/14/12
Revised on: 03/25/15