Pet Rat Booklist

This is a review of books on rats which are currently available in the UK. Any book on pet care will have both good and bad points; publishers generally do not require authors to have their work reviewed by experts before the book is printed, so it is easy for inaccuracies to creep in, and for controversial opinions to be presented as hard-and-fast facts. This means that it helps to read as much as possible, and to talk to experienced rat owners, to get all views - rather than treating one book as your ultimate guide. Some of the books listed are out of print; these can be obtained via libraries and bookshops which perform searches for old books, such as Dillons.


The NFRS Handbook Part One - Common Diseases of the Fancy Rats

written & compiled by Ann Storey
The long awaited first part of the NFRS Handbook. This book focuses on health and medical information for rats including the care of sick rats, drug treatment information, disease information, vitamins and minerals, choosing a vet and pre- and post-operative care. A definite must for your bookshelf.
69 pages, softback. Pub. National Fancy Rat Society (2007) ISBN 0-9554025-0-6, 10 from the NFRS

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The Scuttling Gourmet - Third Edition

by Alison Campbell
A guide to wholesome nutrition for rats. This is the third edition of this book and contains lots of useful and interesting information on diet and feeding of rats. It covers information on feeding in health and sickness, growth and lactation, sick and elderly and dietary requirements. Also information on most commercially available pet foods suitable for feeding to rats.
318 pages, softback. Pub. Alison Campbell, ISBN 978-0-9566232-0-1, available from NFRS Promotions, other rat clubs and online rat shops

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The Rat

by Ginger Cardinal, from the series An owner's guide to a happy, healthy pet
A great new guide to keeping rats as pets, with much thought given to the practical aspects - e.g. suggested 'house rules' for children helping to care for rats. There is a helpful guide to varieties, but note that the book is American, so some colour names are different (e.g. their Beige is our Buff). The book also shows Hairless and Tailless rats, which are not shown in the UK as these deformities are linked with health problems. Considerable confusion in the health chapter, e.g. regarding respiratory illness and uterine problems - consult a more reliable source in this area. The chapters on 'Understanding your rat' and 'Training tips and tricks' are great fun - includes a guide to rat body language and 'The Meaning of Squeaking'!
Pub. Howell Book House (1998) ISBN 0-876054289, 8.99

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Your First Fancy Rat

by Nick Mays
A good introduction, containing much useful advice on handling and socialisation, and a brief history of the rat fancy. The sections on taming and training and buying pet rats are especially helpful. The health section is slightly confusing when it states that rats can catch 'colds' - the author is referring to respiratory illness and not to the common cold. Rats cannot catch colds from humans. The breeding section is helpful, but the figures given for the ages at which rats become fertile and infertile, and for litter sizes, are only averages. For example, female rats can become pregnant as young as four weeks old if they come into contact with an older male - far earlier than the eight weeks stated in the book.
33 pages, softback, pub. Kingdom Books (an imprint of TFH) (1996) ISBN185279056-3, 1.45

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The Proper Care of Fancy Rats

by Nick Mays
Currently out of print. An excellent guide to the history of the rat fancy, and a must for anyone considering showing and breeding fancy rats. Contains many colour photographs. Highly recommended, but bear in mind that this book was written some time ago, and so not all varieties of rat are listed. The health section is somewhat outdated.
256 pages, hardback, pub. TFH (1993), ISBN 0-86622-340-1, 10.95

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Rats

by Susan Fox
An American book, apparently aimed at young children. Several of the photographs of 'rats' in it are actually of mice! The sections on taming and training and health are fair, although much of the advice given in the health section is now outdated. The book contains numerous inaccuracies and gives little consideration to animal welfare - it is more a guide to keeping pet rats alive, rather than giving them enjoyable lives. For example, it recommends cages of only 16" x 10" x 10", which is tiny - few people would even keep mice in a cage this small. Fox suggests that you keep a single rat so that 'it becomes more devoted to you, because you are the only one with whom it can play'. Rats are social animals which thrive in the company of their own kind, and a pair of rats will bond with their owner just as well as a single rat, but will be much happier - which is why the NFRS recommends that they are kept in single-sex pairs. The book states that rats can be kept outdoors in a hutch on the patio in warm climates - this suggestion is for readers in warmer countries than the UK. Rats kept in such exposed housing would be lucky to survive a British winter without death or serious illness.
96 pages, hardback, pub. TFH (1988), ISBN 0-87666-933-X, 5.95 approx.

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Guide to Owning a Rat

by Susan Fox
A vast improvement on the author's first rat book, and with lots of new photos. It contains an interesting chapter on the history of the rat and its association with humans, and excellent sections on taming and training , feeding, health and breeding. Sadly, still pays little attention to improving the quality of life of pet rats - for example, the reader is encouraged to buy tiny baby rats as young as four weeks old (they should be with their mother until five or six weeks of age), to keep rats alone and to settle for small cages.
64 pages, softback, pub. TFH (1996), ISBN 0-7938-2157-6, 4.95

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Rats For Those Who Care

by Dennis Kelsey-Wood
This is a fair introduction to keeping pet rats - the photos and background information are interesting, but don't rely on the accuracy of its advice; it could give you some strange impressions of rats and their care! One bizarre claim is that adult male rats cannot be kept together, and that young males must be separated at 7 weeks of age or they will start fighting. This is utter nonsense - most adult male rats will live very happily with other males, if they are introduced as youngsters. An aquarium with hood and flourescent lights is recommended for housing, yet such a set-up would provide very little ventilation and could easily lead to overheating and ill health. Tanks should be covered with wire mesh to allow air to circulate.
32 pages, softback, pub. TFH (1995), ISBN 0-7938-1392-1, 2.45

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Rats - A Complete Pet Owner's Manual

by Carol A. Himsel DVM
This book is written by a veterinary surgeon who obviously loves rats, and is a good source of information about diseases and nursing care. The chapters on Understanding Rats and Caring for Rats are interesting. However, some parts of the book are misleading, and others somewhat strange. The book is way out regarding the age at which rats become fertile - 'by 100 days of age, successful mating can occur'; successful mating can occur before 30 days for does, and often by about 50 days for bucks. There is a brief, rather confused, discussion of colour types and genetics. Some of the comments on rat behaviour are puzzling - the author says that rats cannot be trained, which is presumably news to the many rats trained in learning behaviour experiments in laboratories across the world. Many pet rats do learn to come when called and perform simple tricks, given a lot of effort from their owners. The book recommends keeping mixed sex pairs of rats, which is a recipe for a population explosion! The author seems unaware of the variety of cages available which are suitable for rats - and the stated minimum cage sizes for rats are strange, eg for an adult rat Himsel gives a floorspace of 40 square inches (258 square cm) - this means a cage just 6" x 6", which an adult buck could not even fit into, let alone live in! An interesting read, but don't treat this book as your main source of information on rat care.
72 pages, softback, pub. Barron's (1991), ISBN 0-8120-4535-1, £4.50

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Pet City Guides - Rats & Mice

by Mike Findlay MRCVS
This booklet is a simplistic first guide. A few causes for concern - for example, it says that 'male and female mixes are fine - but will result in the production of countless offspring unless separated', and later recommends breeding rats and mice as an educational experience for children. So what are the owners supposed to do with the 'countless' offspring (probably undersized and unhealthy, since their mother is being bred from continually)? Apparently, 'If you ...cannot find good homes for the offspring, PET CITY may well be happy to have the chance to buy them'. I would have hoped that the responsibilities of finding good homes for the baby rats would have fallen to those who chose to breed them - an alternative suggestion would be, if you cannot find good homes for the offspring - STOP BREEDING THEM! Findlay states that rats reach sexual maturity at 8-10 weeks; do not rely on this, or you are likely to find yourself with a litter of pregnant underage rats.
15 pages, softback, pub. Pet City, no ISBN, £0.99 from Pet City/PetsMart

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The Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents

by J. Harkness & J. Wagner
A detailed reference work aimed primarily at people caring for laboratory animals. Good on rat biology and husbandry.
Pub. Lea & Febiger, ISBN 0-8121-1176-1

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The Genetics of the Norway Rat

by Roy Robinson
Detailed reference work on rat genetics and biology, highly technical but some sections are still interesting. This book is not very helpful on rat coat colour genetics, since few of the modern varieties were in existence when it was written.
Pub. Pergamon Press (1967), no ISBN. Out of print.

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Colour Inheritance in Small Livestock

by Roy Robinson
An excellent introduction to the genetics of coat colour in general. The rat section is, again, outdated.
Pub. Watmoughs (1977), ISBN 0-903-775-069 Out of print.

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