Rats make popular family pets. They are intelligent, interactive and certainly give owners a lot back in terms of their personality. However, are there different breeds of rats? Or is a rat simply just… a rat? The answer is yes, there are different breeds of rats! Let’s have a look at the different breeds and their characteristics.

Rat breeds

The truth is, there are a variety of different breeds of rat. Each has their own looks, personalities and individual needs. There are specialised breeders who may breed a single breed of rat, or they may breed a variety of different rat breeds.

The standard rat: 

You can’t get more rattier than the standard rat. Think of a rat in your mind’s eye and you’re probably picturing a standard rat. These are domesticated rats that are the closest relative to the wild brown rat.

Standard rats are usually brown in colour (although white and particoloured individuals and bloodlines are also not uncommon) and live on average between 2 – 2.5 years old. Males can weigh up to 500g and females are a little smaller weighing up to 300g. With the correct handling techniques, standard rats can be loving little pets.

The rex rat: 

There are a variety of different ‘rex’ variants within the animal world, including cats and rabbits, but the rex variant is also present within the rat species. A rex rat has curly or wavy fur and they usually have curled whiskers and eyelashes – super cute!

However, due to the curled nature of their fur, whiskers and eyelashes, they can be prone to skin and eye issues. Always speak to your veterinary surgeon if you are worried about your rat’s health.

Adult rex rats can reach up to 11 inches in size, with their tail adding an extra 9 inches to their size.

The dumbo rat: 

As the name suggests, dumbo rats have ears that are rather large. A standard rat’s ears will sit on top of their head and are relatively small. However, with a dumbo rat the ears will sit lower down on their head and are much larger than their standard rat cousins.

Dumbo rats are usually calm, gentle and affectionate and make great pets for kids. Their ears make them look adorable and are often a great talking point for visitors.

The hairless rat: 

Hairless species are becoming quite popular, with Sphynx cats, Chinese Crested dogs and even ‘Skinny pigs’. The rat species is no exception, with the hairless or Sphynx rat rising in popularity. 

Unfortunately, the hairless rat can be prone to a multitude of illnesses, as well as requiring specialist care. Hairless rats are at an increased risk of injury and do have grooming requirements to reduce the oils on their skin. They also feel the cold a lot easier due to having no fur, so considerations should be made in regards to husbandry.

Hairless rats are not a breed for a beginner and are not recommended to breed due to their ill health.

The satin rat: 

Satin rats have a long, fabulous coat that is soft to the touch, with a satin like quality.  An individual characteristic of the satin rat is their long, straight whiskers which have a small curl at the end.

Satin rats may require extra brushing and grooming due to their coat.

Common rat illnesses

Unfortunately, rats can be predisposed to certain health conditions, no matter what breed you have. If you are worried about your rats health, speak with your veterinary practice for further advice.

Barbering in rats

Barbering is an abnormal behaviour in rats that can often be caused due to stress or cage overcrowding. It is where rats start to pluck out their own fur and whiskers. In some instances, rats may pluck the fur and whiskers of other rats within the colony.

Speak with your veterinary surgeon if your rat is missing fur to rule out the possibility of other illnesses or mites. If other illnesses or diseases have been discounted, it may be that your rat’s environment needs to be changed.

Respiratory infection 

One of the most common illnesses seen in rats is respiratory infection. Respiratory infections can be caused by different bacteria, or due to draughts and a dusty environment. Common symptoms include sneezing, wheezing and a red discharge from the nose and eyes.

Do not panic if you see a red discharge – this is usually not blood and is a result of respiratory distress. If you think that your rat may have an infection, speak with your veterinary


Whether you have a dog, cat or a rat, parasites are always a concern. Unlike dogs and cats who receive routine parasite treatment, rats tend to only require treatment if an infestation is identified.

Excessive itching and hair loss is the most common symptom of mites in rats, especially if the whole colony is experiencing the same symptoms. Speak with your veterinary surgeon so that a prescription strength product can be prescribed.


Unfortunately, cancer is a common disease in rats, often appearing as a skin or abdominal tumour that can grow rather large in size. Surgical intervention is an option depending on the overall health of the rat.

If you’re worried that your rat has an abnormal growth, speak with your veterinary surgeon. 

Final thoughts on rat breeds

It turns out that there are quite a few different rat breeds! There are rats with large ears, rats with curly fur and even rats with no fur at all. Regardless of the species of rat that you have, always ensure that they receive the correct husbandry and level of care. Pets should always be seen as a privilege and not a necessity.

If you have any questions regarding rat care or you are concerned about their health, make sure to always seek veterinary advice.

Further reading: