Hairless Rats as Pets — What You Need to Know

Are you considering getting a new pet rat?  Are you thinking about getting a fancy pet rat, such as a hairless rat but are unsure because you think they will take more special care than other rats? 

 Read on to understand more about this fancy rat.

What to Know About a Hairless Rat

These fancy rats are also known by other names such as a nude rat, bald rat, or hairless Sphynx rat.  They are a unique rat but essentially they need the same care as a regular rat with fur but with a few exceptions.  You need to make sure that their skin stays healthy and that they stay warm. 

There are also some health issues that you need to consider that other rats do not have.  A hairless rat is easy to identify by their smooth, pink skin but other than that, they look like a normal rat.  If it is an albino hairless rat, they will usually have red eyes but almost all other hairless rats have black eyes.  

Why Are They Hairless?

The reason that they are hairless is due to a genetic mutation according to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.  This mutation prevents their thymus gland from developing and causes them to be severely immune-deficient.  They are born with hair but due to their immune system being compromised, within a few weeks or months, their birth hair will fall out completely.  

Any of their offspring may stay haired or become hairless.  It all depends on whether the hairless parent was bred with a haired or hairless rat.  If one parent has hair, then their genes could repress the hairless gene.  In this case, the babies would be born with their thymus glands intact.

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hairless cute rat

Caring For a Hairless Rat

1. Bedding

For most rats, they enjoy bedding that is made of strips of paper.  For a hairless rat, you have to be careful with their bedding.  The reason is that some types of bedding can irritate or dry out their delicate skin.  Use something absorbent and soft. 

You should check their skin frequently and change the bedding if necessary if their skin looks dry or irritated.  You also have to make sure that you are diligent about keeping their cage clean.  If they nest in soiled bedding, the feces and urine can scald their bodies.  If you have a rat hammock or other toys you will need to wash and rotate them every other day at least.

2. Cage

As with all rats, they need a cage that is at least two feet wide, one foot tall, and no wire bottom.  Make sure that there are no sharp objects or edges in the cage, especially for a hairless rat as they have no protection from sharp, pointy things. 

The cage also needs to stay warm because these rats are intolerant of cold temperatures.  Most rats need to have temperatures between 64-79 degrees F. so a hairless rat may need it a bit warmer.  It may be a good idea for you to keep your hairless rat in a converted aquarium.  With this type of converted cage, the walls are solid so they will not catch a cold draft. 

The only drawback is finding an aquarium big enough and if you do, it can be very expensive. The cage can also be kept in a warm room as long as there is enough bedding in the cage for them to crawl into.

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3. Food

Their food is the same as any other rat and you also have to make sure that you do not overfeed it so it does not become fat.  Reserve any rich food for a treat and training purposes.

hairless dumbo rat

 Caring For a Hairless Baby Rat

When you breed hairless rats, it can take you down a rocky path.  The main reason is that hairless females do not make the best parents.  They have been known to refuse to care for their babies and even eat them.  It is common for the female to fail at lactation or not produce enough milk to sustain the babies. 

This is because of their subpar immune systems.  If you should end up with a litter of hairless baby rats you may need to remove them from the cage to prevent anything from happening to them.  You will have to bottle feed them with milk replacement formula for several weeks.  

Since this means that you will have to attend these baby mice around the clock you could consider having a haired momma rat that could adopt and nurse them.  Other than having to feed them formula and protect them from their mother, you would take care of them the same as with other baby rats. One more thing to note is that all baby rats need extra warmth but the hairless babies they need a bit more.

Health Issues

In addition to making sure that they are kept warm, you also have to remember that they have no barrier between their surroundings and their sensitive skin.  As a result, they are prone to getting scratches and cuts easier.  Make sure that their cage has non-textured bedding. 

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Even though they do not have visible hair, they do have follicles plugs that can get clogged and create like a pimple.  If they rupture and become infected, it becomes a serious problem and needs to be taken to the veterinarian. 

They can also contract bacterial infections because of their suppressed immune systems.  Always wash your hands before handling them.

Conclusion

When looking at hairless rats, remember that if someone tries to sell you a black hairless rat, they are not truly hairless.  The reason is that the skin of a rat does not contain pigment, which the black would be.  Any type of coloring is probably just very short hair, dark or light and they are not hairless. 

This type of rat is probably a homozygous Rex rat who has partial hair loss.  Following these suggestions and you will have a healthy, happy hairless rat’s company to enjoy for several years.

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