How to find a responsible breeder

If you are thinking about getting a rat for the first time, or looking to get more rats, please read, "Why not use pet shops?"

If you know you would like to find a good breeder, I hope this article will help. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of thoroughly researching breeders! There are SO many elements involved with breeding good rats, than just putting a pair together to raise a litter. Sadly, there are numerous unscrupulous individuals posing as good breeders or trying to sell you a "rare" color or type of rat and charging outrageous prices! The internet makes it much easier for these unethical types to fool a prospective buyer. You and your family could regret not choosing the right breeder!
Once you have spent time to research fancy rats to be certain they are the pets for you and your family, then the search begins. There are many factors to consider, and you need to arm yourself with knowledge. That means be prepared to ask the breeder questions. The breeder shouldn't mind taking the time to answer your questions. After all, they should want to have their prospective adopters as knowledgeable as possible.
Here is a list of questions you might consider asking every breeder you are considering adopting or purchasing from. Some breeders websites already answer some or all of these questions.

1. What are your breeding goals? The breeder should be able to tell you what their "mission" is with their rattery. They should have over-all goals for their rattery and specific goals for each line they work with.

2. What are your specialties? Each rattery should have specific lines and specialties. That means they have particular colors/varieties that they work with. If they just put 2 rats together to produce babies, and there is no real reason behind it, steer away!

3. Do you have any pet store or rescue rats in your pedigrees? They shouldn't! It is a very rare occasion that a breeder might do this, but they should have an excellent reason for doing so! There are enough responsible breeders out there that have long lineages on their rats that a good breeder can turn to, even if it means traveling some distance or paying for shipping (only a few breeders ship though). Each breeder should have a lot of information they can share with another breeder about the line's health and temperament, so any new addition to a rattery has a known history. Pet store and rescues' health history is an unknown. That said, the exception would be if they took back the rats they have bred and placed.

4. What was the goal for the litter I am interested in? Everyone can say, "I really liked their temperaments," or, "they have really pretty colors," or "I wanted to have another rat just like their mom/dad." A good breeder will tell you something more specific about their goal for this breeding: improving type, like the body, head, ears, color, or tail length; or improvement of temperament.

5. How is the health in the line, especially the parents and grandparents? The answer should be easy if the breeder has been working with a line for many generations. The longer they have worked with a line, the more knowledge they have of any health issues in the line. They might still have the grandparents and possibly even the great grandparents if the line tends to live longer than the average. If the line is new they might not have the grandparents - if still alive. If this is the case, then they should give the other breeder credit if they state the line is really healthy.

6. Do you plan on keeping any from this litter? Breeders typically only breed to keep their lines going – they breed for themselves, for the love of rats and to improve them - not to make money off of litters. I consider breeders that don't keep any from a litter suspect, unless there is a good reason for it.

7. May I meet the parents? I have found good breeders generally let you see the parents, but some may be worried about illnesses being brought in if you are a current rat owner. That is why some ratteries are closed to the public. You can’t blame them for that, because an illness brought in could devastate their rattery. I advise that you respect and abide by any precautions the breeder asks you to follow. They are only being responsible in taking care of their colony’s health.

8. Do you screen potential adopters? The answer should be, yes, and they tell you how they screen.

9. If you don’t have any litters or pups available, who do you recommend? Typically a responsible breeder will only recommend
another good breeder or a rescue.

A few other comments about responsible breeders:

1. The breeder you are "interviewing" should be honest with the answers they give. Just because they don't know everything doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad or irresponsible breeder. If they are honest and don't have an answer don't think the worst of them. It might be they never had that experience, or maybe they are working with a new line, in which case, they have reason to not know certain information. For instance they can't say for sure the average longevity of the line. All they could say is what the other breeder told them to expect. If they haven't been working with a line very long then they should not take credit for the other breeder's work.

2. At the end of the day, follow your intuition. If something doesn't sound right, or too good to be true, then that might be the case.

3.While at the breeder's home keep an ear out for chronic wheezing and sneezing coming from one or many rats. If you do hear
this ask the breeder about it. How old are the rats? If they are 2+ - 3+ years old then you don't need to be as concerned, unless it is several rats doing this. Like elderly humans and other elderly animals the immune system weakens and illnesses often occur.

4. They should be willing to take the rats they have bred back if the owners can no longer keep them. At the very least, they should help place them. They should inform you of this before you take your rats home.

5. The breeder should have asked information from you if you are already prepared to get rats and how you will care for your rats before they let them leave their premises. These pups are their babies and they won't them to go to the homes!

Finally, the breeder should be available to you for the life of your rats, and that means 2+ years. They should take time to answer your questions and concerns. Please keep in mind, if this is a responsible breeder, you are going to be entering into a type of partnership or friendship with the breeder for the life of your rats. * So, with this cooperation in mind, you should keep the breeder up-to-date of any health issues your rats develop, so they can adjust their breeding program for the line. *