Buying Baby Rats: The Pet Store Employee Said They Didn't Know If It Was A Boy Or A Girl.
So you're thinking of buying a rat! You walked into Pets Warehouse to see their rats and they predictably asked what size snake you were feeding. You kindly point out that you're in search of a pet rat and blushing, the pet store employee heads off on his quest to help you make that purchase. First note: Make your own buying decisions; there is a 99.9% chance that pet store boy (or girl) hasn't got a clue.
The first thing you'll notice is that most of the rats seem terrified and they'll all huddle into one corner of their current housing project. That just means they've not been handled much. If they're in the 3-5 inch range (sans tail), you can easily get them to get over that.
If they are in the 3-5 inch range, just dip your fist in their home. See if you have any takers (sniffers/nibblers). When they are this size, they really can't cause (much) damage. Their teeth are sharp enough, but their jaws just don't have the strength. If they're nice to your fist, it's probably safe to flatten out your hand and see if there are any crawlers.
If there's one you like and you don't feel like wasting your time judging friendliness or potential friendliness, do take time to do a background check. Check for pink stains on the butt and on the neck. If you see any, look closely around the rat's eyes and nose for any red stains. Depending on the severity of the stains, that rat is either under a lot of stress or very sick. To be honest, such stains have never stopped me from making that purchase, but such stains can be a sign of a potentially short life, or a contagious illness that will lead to enormous vet bills for this rat and your existing clan. If you choose to take this rat home despite the signs of illness, get that rat on Tylan, Tetracycline, Doxycycline, or some other rat-useful antibiotic right away and keep him in a warm, dark place, and keep him quarantined.
Pick the rat up. Let him sit in your hands for awhile to adjust to you. If he starts leaving soft poopies, he's most likely very nervous. This is normal (and smelly). If the soft poopies are due to illness, a little yogurt with live cultures will do the trick, so don't worry about that. Hold him in your hands until he's comfortable though so you can check for other important things like red lice and gender.
Rub the fur on his butt and around his thighs. Brush it backwards so you can see the skin. Rats this age should have no orange-ish discoloration on their skin at all. If they do, look very closely. It's probably moving. If you see this, don't worry. A bit of ivermectin paste (about the size of a small uncooked grain of rice) will do the trick. If you see little white balls or nests on the ends of the rat's fur, you'll have to treat the rat 2 or 3 times until all of the eggs have hatched but it's not a really difficult thing to do.
Hold him up by the arms so you can see under his body. The pet store employee will probably tell you what gender the rat is. Don't trust the pet store employee. Look for yourself. The pet store employee has this theory that it's difficult to sex small rodents. Assume the pet store employee is a moron. You have a good chance of being right. Below you see a picture of a very young boy rat and a very young girl rat.
You don't have to look too closely to see the difference! Please note though the importance of letting him get comfortable with you. The boys at that age can "suck them in" in an attempt to deceive you. If it is a he, and if you hold him for a bit, he will inevitably lose his train of rat-thought for a brief moment and let loose. I promise.
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: