The Rat Fan Club


Book Review: My Rat

by Debbie “The Rat Lady” Ducommun


This book was written by Gerd Ludwig of Germany, in German, and translated to English and published by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. in 2010.  A revised version was published in 2012.  Here is my review of the original book, with additional comments on the revised edition.  The publisher must have read my original review, because many of the errors in the first edition were corrected in the second edition, even using my words!  I was very impressed by this, but unfortunately, they didn’t correct all the problems.


My overall comment about this book is that the design, layout and photos are very good, but are geared toward children, where the writing is geared toward adults, and college-graduates at that (i.e. the use of the word “impetus” on page 7).  There is a major mismatch between these 2 elements. Also, something I didn’t notice in the first edition is that almost all the photos are of baby rats. Aside from the photos of the mother rat with her babies, and maybe a few others, every picture is of babies. While it’s true that babies are cuter, people need to know what the adults look like too. Rats don’t stay babies very long!


Here are my detailed comments about incorrect information and bad advice in the book:


Page 7

1st sentence:  “A rat is never alone.” Wild rats are usually not alone, but I know of cases where a single wild rat appeared to be living in someone’s back yard, so I’m not sure the statement is true.  I suggested adding the word “wild” and by golly, they did that in the revised edition.


Column 2, paragraph 2: A rat who lives alone but gets at least 4 hours of human attention a day will not waste away.  In the revised edition they changed it to say “Pet rats need to associate with other rats or have human companionship four hours daily.”


Page 8

Column 1, bottom: The statement that pet rats are descended from lab rats is not true.  Rats were bred as pets first in England in the 1800, and were not used in labs until the early 1900s.  The revised edition fixed this and says “Rats were bred as pets in England as early as 1800.”


Caption, photo 1: The statement that the house rat (Rattus rattus) is rarely encountered and endangered is only true in Europe.  It is the most common rat in the southern U.S. and California.  The new edition has fixed this.


Page 9, Column 1, bottom: The statement that house rats eat seeds and fruits almost exclusively is not true.  They also eat a lot of insects.  The new edition fixed it.


Page 11

Color:  The “house rat” (roof rat) is usually agouti (brown flecked) not black.  Fixed in the new edition.

Reproduction: The gestation period is 21-23 days.  Only fixed for “house rats”


Page 14

Sidebar: The statement that “All rats kept as pets are descended from laboratory rats” is not true.  See note for page 8.


Page 15

Column 1, bottom paragraph 1: It isn’t true that rats “in all instances keep their bodies under complete control.”  At times they lose their balance and fall, or don’t jump far enough, etc. just like other animals.  This was fixed in the new edition, but they added that rats “are masters of long-distance running,” and I disagree with that.


Column 1, middle paragraph 2: The statement “Rats can force their bodies through any crack their heads fit through” is a myth.  This is only true for particularly thin rats, and certainly not for most pet rats.


Page 16, Column 2, toward the bottom of teeth:  The statement “To keep [their teeth] short they must continually be abraded through gnawing” is a myth. Rats rub their incisors against each other in an action called bruxing to keep them the proper length and sharpness.  And this is only necessary for the incisors, not the molars.  The previous sentence implies that it is necessary for all the teeth.  The bizarre thing is that on page 77 he correctly explains this by saying “The rodent teeth…are automatically kept short, and they sharpen themselves…”  The new edition fixed this, but says bruxing is “unconscious” and I’m pretty sure rats know when they’re doing it.


Page 17

1st sentence: The statement “the outer ears open after 2 to 4 days” is not correct.  Their ears don’t open until they are 13 days old.  (And I have photos to prove it.)


Tail: The statement that “Rats’ tails re covered with horny scales that are fused into rings” is not true. While the scales on their tails are roughly organized into rings, they are not fused together and are regularly shed as individual scales.

The statement that “The skin of the tail is characterized by a predetermined breaking point” is not true.  The skin of the lower part of the tail will break and rip off when pulled, but the location of the rip depends on the pressure; it is not a predetermined location.  Both of these errors were fixed in the new edition.


Page 18, Sidebar: The warning “Make sure that the cage dweller never has an opportunity to look directly into a lamp or spotlight” is pretty silly.  Their eyes are not so sensitive that looking into a bare light bulb will blind them.  They will just close their eyelids if the light is too bright.


Page 20, column 2, paragraph 3: Here the term “house rats” is used for pets, where earlier in the book it was used for wild roof rats (Rattus rattus).  Very confusing.  This was fixed in the new edition.


Page 21: Strange that squeaks are left out.


Page 23

Paragraph 1: Repeats the myth that all pet rats are descended from lab rats.  Also repeated again in the second paragraph.  Both fixed in the new edition.

The statement “The first rats used for breeding were albino brown rats living in the wild…” is not correct.  The first domestic rats were actually solid black, because the mutation that caused the solid black color, as opposed to the wild brown-flecked agouti color, also modified neurotransmitters which made these black rats unusually docile.  Wild albino rats would not have carried this same gene and would have been just as wild as the wild agouti-colored rats.  This statement has been removed in the new edition.


Column 2, Eye Colors: There is no such color as “dark.”  The two dark eye colors in rats are black and ruby, which is a very dark red that appears black in most light.  Fixed in the new edition.


Sidebar: Most of this sidebar is wrong.  Because pet rats live indoors, and don’t need their fur for protection against cold and wet weather, a rat who has rex fur is under no disadvantage. And not all rex rats have thin fur anyway; some have very thick curly fur.  A “naked rat” (usually called a hairless) is actually more tolerant of heat than a furred rat.  And again, because they are pets, their lack of fur is no disadvantage. They are quite comfortable at normal room temperatures.  Deafness or poor hearing is not a problem seen in Dumbo rats.

The only true problem that can be seen in these fancy varieties of rats is with Manx rats, the same with Manx cats.  As long as Manx rats are properly bred, they are fine, although poor breeding practices can result in spinal and hip defects. But the tailless characteristic itself is no disadvantage to a pet rat.  In the new edition, they obviously attempted to correct the original statements, but the result is confusing.


Page 25, Column 1, Black Berkshire: The statement “The Berkshire’s fur is monochrome” is confusing. And the statement “Only the chest, belly and paws are of a different color” is misleading. All Berkshires have white markings on these areas, never any other color.  So a better way to say it would be “The Berkshire’s body is one color, while its chest, belly, and paws are white.”  This was fixed in the new edition.


Page 27, I have never heard the term “Creamwhite Check” before.  I guess it must be a translation from the German.  In English, the term for the rats with colored points is Siamese or Himalayan.  And both photos for this variety here are wrong. The photos are of silver fawn hooded rats, not Siamese or Himalayans.  In the new edition, the silver fawn hooded is correctly identified, but the caption still wrongly mentions points.


Page 29, I have never heard the term “Tricolor Check.”  This is not a term used for a rat variety either here in the U.S. or in Great Britain.  And the description of the “Tricolor Check” in Column 2 does not match the photo at all.


Page 32

I’m a little confused about the advice given in this chapter about housing. Some of it seems contradictory. For instance, on page 33, Column 1, paragraph 1, it says, “If the daily cage duties are set up to be toilsome and time-consuming, they often are performed only perfunctorily.” (This statement appears to be removed from the new edition.) I don’t know if he is referring to cleaning (which doesn’t necessarily need to be done daily) but looking at the picture of the ideal habitats shown, my first thought was, “Yes, they look marvelously fun for the rats, but what a pain to clean!”  I’m also confused when page 32 says that shelves, boards and particle board are good for elevated floors in the rat habitat because wood is quickly soaked with pee and chewed up by rats. (Seems to be fixed in the new edition.) Then, on page 35, Column 2, it says wood must be laminated or varnished, and plastic boards are best for elevated floors.  How confusing. Seems like even if the wood is varnished, rats would quickly chew spots that would start absorbing urine and odor. On page 43, paragraph 5, it says the boards can be varnished or covered with foil.  Foil?  Most rats would quickly tear up foil.


Column 1, paragraph 3: I’m confused about what a “cap” is in the boards.  Removed in the new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 3:  I disagree that rabbit and guinea pigs cages can’t be adapted to rats. Most of the ones I’ve seen are tall enough to have 2 levels. This has been removed in the new edition.


Page 34

Sidebar:  If a rat knows you, it will recognize your own scent, and doesn’t need you to wear a shirt that smells of rats. Rats also recognize their owner’s voice.


Column 2, paragraph 3:  Rats do not “catch cold”, and although they do get respiratory infections, a draft is not the cause, a bacteria or virus is.  This was fixed in the new edition.


Page 36

Bedding: Sawdust and wood pellets shouldn’t be recommended without discussing the type of wood used.  This was partially fixed in the new edition, but doesn’t recommend against pine.


House: I’m wondering why to steer clear of guinea pig houses?  This was taken out in the new edition.


Page 39

Tubes and Tunnels: The statement that rodent feet have no traction on smooth surfaces is not true.  Their feet actually are slightly moist and provide excellent traction on plastic, which can be easily demonstrated.  This error is repeated on page 40, column 2, under Tubes.  These were both taken out in the new edition.


Hammocks:  A cleaning rag is not suitable for a rat hammock as it will be quickly chewed and frayed into strings that can be tangled around their legs. Non-woven fabrics, such as fleece are much better suited to hammocks.  Not only was this taken out of the new edition , it warns against using rags and towels which can fray!


Digging Box, paragraph 2: Repeats the myth that rats must gnaw to keep their teeth from overgrowing.  Also, no self-respecting rat would ever chew on a pumice stone, ever.  Both of these fixed in the new edition.


Page 42, paragraph 3:  I highly disagree with the statement that a rat cage must be at least 3 feet tall.  In fact, I recommend longer cages, rather than taller ones, because rats have a tendency to mostly use the top levels of a cage.  If there are more than 2 levels, the lower levels will be neglected and are wasted space.  Plus, a cage that is too tall can present a falling danger for rats who aren’t quite as agile as they used to be.  In the new edition this is fixed and the book actually gives my advice. Very cool!


Page 47

Column 3, paragraph 1:  Softwood bedding contains natural toxins that have been shown to cause respiratory damage and enlarged livers.  This has been changed in the new edition.


Paragraph 3: Repeats the myth that respiratory disease in rats is caused by a draft of air.


Page 48

I have to say this is one of the cutest photos I’ve ever seen!


Page 50

Sidebar:  Why can’t rats travel in an escape-proof cage, instead of a box?  Fixed in the new edition.


Column 2, Contraceptive Measures:  Breeding can also be prevented by spaying the females, which has significant health benefits, unlike neutering. Spaying added in the new edition.


Page 56, Column 2, The Right Treatment:  A well-socialized rat will have no problems being picked up from above.


Page 58, Column 2, Friendship Treats:  The advice to refrain from normally giving your rats treats because the rat will consider you subordinate is silly.  It won’t, and even if it did, why would that matter?


Sidebar:  The phrase “Even though” at the beginning of this sentence should be changed to “When.”  Fixed in new edition.


Page 61, Column 2, Travel:  I highly disagree with the statement that travel should be avoided except in an emergency.  In my experience, most rats love to travel and enjoy the new experience.  Considering how much emphasis the author places on preventing boredom in pet rats, I’m really surprised he feels this way about travel. Rats as a species are very adaptable.  This is fixed in the new edition.


Page 62, Column 2:  When introducing rats for the first time, you should plan for it to take several meetings, and rather than let them fight, it is best to prevent any fights and try again later. Letting them fight can cause of the rats to become fearful of the other and reduce the chance of a successful introduction.  Fixed in the new edition.


Page 65, Column 2, bottom:  Repeats the myth that drafts cause disease.


Column 3, bottom:  A rat this shy needs special trust training.


Page 67

Subhead:  The statement that rats eat and digest everything is ridiculous.  There are many things rats won’t eat (especially sour foods), and some, like hay, that they can’t digest.  Totally fixed in the new edition, in fact, it’s my statement almost word for word!


Column 2, paragraph 1: The statement “Rodent lab blocks can be too high in fat for a pet’s diet,” is wrong.  The lab blocks are actually quite low in fat.  Fixed in new edition.


Bottom of the paragraph: alfalfa hay is not digestible by rats, and when rats are given the cheap seed mixes that include alfalfa pellets the pellets are usually let behind uneaten.  I actually use alfalfa pellets as litter in my rat cages!  Taken out of new edition.


Page 68

Column 1, paragraph 2:  The statement “You can give your rodents prepared food with meat as a sole food source,” makes no sense.  What does this mean?  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 2:  The statement “With seed foods, remove the shells and husks,” is ridiculous.  Rats are perfectly able to remove these themselves and will; they won’t eat them.  Taken out of new edition.  However, now it says raisins are fattening. No more than any other dried fruit.


Paragraph 3: The statement “A lack of food for even 5 to 6 hours can cause circulatory problems,” is wrong.  I can’t imagine where he got this idea.  Fixed in the new edition.


Page 69

Column 1, paragraph 2:  It is not necessary nor desirable for fruit to be available in the cage at all times.  The statement “A slightly heaping soupspoon of a balanced commercial diet…” is a bad statement.  The amount of food necessary will depend on the brand of food.  Both fixed in the new edition.


Paragraph 3:  The statement “Rats cannot get by without a supplement of animal-based food,” is wrong. A commercial food will supply all they need in this regard.  This was taken out in the new edition.  However, the paragraph is confusing because it talks about protein foods causing allergies, and recommends contacting a vet, but because it then it goes on to give suggestions for protein treats, it seems as they are the solution to the allergy.


Page 70

Column 1, paragraph 1: Again, a repeat of the myth that the rats need to gnaw to wear their teeth down.  Taken out of the new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 2:  In my opinion, it is not necessary to empty the water bottles every day.  I only do so when the bottle needs to be refilled.  Changed in the new edition!  However, it is stated again on page 73.


Sidebar:  Although I don’t recommend keeping rats on a wire floor, this practice will not interfere with the consumption of the cecal pellets, which are eaten directly from the anus.  Fixed in the new edition.


Page 71

Column 1, paragraph 2:  Cabbage is perfectly safe for rats to eat.  Fixed in new edition.


Paragraph 3:  There is no reason why pet rats can’t be given small amounts of leftover human foods.  I do it all the time, and it can be a great source of variety in their diet.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 72:  Column 1, paragraph 4: You almost never see the cecal droppings, which are eaten directly from the anus.


Column 2, paragraph 2:  “Nursing Sick Animals. Power bars and similar calorie bombs are only for sick and weak rats.”  For sick rats you want to give powdered soy infant formula, mixed fairly thick, not something like a power bar.


Column 2, paragraph 10:  The dishes certainly can be placed against the bars of the cage.  Pet rats do not run along the walls of their cage.  This appears to have been moved to page 38, first paragraph, in the new edition.


Page 76, Column 3: The idea that a rat will only take a few bites of a favored treat and then make it available to the others is not true. Depending on the size of the treat, the rat is likely to eat the whole thing.


Page 77, Column 2:  Here he correctly explains about how the length and sharpness of the incisors are maintained by grinding together, but he does make an error.  He says ““The rodent teeth, which have no roots…” which is incorrect.  Rodent incisors do have roots, they are just open roots, as opposed to the closed roots of most teeth.  Also, by saying “rodent teeth” instead of rodent incisors, he implies that their molars also grow continuously, which they do not.  Both fixed in new edition.


Page 78, Subhead:  The statement  Rats…rarely get sick,” is wrong. Unfortunately, respiratory disease, heart disease and tumors are very common in rats, and almost all rats get one of these or some other illness at some point in their lives.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 79, Column 2, paragraph 3:  While I also believe that rats need plenty to do to keep them from being bored, the statement that boredom makes them sick has no basis in fact.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 80

Column 1, paragraph 2:  Urine-marking can be reduced or stopped by having the rats spayed or neutered.  Fixed in new edition.


Photo caption page 80, and Bottom paragraph of Column 1 page 81:  I question the benefits of a sand bath for rats.  This is not a natural practice of rats.  Because rats lick groom themselves more thoroughly than the animals that do require it (gerbils, chinchillas) I think they might ingest the dust.  Plus they could also inhale it, and considering their tendency toward respiratory disease, I don’t think this is s a good idea.  Fixed in new edition, using my words!


Page 82,

Column 1, paragraph 2:  Seems like this section should be about bathing, not water games.


Column 2, paragraph 4:  There is no reason why soap can’t be used to clean a rat cage.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 83, Sidebar:  The recommendation to lift a rat by its hind legs and pat it on the back is a good recipe for broken legs!  The rat must be firmly held by the body.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 84,  Column 1: Wild rats in the wild rarely live beyond the age of 1 year due to predation, injury and disease.   Fixed in new edition by adding my own words.


Page 85

Section 4:  Repeats the myth that a draft causes respiratory disease in rats.  Modified in new edition.


Section 6: Again the myth that gnawing keeps the teeth short.  Should insert the word “helps.”  The new edition added “helps” but changed it to keeping the teeth clean, rather than short.  Not necessary.


Page 86

Column 2, paragraph 2: There is no way that the lack of intermediate floors in a cage will make rats sick!  Fixed in new edition.


Paragraph 4: Lack of materials to gnaw will not make rats sick, and it is unlikely that leftovers from human food will, unless they are spoiled.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 87:

Beathing problems are also commonly caused by congestive heart failure in older rats.  Heart failure added in new edition!


A small amount of red discharge from the eyes or nose can be normal.  It’s not a symptom unless it is an excessive amount.  New edition added “copious.”


Hair loss can also be caused by barbering, another rat nibbling off fur.  Barbering added in new edition.


It is very rare for any kind of food to cause a rat to have a hard abdomen.  This symptom is most likely to be caused by a cancer in the abdomen, or a genetic problem of the intestines.


Rat do not get ear mites in the same way dogs, cats and rabbits do, and this cannot cause a loss of balance.  Removed in new edition.


The symptom of “Tumors” should actually be “Lumps” since they aren’t always tumors.  New edition added “and Other Enlargements.”


Page 88

Photo caption:  Separating a sick rat is not necessary to prevent contagion, and can actually cause harm by stressing the sick rat.  By the time symptoms are seen, the other rats have already been exposed. 


Column 1, paragraph 1: “isolate it from the colony.”  See note above.  Repeated on page 89, paragraph 3.


if not well in one day, consult a vet.”  A lethargic rat should be treated immediately, or it could die.


Paragraph 2:  Drafts and dry or damp air do not cause respiratory infections in rats.  And it is wrong to refer to rats getting colds because it should not be confused with the human cold.  Modified in new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 2, Symptoms: Fails to distinguish between mycoplasma symptoms and a secondary infection.


Column 2, Treatment:  The idea that a “mild cold” can be treated with a heat lamp is dangerous and not helpful.  Removed in new edition.


Page 89, Column 2, paragraph 1: It isn’t true that treatment for parasites is “almost always prolonged.” Lice and mites can be eliminated with one treatment of selamectin or moxidectin.


Page 89

Column 1:  Bumblefoot occurs in males and females with about the same frequency, and it does not form an abscess.  Rats with bumblefoot don’t always limp. The part about limping removed from new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 1:  Parasites are not caused or increased by improper living conditions, they are caused by exposure to infested rats.  Fixed in new edition.


Symptoms:  There is only one parasite, the rat mange mite, that causes scabs on the ears, and they are very rare.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 90

Column 1, paragraph 1:  It is useless to separate rats with parasites from the group, as they all have already been exposed, and separation is stressful and can be harmful.  All the animals must be treated anyway.


Paragraph 2:  It is extremely rare for roundworms to cause any problems in rats.  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 1:  It would be more accurate to say “lumps” rather than “swellings.”  Fixed in new edition.


Page 91

Stomach and intestinal ailments:  Since this whole section is supposed to be about the most common illnesses in rats, this subhead shouldn’t even be in here, since stomach and intestinal ailments are rare in rats. Worms are rarely a problem. They never get hairballs in their stomach almost never swallow foreign objects large enough to cause a problem.  I’ve never heard of problems from a rat eating plastic.  The part about plastic removed in the new edition.


Discharge from Nose and Eyes:  Rat tears always contain the red pigment porphyrin, it doesn’t turn red when the rat is sick.  Various problems can cause the eyes to water, resulting in an increased production and deposition of the pigment.  Fixed in new edition.


Ear Infections

Lumping together bacterial infections inside the ear with a mite infestation of the outer ear is very confusing.  They are totally different problems and do not cause the same symptoms.


Checklist, bottom section:  It is absolutely not true that rats and humans can exchange colds and flus.  The only possible transmission is strep throat from human to rat.   Fixed in new edition.


Page 92

Column 1, paragraph 1: An inner ear infection does not cause a rat to stagger; it causes their head to tilt to one side, and if it’s really bad they can roll.


Tooth problems:  Excessive growth of the incisors only occurs when the teeth are unable to grind together.  The teeth don’t just overgrow.  Providing material to gnaw on will not prevent a problem of the teeth overgrowing.  Fixed in new edition!


Column 2

Wounds and injuries:  It is very rare for an abscess to cause the rat to feel unwell or in pain.  The only usual symptom is a lump.  The statement that even apparently harmless bite wounds must be treated by a vet is untrue.  Most wounds and injuries, even a broken leg, will usually heal quite well and quickly on their own.  A laceration a half inch long will be healed by the next day! 

Treatment:  Putting alcohol on a wound is a good way to get bitten by a rat!  Ouch!


Caring for Sick Rats:  Incorrect information repeated here about separating sick rats, avoiding drafts, treating with a heat lamp.  In the new edition, they kept the part about isolation and drafts, and added “Don’t use heating pads, heat lamps, or other warmers,” which is even more wrong than treating with a heat lamp.  You want to use a heating pad when a rat is having trouble maintaining their body temperature!


Page 93

Homeopathy: This requires special training, for instance, you cannot touch the little globules with your hand.


Page 94

Column 2, paragraph 2:  One of the joys of pet rats is letting them lick your hand. This is not harmful, as long as the hands are washed afterwards.  Modified in new edition.


Column 3, bottom:  It is extremely rare to see any problem with a rat’s molars.  That is that last thing that should be considered when a rat refuses to eat.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 95, Column 3, paragraph 2:  The incorrect info about separating a sick rat to prevent contagion is repeated here.


Page 99, Column 2: Too bad there isn’t a picture of a climbing tree in the book.


Page 103


Rather than “wire mesh running wheels” I think he means those made from bars.  There is one brand of wheel made of quarter-inch mesh which is perfectly safe.  Fixed in new edition.


Plastic running balls are just fine for rats if they are large enough.  Fixed in new edition.


Again, I’ve never heard of harm to a rat from chewing plastic.  Fixed in new edition.


Wire mesh food balls:  This is not a likely danger at all.  Fixed in new edition.


Plastic running tubes: again, their feet are moist and have plenty of traction on smooth plastic.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 104, Column 2, paragraph 2:  Hamster tubes are unsuitable for rats not because of their smooth surface, but because they are too narrow.  Deleted from new edition.


Page 106, Column 2, under sidebar: a 12-inch wheel is fine for smaller rats.  Fixed in new edition, however it goes on to say that most cages won’t have enough room for a large wheel, which is certainly not true.


Page 107

Column 1, Wood:  This first sentence is really confusing.  It appears to be fixed in the new edition, but the very explanation shows why it was not good to recommend shelves made of wood earlier in the book.


Plastic: Myth that it is too slippery for traction repeated,; also that rats will swallow plastic.  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2, Textiles:  Linen is not appropriate as it easily ravels into threads that can get tangled around a rat’s leg.  Fixed in new edition.


Everything that Moves:  I assume the rubber mentioned here would be hard rubber, as soft rubber would not be suitable. Repeats an earlier false warning against mesh balls, and warns against wool balls.  Why?  Does he mean yarn?


Page 108

Column 1, Freestyle Wrestling:  Rats play more gently than kittens and puppies and use their teeth gently.  To forbid a child playing this game with a rat is a shame.  If the rat uses its teeth too hard, the human just needs to squeak and the rat will play more gently.  Modified in new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 1:  Forbidding people to take a rat shopping or on a stroll is just too restrictive and removes one of the great joys of pet rats. Many pet rats ride their owner’s shoulder, or in a sweatshirt hood or pocket, or in a snuggle pouch safely.  At the very most, suggesting the rat wear a harness, and the owner bring along a carrier for emergencies, and suggestion common sense will allow rats and their owners this fun activity.  Fixed in new edition.


A Heart for Old-Timers

A rat who gets out of breath is sick, not just old, and needs treatment for respiratory and/or heart disease.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 112, Subhead: Rats can reach sexual maturity at 5-6 weeks, not 8 weeks.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 113

Paragraph 1: says rats can mate at 7-8 weeks, should be 5-6 weeks.  He does explain this in paragraph 2.  If paragraph 1 is talking about wild rats, it should say so.  Fixed in new edition.


Paragraph 2:  The average litter size of 8 is for wild rats, for domestic rats it is 12.  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2, bottom:  Saying “Without purchasers these young animals will end up in an animal shelter or will simply be let go,” is a poor statement.  It almost sounds like he is suggesting that everyone will, or should, do this.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 114, Column 1: Repeats the error that sexual maturity occurs at 7-8 weeks.  Although it’s not recommended to let rats mate at this age, amazingly if they do get pregnant, most take excellent care of their babies.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 115

Column 1, paragraph 1:  The statement “If the female is no longer receptive, a vaginal plug forms…” is wrong.  The vaginal plug is composed of male ejaculate, and has nothing to do with whether or not the female is still receptive.  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2:  The gestation period of rats is actually 21-23 days.  Fixed in new edition.

her teats swell”  This is an error I missed in the first edition.  There is no noticeable change in the mammary glands or nipples of a pregnant rat.


Page 116, Sidebar:  A male rat can be neutered at 6 weeks of age, and older than 18 months if necessary.  I’ve never heard of a neutered male being potent for longer than 4 weeks after the surgery.  The last sentence neglects the fact that spaying a female rat significantly reduces her chance of getting mammary tumors, pituitary tumors, and diseases of the reproductive tract.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 117

Column 1, paragraph 1:  The average litter for domestic rats is 12.  The statement “But breeders stop using animals that have already given birth 6 or 7 times,” cannot be made with any certainty.  Some breeders stop breeding them sooner, some later.  Fixed in new edition.


Paragraph 3:  It is much more common for the birth to occur during the day.  In the wild, this is when the mother would be safely in her burrow.  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 1:  The error of the average litter size repeated again. Fixed in new edition.


Paragraph 2:  It is very wrong to recommend not touching the babies for a week.  Rats who are handled from birth make much better pets, and it is a myth that the mother will harm the babies if they are touched.  Fixed in new edition!


Page 118

Column 2, paragraph 2:  Mother rats will nurse their babies for 6 weeks, not just 3 weeks.  And rats have 6 pairs of nipples, 3 clustered on the chest and 3 clustered on the abdomen, not 8 pairs.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 120

Column 2, paragraph 1:  There is no need to separate the sexes at 4 weeks.  They don’t have to be separated until 5 weeks of age, as they can’t become sexually active any sooner than this.  Fixed in new edition.


Paragraph 2:   Female rats do not stop growing until 6 months, and males not until at least 8 months.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 121, Column 1, paragraph 2:  Rats handled from birth will be much more trusting.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 122, Column 1, paragraph 4:  Rats can become sexually mature at 5-6 weeks., so babies should be separated by gender at 5 weeks.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 123

Column 1, paragraph 2:  I have never seen any scientific proof that female rats can store sperm.  As far as I can see, this is a myth.  Fixed in new edition.


Column 3, paragraph 3:  Baby rats start sampling solid food shortly after they turn 2 weeks old, and if allowed by humans, they will nurse for 6 weeks.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 125

Column 1, paragraph 2:  The statement “From the outside it is difficult to judge how serious these conflicts are,” is not true.  An experienced rat keeper will have no problem determining this.  Perhaps it should say, “From the outside it can be difficult…”  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2, paragraph 1:  I don’t know if I missed this in the first edition.  A nursing mother will always fiercely attack any new rat, not just “behave coldly toward” it.


Page 126

Column 1, Cause:  A rat may still be fearful, shy, or distrustful even if the owner has already tried to win its trust.  Fixed in new edition.


Remedy:  The suggestion to take out the house and hiding places is cruel, and will stress the fearful rat even more.  Trust training can be done without this drastic step.  I suggest a slightly different form of trust training using soft food on a spoon which is very effective.  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2, Cause of Biting:  Many male rats bite due to too much testosterone, and the only way to stop them is to have them neutered.  The new edition adds a sentence about neutering at the end of the remedy.


Remedy:  I do not recommend the sock over the hand thing. A rat can still bite you quite well though the sock if it really wants to.  The new edition adds a heavy glove under the sock!  I do not recommend the glove method either.


Page 129

Column 1, paragraph 2:  There is no way a rat is going to eat a pill smuggled in food!  Fixed in new edition.



I believe the statement “Intolerance of other pack members on the part of the old and weak animals” is backwards.  This sounds like the old and weak members are intolerant, but occasionally it is the other way around—but only very rarely, so this doesn’t belong on a list of common behavioral problems.  The new edition changed it to “Intolerance of old and weak animals by younger, stronger ones,” which is more clear, but it still rarely happens.


Restlessness is most commonly caused by respiratory distress, not parasites.  Sort of fixed in the new edition. Uses the word “nervousness” instead of restlessness.


The sound of the contented grinding to sharpen teeth is different than the sound of agitated tooth chattering.  Fixed in new edition.


Page 132

Sidebar:  “Walking the path of love”?  Why not just say she is in heat?  Fixed in new edition.


Column 2

The statement that “Many rats live to be 5 or 6 years old” is wrong.  This is rare, so it should say “A few rats live to be 5 or 6.” Fixed in new edition.


Physical signs of age:

General: Sunken sides is a symptom of respiratory disease, not old age.  The phrase “Thoracic flank respiration” is confusing.  Thoracic refers to the chest.  The flank is the area between the ribs and the hip. Flank breathing is normal, but chest breathing is not normal, not a sign of aging, but is a sign of respiratory and/or heart disease.  Modified in new edition, but sunken sides is still a symptoms of diease, not old age.


Unkempt fur is a sign of disease, not old age. 


Teeth:  Here’s that myth again.  Overgrown teeth are only caused by a medical problem, such as malocclusion (strange that he never uses this term), tooth abscess or jaw disease. Overgrown teeth are not caused by lack of hard food.  Modified in new edition, which says “Old rats may cease bruxing.”  I have never seen this happen.  Overgrown teeth is caused by disease, not old age.


Page 133, Column 2, paragraph 3:  Loss of appetite or lowered fluid intake are symptoms of disease, not old age.


Page 134

Column 1, paragraph 5: I would not even put a climbing rope in an old rat’s cage.


Column 2, paragraph 3:  A sick rat should not be euthanized without attempting medical treatment first.

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