Dwarf rats do not come from somewhere over the rainbow and are not like Munchkin Cats with the shortened limbs that are characteristic of their specific genetic mutation. Here is a great explanation of what a Dwarf rat is:
Excerpt: ‘Dwarf Rats’ by Debbi J. Neeham, 2005
The spontaneous dwarf rat (SDR) was found in a laboratory colony of Sprague Dawley rats in 1977. It is a recessive mutation that causes them to have reduced GH or Growth Hormone which causes them to be up 40-75% smaller than their normal-sized counterparts, and in fact, a little larger than some fancy English mice. Dwarf rats have been found to be resistant to some cancers, as scientists have studied the effect of chemically induced cancer on dwarf rats and found dwarfs do not develop cancerous tumors like typically sized rats due to their lack of Growth Hormone. That is great news for those whom keep rats in the rat fancy!
Do you love your standard size rats but sometimes wish they could have stayed the size when you first got them? Enter the Dwarf Rat! Standard size rat personality and charm wrapped up in baby rat size. Coming in at about 1/3rd the size of a standard rat (with 1/3rd the amount of cleanup!!) Dwarf rats have also been seen to live slightly longer than their standard counterparts I think due largely to the decreased size of a standard rat and instance of tumors/cancer. WIN WIN in my book.
Dwarfs have some other characteristics that you should become familiar with to spot a true genetic dwarf as opposed to a runt, or rats that have been bred down in size over generations. Dwarfs have large eyes in proportion to their heads. This gives them that perpetual baby look like puppies and other baby animals. Their feet are smaller, but more proportionate to their size, and their tails are shorter and thinner without thickening at the base like a standard rat’s tail does. Here are some great pictures that capture those differences, courtesy of Atlantis Rattery.
My Dwarf line was a bit of an experiment as I had no experience prior to my first breeding attempt, but it turned me into a complete dwarf lover and has been extremely successful. I LOVE my dwarfs; I wish they were more popular, I would miniaturize my entire rattery. I have enjoyed some wonderful surprises, like Merle Dwarf when trying for American Blue – go figure. Those are in breeding now, RROW Valentino and RROW Chanel. A big thank you to Atlantis Rattery and Rambling Rats Rattery for my foundation dwarfs/dwarf carriers that were bred to begin my lines. I have found my lines to have superior temperaments, readily accepting of any rat they are introduced to, and eagerly seeking attention from me and visitors to the rattery. They are usually the first to be hanging off the front of the cage wanting scritches and enjoy time outside the cage riding shoulders or dozing in pockets.
One of my first Dwarf Bucks has become Georgie’s sidekick and cagemate, and showed me just how fearless these little guys are. Even as a wee baby, this rex fluffball would launch himself out of the top of a double critter nation cage as soon as I opened the door, not touching the sides and base-jump to the floor with his little legs spread-eagle. He earned his name ROAR Stuntman! He still does it, I just know to stand in front of the door and he lands on my chest and he skitters up to sit on my shoulder to groom himself.
Speaking of fearless, my Dwarfs live quite happily with my standard rats, in groups of either boys or girls. I often find them cuddled up together using each other as pillows. Standards seem to not find the Dwarfs intimidating enough to bother with them, and the Dwarfs are fearless of the standards and are quite happy to roll a pushy standard and put him/her in their place.
Dwarfs are active in their cages and despite their size do like and need a large cage. They love to run on wheels so make sure you find a quiet one. They can have a tendency to get overweight if they are kept in cramped cages or not given access to a wheel. I find mine enjoy ‘hand games’ and playing tag. Outside of the cage they are really quite cuddly and calm, and are often my travel buddies on trips to the drive-thru, sitting on the top of my headrest in the car. Note in the video below those are some of the biggest rats I have ever owned and one of the smallest dwarf bucks in my rattery. He is running on a 17" wheel - HIS wheel.
In case you are interested, the wheel is one I made myself, this is the large 17", I also have a medium 12" that is perfect for females. They come in lots of different colors and are completely silent as I use inline skate bearings. I can make them to order.
If you have any questions about Dwarf rats, would like to come and visit Stuntman, or maybe pick up a dwarf or two of your own, feel free to contact me here. See you at the Rattery Soon!!!