A lot of people who own rats will, at some point, think about breeding them.
But a lot of people don't think hard enough.
Breeding any animal is not something that should be done on a whim, it requires a huge amount of dedication, time, money and knowledge.
There are thousands of animals sitting homeless in shelters right now, and if we are going to be bringing even more animals into the world, we need to make sure we're doing it for the right reasons.
The right reasons do not include: money, wanting to see 'the miracle of birth', or 'wanting cute babies'.
We should only be breeding if we think that by doing so, we are doing a service to the rat as a species.
A good breeder will only breed from the healthiest, friendliest and most long-lived rats, therefore ensuring that the offspring are also healthy, friendly and long lived.
It is thanks to good breeders that rats are now having less instances of respiratory problems and tumours, and living longer lives.
This has not happened overnight, and it has taken much hard work and dedication on the part of responsible breeders. If it were not for these people, we would still have rats dropping dead at a year of age from respiratory infections.
But every time someone breeds a litter of rats without thought, without knowing their background or health history, it undoes that good work.
Breeding is something that needs to be taken seriously, and far too many people will breed a litter then dump it on the nearest pet shop or rescue center.
First, it is important to understand that there is no money to be had in breeding rats. People who breed do so for a love of the animal and a desire to see it improved as a species. If you set out to make money, you'll be sorely disappointed. In fact, chances are you will actually lose money.
You will need a spare tank to use as a nursery for the mum and babies
you will need to be prepared to pay vets bills if she has birth complications and needs to see a vet (and since rats like to give birth at night, this might even involve calling out an emergency vet) And be prepared to pay out for a cesaerian if she needs one.
Mum's with growing babies eat a lot of food, and a good deal of this must be high protein, human grade food like scrambled egg, chicken, kale etc
You will need yet more spare tanks to seperate the boys and the girls
You will need spare cages in case you cannot home the babies and need to keep them. It is not acceptable to simply dump the babies at a rescue center or pet shop. A good breeder must be prepared to keep each and every baby they cannot find a home for. You brought them into the world, its your responsibility to look after them.
You will need to keep, house, feed and clean all the babies for at least six weeks before rehoming them.
When you take all this into account, then consider that baby rats only sell for a few pounds each, you can see how making money off breeding rats isn't realistic.
Breeding healthy, long lived rats with wonderful temperament takes a lot of work, personal sacrifice and heart-ache
As a rescuer, nothing is more disheartening that seeing yet another person decide to breed a litter of rats for the wrong reasons. Its lunacy when you think how many get euthanised every day because there aren't enough homes for them.
Thats not to say no-one should ever breed.
I fully support ethical breeding, and we need new people to get into it regularly as breeders don't live forever!
If you are genuinely interested in becoming an ethical rat breeder to help breed healthier, friendlier, longer lived rats, then it is best to get mentored, at least for your first litter.
Find a breeder you like the ethics of, and ask if they would like to mentor you.
A lot of breeders are happy to do this.
By having a mentor, you have someone there who has experience and has been through it all before. They can advise you, help you, and guide you. This is a far better than going in blind, when you may not have anyone to help you if things go wrong.
A good breeder can provide you with the right rats to start your breeding line from. Remember, you need good quality, healthy, long lived rats with clear family histories in order to breed properly. You cannot just buy a male and female from the local pet shop and put them together; you would have absolutely no clue what health issues you may be breeding into the offspring.
A vet can tell you if a rat is healthy right now, but he cannot tell you if it is carrying any genetic health issues, like cancer. This only becomes apparent once the rat is affected by it, but a rat can still carry it and pass it onto the offspring and you'd never know until it was too late.
This is why we use rats with a proven health history to breed from; we know they're not carrying anything nasty and we know they're healthy, sound rats.
Just remember that if you're going to breed, its about the rats first and foremost, and all decisions taken should be for their welfare before anything else. If you are not prepared to put your rats and litters at the top of your priority list, please do not breed.