Dumbo Rat – It’s not all about the ears!

Dumbo rats make adorable and charming pets, with their over-sized ears and friendly personalities. If you want a lovable, low-maintenance pet, the dumbo rat might just be the pet for you. What do you need to know about these cute rats, and how should you take care of one?

This guide to adopting and caring for dumbo rats will cover:

  • Dumbo rat looks and appearance
  • Dumbo rat activity and lifestyle
  • Dumbo rat diet
  • Dumbo rat habitat
  • Dumbo rat healthcare
  • Tips for dumbo rat adoption
  • Do dumbo rats make good pets?

Dumbo Rat Characteristics and Physical Appearance

The dumbo rat belongs to the same species as other fancy rats, Rattus norvegicus. They’re the same size and colors as other rats; their only major physical distinction is their large ears. Most rats have smaller, oval-shaped ears, but dumbo rats’ ears are round and sit higher up on their head. Because of their ears, they’re named after the cartoon character Dumbo the Elephant.

In addition to their unique ears, dumbo rats also usually have slightly bigger heads and slightly smaller jaws than other rats.

Dumbo rats have red or black eyes. They typically weigh about one pound and can be between 15 and 22 inches long. They have short, straight hair which comes in a variety of colors, including:

  • Black
  • White
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Blue
  • Combination of two or three colors

The physical differences between dumbo rats and other fancy rats are due to a genetic mutation; dumbo rats and fancy rats are the same species. Large ears are a recessive trait, so it must be present in both parents for a dumbo rat to be born with them. As the large, round ears are a recessive trait, dumbo rats are far less common than other types of rats. 

Dumbo rat close up

Dumbo Rat Activity and Lifestyle

Dumbo rats are active, like most rats. Letting them live in a large cage is nice, but you should also let them out for at least one hour per day. When you let them out, try to keep them in a contained area such as a pen. Dumbo rats love to climb and are very fast, and they’ll have no problem getting into small entryways that aren’t blocked off.

Dumbo rats also like to chew, so make sure there are no wires or delicate items on the floor. Try giving your dumbo rat an empty toilet paper roll so it has something to chew on or play with when it’s outside its cage. Other great toys are PVC pipes, wooden blocks, and paper they can shred. To keep your pet rat healthy and fit, you can teach it to play fetch.

Dumbo rats make such great pets because they are friendly and sociable. They take easily to their human owners and don’t mind being picked up. They are mild-mannered and aren’t generally prone to biting. Dumbo rats are also intelligent and you can teach them tricks.

These rats love bonding with humans as well as other rats. If you don’t have the time to devote to your rat to create a social bond, then you may seriously consider getting another rat for social interaction.

Dumbo Rat Diet

When you first bring your pet dumbo rat home, start with rat pellets. These pellets will have ingredients full of nutrients your rat needs – avoid getting pellets meant for other rodents as these food mixes won’t help your dumbo rat’s diet. 

Some Dumbo rats can be picky eaters. If that’s the case with your rat, try switching to a pellet mix that contains more than just seeds. When deciding how many pellets to give your rat, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

You can supplement the rat pellets with fruit, vegetables, and other sources of protein, including:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Boiled eggs
  • Cooked chicken

Limit the amount of fruit you give your pet dumbo rat, as too much sugar can be bad for their health. Your dumbo rat also needs a lot of water, so its water bottle should be filled and clean at all times.

If you want to give your rat treats, you can purchase treat sticks to feed your pet dumbo rat in moderation.

Dumbo Rat Habitat

Dumbo rats need a spacious cage to live in. The minimum size for two dumbo rats is 24 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches. Put platforms or more than one level in the cage so your rat can move around and exercise. Wire cages are an ideal option, but only if the bottom of the cage isn’t wire or you cover it with sufficient bedding. Standing on a wire cage floor all the time can hurt your rat’s feet.

The cage’s bedding should be one of the following three types:

  • Shredded paper
  • Recycled newspaper
  • Aspen shavings

Avoid wood or pine shavings as bedding because they’re treated with chemicals that can cause health problems for your pet rat.

In addition to lots of space and multiple levels, a dumbo rat’s cage should have space for your rat to hide when it feels like it. Rats are sociable creatures, so it may be best to adopt a same-sex pair and put them together in one cage.

Keeping Your Dumbo Rat Healthy

The lifespan of a dumbo rat ranges between two and four years. If you want your rat to live up to four years, though, you must be attentive to its health. A vet should give your rat a checkup at a young age, to identify any potential problems early. You also take your rat to the vet for periodic exams throughout its life.

Other common health problems amongst dumbo rats include:

  • Lung problems: Ensure their food and bedding is dust-free. Store food in sealed, dry containers and clean your rat’s cage frequently.
  • Obesity: Always feed your rat the correct amount and don’t go overboard with the treats. Let your rat out of its cage each day so it has a chance to run around as well.
  • Parasites: Consult your vet about the best flea medication for your pet.
  • Overgrown teeth: To keep your pet rat’s teeth filed down, give it some hard dog biscuits or unprocessed wood to chew on.
  • Tumors: Tumors are common with rats, so handle them regularly and feel for bumps. Female dumbo rats tend to get mammary gland tumors.
  • Red tears: Your rat’s tear glands might secret a red liquid called porphyrin. It’s caused by stress and poor living conditions.
  • Incisor malocclusion: In addition to having overgrown teeth, rats can have misaligned teeth. Misalignment can be painful and cause your rat to stop eating.

Tips for Adopting a Pet Dumbo Rat

Dumbo rats aren’t as common as other fancy rats so they’re harder to find in the U.S. You can expect to pay between $10 and $20 for your pet dumbo rat. If you’re adopting a dumbo rat from a breeder, ensure they’re reputable and don’t maltreat the rats. Some good places to look for breeders in the U.S. are:

A good breeder will be able to recommend different breeds of rats based on your needs, and a rat raised by a professional breeder is more likely to be healthy than rats from pet stores and amateur breeders. A reputable breeder will also be able to advise on you caring for your new pet rat, including tips on nutrition, exercise, socialization, and personality. 

You can also look for a dumbo mouse in local shelters, as many of them rescue rats. Start with the Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet website to search shelters with dumbo rats in your area.

The most important thing to remember when adopting a pet dumbo rat for the first time is to do your research. Don’t rush into adopting an animal and bringing it into your home without understanding the care and financial responsibilities first. Luckily, there are several resources available online to help you learn about dumbo rats so you can prepare yourself before adopting one.

Are Dumbo Rats Good Pets?

Dumbo rats make great pets. While they do have some care requirements and you may encounter some health issues with your dumbo rat, pet rats are generally low-maintenance compared to other small and exotic animals. Their loving personalities also endear dumbo rats to their owners and their mild temperaments make them suitable for homes with small children.

Do dumbo rats bite?

Dumbo rats rarely bite. They’re not aggressive rats usually, so if they do bite or attempt to bite you, it’s usually because they’re very afraid or stressed. If you handle your pet rat properly and show it the love it deserves, it shouldn’t be aggressive with you.

Can dumbo rats live alone?

Technically, dumbo rats can live alone. They love social interaction, though, so if they live alone you should plan to devote a great deal of time to playing with them or paying attention to them. If that’s not possible for you, you can adopt a second dumbo rat so the two of them can interact and stay stimulated and happy.

Are dumbo rats bigger than fancy rats?

In terms of body size, dumbo rats are approximately the same size as other fancy rats. The only major difference is their ears, which are larger and rounder than those of fancy rats. Dumbo rats’ heads are also slightly bigger as well. 

Final Thoughts on Dumbo Rats as Pets

If you’re looking for a lovable, intelligent, friendly pet that doesn’t require a ton of work, then the dumbo rat might be the pet for you. Although these adorable rats aren’t as difficult to take care of as other household pets, they still do need love, care, and attention from you in order to thrive. As long as you do your research and care for your dumbo rat well, you’ll have a cute pet who loves spending time with you.

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