Whether the rats you are homing are rescues, a suprise litter from a female you took in, or babies you have carefully planned, you will want to ensure that they go to the very best of homes. A home needs to fulfil your expectations as to what environment and care they are willing and able to offer. Remember, these are your rats, and they deserve an excellent life once they leave the safety of your own home. There are many ways to protect them and ensure that your involvement with them continues throughout their lives.
Advertising your rats
In order to home your rats you will need to make suitable groups of people aware that they are available. Even before babies are born you can begin the process of finding excellent homes for them. There are a number of ways that you can let prospective new owners know about your rats.
Word of mouth
Word of mouth can be a great way of finding homes for your kittens. This can take many forms be it talking to people at rat shows or on internet forums. Information about your litter can reach not only the people you talk to but also their friends who are looking for rats.
A personal website
There is little doubt that the internet now plays a large part in the rat world and it is often the first place many people will look when wishing to acquire new rats. Try setting a website up for yourself stating who you are, and with details and photographs of your kittens/adults who are looking for new homes. Alternatively if you are friends with any breeders who already have their own website why not ask them if they would be willing to raise the profile of your rehomes.
Rat club resources
This varies from club to club but many have specific kitten lists, websites, forums and newsletters where you can advertise rats that need a new home.
There are online lists for the advertisement of rats needing homes. The main example for rats is Find A Furry. Details of how to get your rats listed are available at the site.
Some online communities (like this one) allow the advertising of rescues and some rehomes.
Shop windows, vet surgeries, pet shops (that don't sell animals) are all local places that you could consider advertising you rats. As always you will need to be vigilant in checking prospective owners prior to homing. Ask lots of questions and try and visit them to see the environment they live in and the cages they will keep the rats in.
If you end up needing help to rehome your rats you may decide to approach a dedicated rat/rodent rescue. Examples of excellent rescue organisations are Pet Rescue UK and Cavy Rescue.
Whatever methods you choose it is important when advertising your rats to include as much detail as possible and ideally, some pictures of the rats. You might wish to say who the dam and sire are (if known), their variety, how many kittens there are and of what sex and variety. Include their date of birth and the date that they will be ready to leave you. Consider also how you will get them to their new homes. Do you want people to collect them from your home? Would you be happy to meet people halfway? Let people know if you can arrange transport (possibly via a show) beyond your immediate area.
You will need to clarify in your own mind how you would define an ‘excellent home’. How many other rats are you willing to let your babies share their humans with? Do you mind them sharing their environment with other animals (especially natural predators such as cats and snakes)? Are you going to encourage new owners to use a particular type of bedding? Feed a particular diet? What kind of veterinary care will your babies receive? How big do you require their living space to be? Would you expect them to be handled daily? If the prospective owner is in rented accomodation would you want their landlord to know about the rats?
Once you have resolved these issues in your head you may wish to design an application form that you can send out/email or give to prospective new owners.
‘Vetting’ a home
Having advertised your litter people will begin to approach you for your kittens, and you will need to have a system for vetting each potential enquirer. The first contact will generally be by email or telephone. Even this first contact can give you a ‘sense’ of the person you are dealing with. Different things will make different people uncomfortable, but some ‘warning lights’ are:
- An over concern about how much the babies cost.
- An insistence on a particular ‘exotic’ or unusual variety.
- A request for many kittens at one time.
- A general resistance to advice.
- A request for both bucks and does at one time unless requesting rats specifically for breeding.
The application form is really a stepping-stone for discussion, rather than a means for determining a definite yes or no. Any issues from the form that you feel require further discussion should then be developed, and you may wish to ask to see a picture of the cage ‘set up’ where your babies will live. It is usually enquirers’ responses at this stage and the general feeling that I have by this time about the quality of home they will provide that determine whether they will be offered babies or not. I keep asking questions until I feel ‘comfortable’ (or not) and encourage them to ask as many as they like in return. I feel that it is important to maintain relationship with new homes throughout the rats’ lives, in order to ensure their well-being and to glean the necessary information I need to breed with a view to improving the health, temperament and longevity of my lines. Because of this it is essential that I get along with all prospective owners and trust their intentions. Building relationship also enables me to happily say goodbye to the babies when the time comes, and helps to alleviate anxiety. At this stage it may be possible to carry out a home visit - or ask for a reference from someone who has visited them in the recent past.
You might like people to come to your home to collect their babies, or where this is not possible because of distance, try to arrange to at least meet up with them, perhaps at a show. Whilst an impression of a person is possible from talking on the phone or via email, actually meeting prospective owners is far preferable, and if they can spend some time in your home meeting their kittens friends and relations, and discussing their care – all the better.
Once you have decided on which homes your rats are going to you will need to prepare the necessary information for your new owners. You will probably choose to go beyond simply supplying a family tree, or birth certificate and the possibilities are endless as to what you might include in a pack to accompany your babies to their new home. Here are some ideas:
- A family tree – all kittens should go with a record of their DOB, variety, family tree and your contact details. For rescues a 'birth certificate' can provide the owners with your details and as many details for the rat as you know.
- A sale agreement – this is a written contract between seller and buyer, and can be signed by both parties. It is generally used as a tool to emphasize the important of certain aspects of care to the seller. Agreements are generally ‘pet only’ and exclude the possibility of breeding from kittens not sold as breeding quality to approved breeding homes. This safeguards against rats being bred from who are not of breeding quality, lines being continued without the breeder’s knowledge if problems occur (poor health/temperament/longevity), breeder’s lines ending up in pet shops and rescues, recsues being bred from etc.
- A general care guide – covering topics like housing, litters, handling, stimulation, introductions and basic health care such as nail clipping, mites/lice and how to do a health check.
- A diet sheet - which is split into kitten and adult sections.
- Book/forum/club recommendations – might include helpful rat care books and online forums, plus details of local and national rat clubs.
- Details of follow-up and support – some breeders have their own yahoo group for people who own their kittens, provide holiday care and request updates at specific ages.
- Supplementary diet – you may wish to give a small amount of the grain mix your babies have been raised on, and/or some EMP, Nature Diet, High Life or some other suitable supplementary kitten food.
Author: Alison Campbell and Melanie Southward