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How to Care for Your Pet Hairless Rat
Small PetsRabbits & Rodents

How to Care for Your Pet Hairless Rat

Jack, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Nov 26, 2020

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Hairless rats are sweet, energetic pets that can keep you entertained, but they aren't for everyone. They are more fragile than other rats and are not as long-lived.  For those with allergies to hair and dander,  however, they are a great choice. They are also a good pet for people who have time and energy to devote to their care. They reciprocate with genuine affection and it won't take them long to recognize your hand and voice.

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1

Trainability

Hairless rat exploring his surroundings David Walega / Getty Images

Hairless rats are smart, inquisitive, and driven by food. This combination makes it easy to train. While many people assume that having a rat as a pet means keeping it caged, they can spend time outside their habitat as long as they are supervised. They can learn to respond to their name, come when called, and even play fetch. Rats bond easily with their cagemates as well as their humans. If you regularly spend time with them, they will learn quickly. Supervision is important any time your pet rat is out of their cage, but particularly so with the hairless rat, whose delicate skin can be damaged easily.

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2

Friendliness

Hairless rat on top of cage unoL / Getty Images

Hairless rats, like other pet rats, are social creatures. Perhaps due to its need for additional protection, bonds particularly well with humans. As long as you are calm when feeding and handling your pet, they will quickly learn to look forward to your approach. Once they are comfortable with you holding and petting them, they may return the favor, gently grooming you like they would a cagemate.

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3

Grooming

A lack of hair makes grooming and skincare important for the hairless rat. Bathing every week or so will keep their skin healthy. Use a tear-free baby shampoo or one designed specifically for pets with sensitive skin. Gently pat your hairless rat dry after bathing. Keep them covered with a towel or place them in a warm, draft-free area until they are dry.

If your rat's skin seems dry, gently rubbing some olive oil onto the affected areas can be soothing. Don't use human lotions or moisturizers, as they will probably lick the area. If your home is quite dry, you may want to run a humidifier to add some moisture to the air.

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4

Handling

Hairless rat climbing on hat boxes Elena Neveditsyna / Getty Images

You should use special care any time you handle a small pet, but it is even more important to do with hairless rats. Their skin is delicate, and you don't want to hurt them. Initially, spend time letting your rat become accustomed to you and their new home. Sit by the cage, talk to your rat, and when you have their attention, offer a treat. Once you feel that your rat is comfortable with you, you can pick them up. Gently slide one hand under their stomach and place the other hand gently on their back. Don't squeeze, you're only keeping them secure. If they begin to wiggle or try to jump away, return them to their cage and try again later. With patience, they will learn to sit calmly in your hand.

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5

Health

Hairless rat on log Linas Toleikis / Getty Images

Hairless rats have more health issues, and, therefore, a shorter lifespan than other pet rats: one year on average. There are a few reasons for this. Their delicate skin is susceptible to injury, and even a small scrape or cut can irritate their skin and lead to infection. The immune system of hairless rats is less robust than other rats, making it more difficult for them to fight off infections.

To keep your hairless rat healthy, a well-designed home free of sharp objects or rough bedding is important. They should not be housed with rats with hair, who may play too rough.

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6

Nutrition

Sliced watermelon agrobacter / Getty Images

Hairless rats do well on the typical pet rat diet of food pellets supplemented with fresh vegetables, like carrots and spinach, and fruit, such as melon and bananas. They need more food than other pet rats because they use more energy to maintain their body temperature. They should always have access to fresh, clean water.

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7

Housing

Shredded paper bedding kazmulka / Getty Images

Safe housing is a priority for your hairless rat's health. They have special needs, both due to their sensitivity to the cold and their delicate skin. The cage needs to be free of sharp edges and placed in a draft-free spot. A room that is comfortably room temperature will be fine for your rat, but make sure there are no drastic temperature swings from day to night. Bedding made from shredded paper or cloth provides your pet with a soft, warm home. Wood shavings and chips, common for use with other small pets, will damage the hairless rat's skin.

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8

Adaptability

Hairless rat dreymedv / Getty Images

The hairless rat requires more care and attention than other pet rats. You need to keep a constant eye on their environment, ensuring it is safe and warm. The cage needs to be cleaned frequently to prevent skin irritation. Bathing is required to keep their skin healthy. Hairless rats are not the best choice for a first-time pet owner or those with young children.

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9

Energy Level and Exercise Needs

Hairless rat outside bayshev / Getty Images

Hairless rats are smart and inquisitive, which means they need daily stimulation to stay mentally healthy. Providing toys in their cage allows them to play on their own. Check any toy carefully and make sure it doesn't have sharp edges. Letting them out of their cage so they can interact with you and explore the house allows them to get some exercise. Keep an eye on them to keep them safe during their explorations.

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10

Types of Hairless Rats

Patchwork hairless rat bayshev / Getty Images

There are different types of hairless rats. The double rex is most common, it is hairless and has short, curly whiskers. Occasionally it will have fur cuffs around its ankles or some patchy fur on its face.

Patchwork hairless rats are an interesting breed. They have some curly patches of hair, which will fall out and then grow back in another spot on the body.

The truly hairless rat is not as common as the double rex and patchwork. They do not have any hair, even whiskers. They are most commonly found in the research setting.

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