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Sourcing rats in the North of England

All rat kittens are cute and desirable, sometimes even irresistible. However, finding the right kittens for you can sometimes feel like a bit of a lottery and this information is designed to help you make the best choices. In this context 'best' should be read as 'best for you', as choices that suit one individual might be wrong in other circumstances.

Sourcing kittens from a responsible breeder

A responsible breeder will:
  • Plan each litter with care and consideration
  • Aim to improve the quality of the rats they breed*
  • Not breed more kittens than they can properly care for and socialise
  • Not breed more kittens than they can find good homes for
  • Not sell single kittens to live alone
  • Remain committed to the well-being of each rat they breed for the duration of the rat's life
  • Supply the new owner with full contact details
*Improvement can be in health, longevity, temperament and physical features.

Breeders who are members of the NERS can be contacted via the NERS breeders' list. Please do not expect a breeder to have kittens available immediately. Many keep waiting lists and you should generally enquire about kittens in advance of actually wanting to take them home. Waiting times vary but can be anything from a few weeks to a few months, and can be longer if you are looking for a particular variety.

Once you have contacted a breeder it is sensible to arrange a visit so that you can get to know each other and you can make sure that you are comfortable with the way that the breeder operates. Do not leave this until you go to collect the kittens, as by that time you will find it very difficult to leave without the babies if you are not happy with the situation. Many breeders are able to help with transport arrangements in getting the babies to you if you live a long distance away, however there are many benefits in visiting your chosen breeder at least once, and some breeders will insist on this.

Expect a responsible breeder to ask you lots of questions. If they are happy to home their babies without consideration of the kind of home you would provide, be very wary.

A responsible breeder will expect and welcome your questions about their practices and their rats. Buying an animal from somebody is effectively endorsing their ethics and husbandry, so you will want to satisfy yourself that you are happy with this person. The benefits of building a good relationship with your chosen breeder will also be felt after you take your kittens home, as the breeder will continue to provide advice and support.

Rescue centres

There are always many kittens who end up in rescue centres, or with individuals who perhaps bought their rats from a pet shop only to find they were pregnant themselves. These kittens may not always be as large and physically robust as those from a reputable breeder, but they have often been raised well and do still need good homes. If you like the idea of rescuing rats who are in need of a second chance and feel able to provide a suitable home for some rescue kittens, please consider this option. Despite often having an unknown background, rescue rats can and do make wonderful and rewarding pets. Many kittens who are born in rescue have had the best possible start and are socialised from birth.

Whilst the NERS is not a rescue organisation, we do actively support rat rescue throughout the UK. Some of our members are involved in rescue themselves and we will often know of rescue rats available in the North of England. Rescue rats can be sourced locally by referring to the list of rescues here.

The online forum Fancy Rats has a rehoming section organised by area which can help you to see at a glance which rats are looking for homes in the North of England. You do not need to join the forum to view the rehoming boards but you will need to join if you wish to send a PM to a member.

The organisation Pet Rescue UK often has rats in foster homes around the UK. Find-a-Furry is a site dedicated to rehoming many species of animals, and lists available rats by area. The Rattie Rehome site lists rats by area from around the UK who are in need of new homes.

What about pet shops?

Many people still do not realise that rats are bred responsibly by individual breeders, and automatically head for the nearest pet shop to supply their new kittens. Rats from this source have mostly been bred in large rodent farms where breeding is a commercial venture, and little consideration is given to individual pairings, long-term health and temperament, or longevity. People breed rats for all sorts of reasons, and some breeders feel comfortable about selling the surplus to the pet trade. Indeed some breeders breed solely for this purpose. The NERS does not support this as responsible breeding (see definition above). Once handed over to a pet shop the breeder cannot then be responsible for the safety and homing of their kittens. They cannot support new owners or take the kittens back if there is a problem. Nor can they breed to improve their rats, as they have no information on the ongoing health, longevity and temperament of the majority of the rats that they breed.

More information about buying rats from pet shops can be found in this article.
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