Fancy Rats: Boys or Girls?
This guide is intended as an overview only, obviously each rat is an individual! Regardless of gender no rat should ever be kept alone. Lonely rats can become extremely depressed and quite cage-aggressive - making them a very poor, unhappy pet. No amount of human interaction can ever substitute for company of another rat. Rats have a very complicated social hierarchy and companionship of the same gender is essential.
If you are having difficulty with a rat being bullied, or aggressive and believe they cannot be kept with others - seek advice! There are plenty of good rat forums and rescues who can advise on the correct way to bond rats.
You might also be interested in our Rat Introductions: Myths and Legends article.
Both Buck and Does
Will engage in same-sex mounting. This can be a way of establishing dominance or where a doe is reacting to another being in season.
Will need regular handling and interaction.
Must be kept with company.
Male Rats (Bucks)
Boys are generally more laid back, and the most likely to be a 'shoulder rat'. They are more content to sit still and be stroked.
Male rats are more like to scent mark than girls, and may produce small droplets of urine as they walk. Not all rats do this, but if you have a particularly dominant male you may want to wear old clothes whilst handling!
Bucks produce a substance known as 'buck grease'. This may tinge their fur slightly orange. It is normal and should not require any extra attention.
The footprint, or floorspace of the cage is more important to Bucks than the height. They do not climb as much as girls, although they do enjoy relaxing in hammocks.
Female Rats (Does)
Girl rats are more pingy, they love climbing and are generally more active. They love to explore and are less likely than bucks to just sit still. This will make more use of the height of the cage than boys will.
Does come into season every 4-5 days and you may notice more activity in your group during this time. Females may mount each other when in heat - this is a way of establishing dominance and is not something to be concerned about. Obviously if you have got your rats recently, and in particular if you have got them from a pet shop, do check the Fancy Rats Sexing Guide to make sure.
Does in heat may be harder to handle and less friendly. One way of identifying a doe in heat is their ears - these will often vibrate quite rapidly.
Female rats are prone to developing mammary tumours, this is especially likely from around 18 months. Any growth on your rat should be investigated by a vet, as early removal of a tumour can extend your rat's life. Since the chances of these occuring are related to estrogen levels spaying can reduce the chances of them occurring. However this should be carefully considered, as no surgery is without risk.