Monday, October 3, 2011

Breeding, it hath begun

Okay, so Fée's litter is thirteen days old and Ben and I have already picked out the two we'll be keeping. Ear canals have opened and eyes should follow shortly. I'm at Ben's school right now, listening to music and reading online. You may or may not recall a post I had a while back, the first Ratty Sniff in which I gave a local breeder a very low grade. I paid a new visit to her site and I am still just as unimpressed as I was months ago.

I feel I should go a little further into the reasoning as to why I feel hairless rats should not be bred. There is a term in breeding that every breeder dreads. Infanticide, and it means the killing of an infant. Mother rats will sometimes do this to their own or other female's litters. One reason for doing it to their own is a lack of food, a lot of stress and even accidents. Sometimes a part of a litter or a whole litter can be killed if the female is having issues with lactation. She will kill off any bit of the litter she cannot support, it's about the same reason she'll kill babies in a food shortage, less hungry mouths and a healthier mother to feed the rest of the litter. All that being said, hairless females are notorious for lactation issues and there have been cases in which a hairless female has killed part or all of her litter due to this issue.

Rats in the wild have hair. They are supposed to have hair and tails and messing with their genetics like this is dangerous. Now I can see the immediate rebuttal, "isn't breeding messing with genetics, I mean, you're breeding to go for a certain thing in the babies." Big difference here is that when I breed rats it's because the parents have great health and personalities. Another rebuttal, "but people change things in dogs all the time and dogs are just fine." Well, sometimes. In some breeds we've focused too much on what a pretty dog is and less on what a healthy dog is. Also, the genetics of the canidae family of animals has something unique in their genetic make up. Malleability. They have a special area of their genome, called a tandem repeat, that allows for great changes through selective breeding. The canidae family is the only family of animals known to have such genetic versatility. That is why when you breed dogs you can get down right creative with them. They have the genetic ability to change in such huge ways.

Rats simply don't and messing with things that are hardwired into their genes can really screw things up. Tailless rats can have back and leg issues, can be born with partial tails and other deformities. Hairless rats have very sensitive skin and cannot handle temperature changes as well as rats with hair.

On the thought of temperature change, on her site she has a memorial section for those she's lost. Two rats passed away from heat stroke because her air conditioner went out. I'm not usually one to judge someone who's lost a pet like that, let alone two. I've lost rats in quick succession then been left wondering what I did or didn't do only to ultimately come to accept there was nothing I could have done. Persephone was one of the hardest lessons learned there. But heat stroke? That could have been prevented. So easily prevented. Give them a bath, give them some ice (frozen fruit juice is a wonder), give them frozen veggies, given them SOMETHING. Anything! Those animals did not have to die! I've experienced loss with rats, it sucks, it hurts, I cry and cry and for a lot of them I still cry so long after they've gone. But I lost every one of them to an illness of some kind, something I really couldn't control. If my AC went out in the middle of June, I'd be freezing water non-stop, I'd have my ice-brace out for them and I'd give them all a bath if need be. But good God, heat stroke is a horrible way to die. She's a stay at home wife as well, she was there and could have done something, this is inexcusable to me.


Anyway, on to happier things. Algernon had her litter yesterday, 6 healthy pinkies that once I'm home I'll be sexing to see the ratio of girls to boys. She had a pretty easy birth from what I can tell, though I thought she'd have had more. But, it doesn't matter, she's been such a good girl! She's more aggressive than Fée, I can stick my hand right into the nest with her and all she does is glare. Each rat is different and I cannot wait to see the beautiful babies grow up! If all goes well I may breed Athena this November or December. If I don't then I'll not be breeding her, as she'll be too old by then. It won't affect my view of her in any way, she's still my mad minky mischief. :)

Mr. Coffey

Miss Alexa

G'mornin, g'day or g'night

Afterthought: What do you feed your rats? We're switching all of our babies to human food like frozen and fresh veggies/fruits. :)