Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a rat breeder? What are the challenges, but also the qualities needed to become good at it? We’ve asked all these questions – and many more – to Brian, who runs a small rat breeding business in Kissimmee, Florida, near Disney World.
Brian and his wife Qiong are breeding a special breed of rodents called ” Roof Rats”. If you are thinking of breeding rats one day, or maybe just curious about roof rats, you will love reading this!
Without further ado, let’s learn from Brian what it’s like to be a rat breeder.
How did you get into the rat breeding business?
“We used to breed Dumbo rats years ago, and people started bringing us orphaned baby “rats” that they had found. We naively offered to help them and soon discovered that these “rats” were actually a different species than ours. Nice and interesting rats, but kind of skittish and hard to catch when they wanted to escape.
“We decided to breed them to see if we could improve their personalities. It actually didn’t take long before we had some that were actually decent pets! Since nobody else is breeding them but us, we need to keep a rather large population to avoid too much inbreeding and ensure the survival of our tamed line.
“Since they are very nice pets, we will continue doing this, even at some personal cost and inconvenience, and give them away to anyone who wants them. Including other breeders in the hope that, eventually, others will take up the cause, and maybe we can reduce our own efforts and have more time to just enjoy them as pets, ourselves.“
Is it a side hustle or your full-time job?
“We don’t make any money from this. Thank goodness I have a good, full-time job. But this is also so much work it is effectively a second full-time job for my wife and me. Just a non-paying one!“
What do you like most about your job?
“When we first socialize the babies, and realize how many are cute, friendly and playful. And imagine their future as loveable family pets or future mommy or daddy rats in our own colony. We feel a sense of pride, connection and love for them, as they wouldn’t be here if not for our efforts.
“And, of course, their wonderful mommies and daddies, that we also love. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Every new litter is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you will get, but it’s usually wonderful!”
What does the day in the life of a roof rat breeder look like?
“Every morning we sweep under the cages, then send our robot vacuum to clean the rathouse while enjoying our breakfast. Then, we check all of the cages and make sure they have everything they need, no sneezing or fighting, and it’s not too dirty or wet.
“We have a software that I wrote that keeps track of all the rats and lets us know if we need to pay special attention to some. Like weigh them, check their babies, etc. We do all of that, record any new updates, and maybe move some of the rats to different cages.
“For example, we will move females to a special “nursing cage” with a house and lots of soft shredded paper and put them in the momma rat room in case their weight and other signs tell us they might be pregnant. Or, if another female has been resting long enough with her friends, and we’d like to breed her, we will move her to a cage with compatible males. We will print out new labels for the cages to help us keep track of who is in them and for how long.“
What is the biggest challenge?
“Finding homes for the nice, pet quality babies, or older adults that we don’t wish to breed anymore. Many of the people in the local area aren’t interested in keeping exotic rodents as pets. They want standard mice or rats. Roof rats have unique personalities and physical traits that some people love, but if you want a fat, lazy Norway rat, you will be disappointed in these guys.
“We often get contacted by people in other parts of the country that would love to have a pet Roof Rat, but shipping is almost always a deal-breaker. For this reason, I am now offering a night’s stay at our Margaritaville Orlando cottage at my cost (cleaning and admin) for anyone visiting the area to adopt rats from us.” (Click here to see the deal)
What qualities do you think are necessary to be good at your job?
“It’s a lot of work, time and expense with no monetary reward at all. At times, there were even people who hated and even cyberstalked me, because I was breeding “wild rats” that they claimed were pests, dangerous and had no business being kept as pets.
“I had a vision that I could bring something new and wonderful into the world, and this would be my gift to future generations of people and their pets. I never doubted that the rats could be good pets, and never gave up hope that I could help them be loved and accepted by others.
“With hope, faith, determination, patience, knowledge and research, and a little bit of luck, I believe I have largely succeeded in breeding good pets. The hard part is connecting them with future owners that will appreciate them like we do.“
What would you advise somebody who is thinking of breeding rats?
“99% of the world will think you are crazy. The other 1% will agree with them, and they will love you for it. If you aren’t OK with that, don’t bother trying. Oh, and most of your rats will probably think you are crazy, too.“
In your opinion, what is the future of rat breeding?
“I hope the future will be more people breeding rats from my line, all across this country. And then, maybe I can even take a vacation someday?“
“Roofy, one of our original rescued baby Roof Rats, was actually in a pilot TV Series with Allison McAtee. It was a comedy where Allison’s character was in jail, trying to sleep in her bunk, and a rat (Roofy) kept trying to bother her. We spent the day on the set with her, and Roofy was more than happy to “bother” Allison (well, in all fairness, Roofy thought she was being playful!)
“After the shoot, Allison took some time to properly play with Roofy, and was amazed that a seemingly “wild” rat could be so friendly and lovable.
“Roofy was a miracle. When she was brought to us, she was skinny and dehydrated. We never thought she would make it. Not only did she survive, but she turned out to be one of the friendliest, most playful rats I had ever seen. She even learned her name and would come running when I called her, no matter where she was in the house.
“Whenever anyone visited and asked us why we were breeding rats, I’d just hand them Roof: there was no need for further explanation! All of our Roof rats are related to Roofy, and she is the source of our “white tail tip” marking, and probably most of their tameness.”
Shout out to Brian for kindly answering our questions. Here are his details if you want to get in touch with him and maybe get a roof rat for yourself!
- How did you get into the rat breeding business?
- Is it a side hustle or your full-time job?
- What do you like most about your job?
- What does the day in the life of a roof rat breeder look like?
- What is the biggest challenge?
- What qualities do you think are necessary to be good at your job?
- What would you advise somebody who is thinking of breeding rats?
- In your opinion, what is the future of rat breeding?
- Any anecdotes you would like to share?