Fancy Rats vs Dumbo Rats: How To Tell The Two Apart And More!

Written by Peralee Knight
Updated: October 22, 2022
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Trying to tell the difference between Fancy and Dumbo rats can be challenging. They both share more similarities than differences because one is a variety of the other. However, there are still characteristics that set them apart, which we will explain in this article.

Before deciding to adopt a pet rat, there are a few things any prospective owner should know. Physical characteristics, as well as expected behavior and temperament, should be taken into consideration before adopting a Fancy rat or a Dumbo rat.

Difference betweeen a Fancy Rat and a Dumbo Rat

Dumbo rats differ from Fancy rats in terms of appearance.

The ears are the most easily identifiable difference between a Fancy rat and a Dumbo rat at first glance. Dumbo rats have ears set lower and more to the side than Fancy rats, giving them their unique name. In fact, Dumbo rats are a variety of Fancy rats.

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Fancy Rats vs Dumbo Rats: Physical Characteristics

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The difference between Fancy rats and Dumbo rats is the low set ears.

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Fancy rats and Dumbo rats are identical in appearance, except for their ears. While the Dumbo variety has lower set, rounder ears, standard Fancy rats have highly set, more compact ears. Fancy is the common name for all large, domesticated rats. Domesticated rats are between 9-11 inches long with tails between 7-9 inches. They have slim and agile bodies and are between .5 and 1.5 pounds on average.

Fancy rats and Dumbo rats come in various coat colors and patterns. They have short coats that require little to no grooming. Rats are extremely clean animals and don’t often require bathing. Pet rats are like mice in this aspect, and despite some negative rumors, their diligence to hygiene makes the risk of disease nearly nonexistent! Also, the side benefit is watching your sweet little pet rats petting themselves all over with their tiny hands while they groom their fur! Who doesn’t think that is adorable?

Fancy Rats And Dumbo Rats: Behavior and Temperament

Domesticated rats are friendly, highly social animals that make affectionate pets. Fancy rats are often kept in pairs, as they can get lonely when left on their own. Domestic rats are one of the easiest pet rodents to handle. They are one of the most intelligent animals on earth and can quickly pick up commands and tricks.

With patience and a gentle hand, Fancy rats become quite content to travel on the shoulder or in a pocket. They enjoy human interaction and are often awake more during the day. Dumbo and Fancy rats have the same behavior and temperament.

Fancy Rats and Dumbo Rats: History

Fancy rats have a bit of a morbid history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, they were bred to be used for blood sports, and are currently often used for medical experimentation. They were a domesticated off-shoot of the common brown rat, and the most popular pet rat for many years.

The Dumbo rat, on the other hand, is thought to have originated in the US due to a mutation among the rat population there. This is believed to have occurred in 1991, documented by the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association (AFRMA), and all subsequent Dumbo rats, that now populate the world, are descended from this “Adam” of rats.

Fancy And Dumbo Rats: Health And Safety

Though domestic rats are often okay with other pets, that doesn’t always mean other pets are okay with them. Ensure that your rat is out of danger from housecats or other pets with a developed prey drive. Introductions to other pets should be gradual and monitored by the owner. Fancy rats are subject to a few health concerns, such as respiratory issues and mammary tumors. Dumbo rats also require extra care to the ears, which are more easily damaged and need specific grooming. Pet rats live an average of two years, but in extreme cases, they have been reported to live up to 7 years!

If you want to learn more about how long rats live, check out this article about the oldest rat ever.

Fancy Rats And Dumbo Rats: Care Needs

pet rat in cage eating cookie

Domesticated rats are intelligent, highly social, and extremely clean animals.


Rats require large wire enclosures at least two feet wide, but bigger is always better! Wood-based pellet bedding is highly discouraged because it contains chemicals that are toxic to rats. Paper bedding is best, with dens and tubes to hide and play in. High-quality pellets formulated for rats, as well as small amounts of fresh vegetables and protein, are best.

Rats do best in pairs, but unless they are neutered or spayed, it is best to keep pairs to the same sex. Breeding your rats is best left to the professionals, as adoptable pairs are often siblings. Breeding a pair of related rats can cause severe health issues.

Fancy And Dumbo Rats: Are They The Pet For You?

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Fancy and Dumbo rats are fantastic pets for the right owner and are among the best animals to keep as pets. They are best suited to an owner willing to adopt a pair rather than one animal. Rats can be good first pets for older children, as young children may be too rough or inexperienced and may damage their tails. Rats, like other scared animals, may bite if handled roughly or improperly. Dumbo rats also have more easily injured ears, and even older children should be supervised.

Domesticated rats are wonderful pets for an owner that is engaged and wishes to spend significant time with their pet. Since rats are so intelligent, being ignored or neglected can cause anxiety, stress, and even pining. Therefore, many experts recommend owning more than one rat so that they can keep each other company. Your pet rat will miss you when you are away but is every bit as excited to see you as a puppy would be!

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