Some people believe that one gender is “better” as a pet than the other, which is simply not true. In reality, there are notable differences between male and female rats, though it is simply a matter of preference which gender will suit a specific rat owner. Here is a general guide to help you to understand the key differences between male and female pet rats.
The key visual difference between male and female pet rats will be in the development of their genital area. Though determining gender in very young rats can be quite difficult, it gets much easier as the rats get older. At about 5 to 6 weeks of age, male rats reach sexual maturity, and develop testicles. These testicles are very visible underneath the rat’s tail, which makes determining gender easy. In female rats, sexual maturity occurs at 9 to 12 weeks. If you are looking to breed a female rat, however, it’s highly recommended that you wait until she is at least 12 weeks of age before attempting to breed her.
A slight difference between male and female rats is that females are a bit more likely to develop tumors as they age. These tumors are called “mammary tumors”, and can occur during the last third of your female rat’s life. However, these tumors have a much lower likelihood of occurring if you have your female rat spayed when she is young.
A widely accepted observation is that female rats seem to have a much higher energy level than male rats. A male rat will be content to simply sit in your lap, and allow you to pet their head. However, a female rat will often crawl all over your shoulders, sniff in your ears, climb on top of your head and try to play. Female rats are a bit easier to teach tricks, since they are naturally active. Male rats prefer to cuddle, and nap in your lap.
Female rats tend to be more curious, investigative and playful. They will often scamper around you in an effort to get you to play with them. Male rats prefer to engage in less energy-intensive activities, such as napping, gentle playing and eating.
While you may love to cuddle with your male rat, male rats have the habit of releasing a small amount of urine when they are out of their cage. Though it’s often a very tiny amount, it can require a bit of cleanup after you place your male rat back in his cage. Females do not seem to release as much urine when outside of their cages, though the occasional “accident” may sometimes occur. In general, both genders are very hygenic animals, and will thrive in an environment that is comfortable and clean.