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What Is A Fancy Rat? [How Do They Differ From Other Varieties?]

Have you stumbled across the ‘Fancy Rat’? It’s an utterly fascinating name and one that naturally comes with a range of questions. What makes them so fancy being perhaps the first that springs to mind. Well, I decided to research them to find out. I’ll be sharing all that I found here with you today. 

So, what is a Fancy Rat? A Fancy Rat is the domesticated version of the Rattus Norvegicus – your typical brown sewer rat. The word “Fancy” is simply a term used to refer to a rat that is bred purposefully for pet ownership as opposed to those who live in the wild. There are, however, different varieties of Fancy Rat, like sub-groups within the species. 

There are more than 60 recognized species of Rat, the Fancy Rat being a descendent of one – the aforementioned brown Rat. 

Let us now take a closer look at them; why they have this name, 

how they differ and what they are like as pets.

Besdies, you may be considering owning one after all!

Why Are They Called Fancy Rats?

The reason behind the name “Fancy Rat” is two-fold. The first is straightforward and fairly obvious – the word “fancy” meaning to appreciate or like. The second, as a means of identification – a rat that has been bred purposefully in captivity. 

Not that we would “fancy” a rat the way we would “fancy” a coke with our burger and chips, but you get the idea. 

Anyone who owns, breeds, or shows a domestic animal, is said to be involved in “animal fancy.” 

If rats are your animal of choice, you are engaging in “rat fancy.” Thus the term “Fancy Rats” was born.

Fancy Rat is also a term used to describe a rat that has been bred in captivity, as opposed to one you just picked up off the street (please don’t do that). 

The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Society (AFRMS) has made the term official, recognizing 7 different varieties of Fancy Rat. 

Unlike other domesticated animals, for example, dogs and cats, rats are not differentiated by breed. 

It’s thus important to understand the difference between the concepts of species and varieties. 

All Fancy Rats belong to the same species, with sub-categories that are referred to as varieties. 

Variety describes the different colors, coat textures, sizes, and positions of the ears that have developed as a result of many years of breeding. 

These have been standardized by the AFRMS. 

There is such a vast range of patterns, colors, and body types – you would be surprised!

It can be so overwhelming; you may end up wanting to cut through the fluff and take on a plain brown wild rat (no, seriously, don’t do that).

Most are adamant that the name “Fancy” has nothing to do with their literal fanciness. 

Still, Fancy Rats are still…well…fancy! 

There are over 40 distinct colors that have been recognized by the AFRMS, 7 different eye colors, 3 different types of fur, 2 different sizes….whew! 

That sounds pretty fancy to us! 

A Fancy Rat may also be multiple varieties in one – making it more complicated still!

How Are Fancy Rats Different?

The difference between Fancy Rats and brown rats is simply a question of breeding. Fancy Rats have been bred specifically and intentionally by those interested in domestication. And typically, to produce a rat of a specific variety. 

Brown rats are wild animals. They are not friendly, and more often than not, carry diseases. 

They are smaller and leaner than their fancier counterparts as they have to scrounge for food and get much more exercise. 

Fancy Rats are different not only to their brown rat brethren but to each other. 

As all Fancy Rats are the same species, the differences relate to physical characteristics only. 

There are discussions around whether the different varieties of Fancy Rats vary in terms of personality or not. 

Even if you come down on the positive side of the debate, there is consensus that such differences are minor. 

Let us go down the bizarre and winding road of trying to explain how Fancy Rats can be different from each other. 

The AFRMS has recognized 7 varieties of Fancy Rats: 

  • Standard, Rex, 
  • Tailless, 
  • Hairless, 
  • Satin, 
  • Dumbo and 
  • Bristle Coat. 

Each variety is grouped into 6 different sections in accordance with their color and body markings. 

There are 40 different and distinct colors spread amongst the following sections. 

  • Self, 
  • AOC (Any Other Colour), 
  • AOCP (Any Other Colour Pattern), 
  • Silvered, 
  • Marked, 
  • Odd Eye, 
  • Unstandardized and 
  • Non-recognized Colours and Markings. 

Each of these has sub-groups of colors, and the sub-groups have sub-groups.

If you are not interested in showing your Fancy Rat or breeding them, and the above simply makes your head spin, then luckily, you can disregard all of this. 

Just pick one that you fancy. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!

Do Fancy Rats Make Good Pets?

While they have had some bad press, fancy rats are great pets, especially for first-time owners. They are loving, easy-going, low maintenance, and easy on the pocket too. Plus, you can find them in most pet stores for sale.

Once you have bought the cage, bedding, toys, and food, you shouldn’t need to fork out thousands on extras like vets bills. 

Rats very seldom get sick. 

Ironically, they are naturally resistant to many diseases and have an extremely robust immune system.

Despite the fact that they only live for 2 to 4 years, with a little bit of care, those years will in all probability be healthy ones. 

If you’re not at home for large parts of the day because you have a demanding job or a boss who loves unpaid overtime, then a Fancy Rat is perfect for you. 

Leave them with plenty of food and water, and enjoy some well-earned downtime with them as and when you get home.

So long as you get them another rat for company, mind. 

They are extremely social animals and love company. 

Another benefit of owning a Fancy Rat is that they are keen to keep themselves clean. 

They hate getting dirty and are always grooming themselves, each other, and if you are lucky, you. 

If you neuter your male, he won’t feel the need to mark his territory with urine either.

Giving their cage a spot-clean each day and a full clean at least once a week will prevent any unpleasant odors from building up. 

Rats are also very easy to handle and rarely bite.

They make good pets for children as they are generally quite tolerant. 

Although they aren’t very vocal animals, they do let you know if they are scared or in pain by squealing. 

They are intelligent and curious and will do anything for a treat. 

This combination of characteristics results in an animal that is incredibly easy to train. 

If you have the time and inclination, you can train your Rat to play fetch, respond to his name or run through an obstacle course. 

Rats can laugh, and if they are in a good mood, they enjoy being tickled.

They sit on your shoulder, curl up in your lap, and love to be where the action is. You don’t have to walk them, and they won’t break your belongings. 

Not such good news for your furniture, though; Angelina Jolie used to have a rat named Harry who unfortunately had to be adopted because she ate the curtains!

On a serious note, this is a sign of stress, and you would need to talk to a vet or start spending more time with your Rat if they were to start exhibiting this sort of behavior. 


So hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of what a Fancy rat is and how they differ.

You may even be in a position to go out and get one as your next pet.

Just be sure to do so from a reputable pet store or breeder!