Dumbo Rats vs Fancy Rats: All Pet Rats Are Fancy Rats, Not All Are Dumbo

Dumbo rats vs fancy rats

If you’re considering getting a pet rat, you might have heard the terms “dumbo rat” and “fancy rat.” These terms, alongside others like top-eared or standard eared rat, are used to describe pet rats in general and aren’t segregated by anything other than looks.  

“Fancy rat” is the umbrella term given to domesticated brown rats (Rattus norvegicus). The term “fancy rat” encompasses all the types of rats you can keep as pets, including dumbo and standard (top-eared) rats. Dumbo rats have ears that are placed lower down on their heads, while top-eared rats have the normal ear placement seen in wild rats.

Fancy rats have been selectively bred for differences in their appearance, such as ear placement and coat colors. However, all varieties of fancy rat (including dumbo and top-eared) need exactly the same care, attention, space, and dietary requirements. All rat varieties also need the love and comfort of being part of a mischief.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the visual differences between dumbo and standard fancy rats and whether or not there’s any difference in lifespan or personality.

Dumbo vs Standard Fancy Rat Appearance

The most notable difference between dumbo rats and top-eared rats is their appearance. Dumbo rats have their ears placed lower on the sides of their heads, resembling the ears of the Disney character Dumbo the elephant, while top-eared rats have normally placed ears.

Both types of rat come in a variety of colors, coat types, and patterns. Whether you prefer dumbo or standard top ears, both make wonderful pets.

Dumbo vs standard fancy rat

Where Did Dumbo Rats Originate?

The low-set ears that characterize the dumbo rat are rumored to have been a surprise when they first appeared rather than being something that was bred for. There is some contention and debate about exactly where dumbo rats came from. However, the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association (AFRMA) states that a rough time and place of origin for the dumbo was in California, USA, around 1991.

The gene that makes a dumbo rat’s ears set lower on their heads than normal rats is a recessive gene aptly named DMBO. This means that two dumbo rats bred together will produce a dumbo litter, but only one dumbo parent may not.

Although dumbos have these gene changes, they are not a separate species from ordinary top-eared rats and are exactly the same in every other way. They don’t have any negative effects from their strangely positioned ears, at least not in the same way that tailless rats do (as rats use their tails to regulate temperature and balance).

When this was discovered, selective breeding of the dumbo offspring spread like wildfire; everyone wanted to see this new body type of rat.

Dumbo vs Standard Fancy Rat Personality

Dumbo rat vs fancy rat personality

Regarding personality, both dumbo rats and standard top-eared rats share the same temperament traits seen in all fancy rats. Most fancy rats are social and enjoy human interaction, making them great pets for those seeking companionship. Rats are also intelligent animals that can learn tricks, recognize their owners, and form strong bonds with their human families.

Because all fancy rats share the same needs, both dumbo and top-eared rats must be kept with other rats. Rats are incredibly social animals that will get depressed and suffer both mental and physical health problems if they’re kept on their own. Some rat owners like to keep a small mischief of three or four rats, whereas others have seven or more!

The two most important points to remember about keeping fancy rats (dumbo and top-eared included) are that all opposite-sexed rats kept together should be neutered (to avoid a baby rat explosion!), and there should be enough space for all of them.

Dumbo vs Standard Fancy Rat Care

While their physical differences might make them look like different breeds or species, all types of fancy rat are the same animal and require the same care.

Both dumbo and top-eared rats need a spacious cage with plenty of room to move around, toys to play with, and a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dumbo and Standard Fancy Rat Cage Requirements

The enclosure housing your mischief should be cleaned regularly with rat-safe cleaning products like F10 cleaner, and the bedding should be changed frequently to maintain good hygiene.

Fancy rats of all types are susceptible to respiratory infections, so good cage hygiene is a must to keep them healthy. The build-up of ammonia from pee is dangerous to your rat’s health and extremely stressful for them to live in. Both dumbo and top-eared rats are incredibly clean!

As mentioned before, the cage should also be more than big enough to comfortably house your entire mischief. Fancy rats are exactly the same sizes, so both dumbo and top-eared varieties need enough space to live and play comfortably.

Take a look at our cage calculator to see how big your cage would have to be to house your mischief, or enter the dimensions of your cage to see how many rats could live in it.

Dumbo and standard eared rats

Dumbo and Standard Fancy Rat Diet

Now, let’s talk about rat diet. All types of fancy rat need the same diet to keep them healthy, including dumbo and top-eared varieties. As rats are omnivores, they can eat both plant material and meat.

A well-balanced rat diet should consist of a grain-based dry mix (whether homemade or commercially bought), proteins, vegetables, and fruits:

  • High-quality homemade or commercial dry mixes: The easiest option is store-bought dry mixes specifically designed for rats. Don’t feed your rat any foods aimed at other species, as it lacks the necessary nutrients that rats need.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: Rats love fruits and veggies! Some great options include blueberries, bananas, broccoli, carrots, and pumpkin. Make sure to wash them thoroughly before feeding them to your rat, and don’t leave them to sit in the cage too long.
  • Protein: Rats need protein in their diet to stay healthy. If your dry mix doesn’t include enough protein, you can give them cooked chicken, eggs, or tofu. Make sure to avoid feeding them too much protein, as it can lead to health problems.

There are some foods that rats might love (such as chocolate) that aren’t harmful but aren’t great for them, either. So use your discretion when supplementing your rat’s diet, and make sure your dumbo or top-eared fancy rats get a fully balanced, nutrient-dense meal plan. We have a list of rat-safe foods here that can guide you!

Make sure to always provide your rats with fresh water, and clean their water bottles or bowls regularly.

Dumbo vs Fancy Rat Lifespan

On average, fancy rats can live for two to three years. This seems to be the average age a well-loved rat can live to, give or take a few months. However, some very old rats do make it to four years old.

There is no difference in lifespan between types of fancy rats like dumbo and top-eared. They can live for the exact same amount of time.

Factors influencing their lifespans can include genetic factors (such as parental longevity and predisposition to cancer), dietary factors, and environmental factors. Both dumbo and top-eared rats can live long (for a rat), rich, and happy lives if they are well cared for, loved, and looked after. 

Final Thoughts

The different varieties of fancy rat have their quirks and attractions, but the fact of the matter is: dumbo and top-eared are exactly the same except for the slight differences in appearance. There is nothing else different about them, and all their care needs are identical.

There’s nothing wrong with having a favorite, however, and I adore a dumbo rat’s special ears. They’re very expressive!

Are rats with their ears held high and proud your favorite, or have dumbo’s stolen your heart? Let us know in the comments!

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