Valiance Rats is based in South West London, but I can often be found all over the UK at rat shows and events.
This part of the webpage is where you can find out about the rattery, my rat husbandry and breeding. These are my personal opinions and aims and they should be taken as such.
On this page I've tried to answer all the questions you may have, if I haven't please contact me.
If you would like to apply for Valiance kittens please read the homing policy.
If you are interested in homing rescue rats (kittens or adults) please see our rescues and fosters page.
Either read the page from top to bottom or click on the links in the table to jump to the subject you want to learn about.
My rats are fed a diet originally conceived by Alison Campbell of Shumanite Stud. This is a diet that follows certain principles and includes a home made dry mix and fresh foods.
For details on feeding rats please see Alison's site, I also highly recommend the book 'The Scuttling Gourmet' by Alison Campbell.
I buy much of my dry food and supplements from ratRations.com, who I cannot recommend enough, and the rest from horse/small holding suppliers.
I feed about 80/20 dry mix to fresh food. None of the following is accurate, I throw scoops of things together in roughly the quantities listed! Sometimes more things will be added, sometimes fewer. Sometimes I will add more of what the rats need at that particular time. For example, increasing the calorie content of the dry mix by adding more seeds or nuts in the winter.
I scatter feed both the dry and the wet food (unless it's very messy, like high protein kitten fresh food). The dry food is sprinkled across the cage floor and mixed into the bedding. This gives the rats something to do, helps control weight by making them work for their food and allows them to exhibit natural digging behaviours. I try to make up a dry mix of predominantly smaller grains and seeds as this requires the rats to search more thoroughly.
Our dry mix for all rats aged 8 weeks and upwards is as follows (I make up huge batches, but this is roughly the ratios):
All adults also receive daily raw fresh vegetables.
Mid-week I give them a water bottle of Dr Squiggles Calcivet and Daily Essentials. Sometimes with cooled herbal tea mixed in too.
At the weekend I mix linseed oil, seaweed powder, ratRations own vitamin powder called Daily Essentials D3 and B vitamin complex liquid (0.15ml per rat) into one of the following before feeding:
Treat-type fresh foods include fruit, oily fish, meat bones if/when I have them (rats can eat cooked chicken bones, unlike dogs) and table scraps.
I have been known to give them things like left over takeaway, cake or cheese but that is rare. Diet has been shown to be extremely important factor in health and longetivity so I'm fairly strict, but once or twice a year isn't going to do much harm. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Kittens (under 8 weeks)
Our dry mix for kittens under 8 weeks and nursing mothers is the same as the adult dry mix but with a small amount of extra natural protein sources (such as dried mealworms, earthworms, shrimp, crickets) mixed in.
Kittens and nursing mothers receive a portion of whatever fresh food the adults are having along with an extra portion of:
On top of the above I also I try to introduce them to as many flavours and foods as possible while they are very young so that they are not fussy eaters when they grow up and they get Dr Squiggles Daily Essentials once a week with the adults.
My rats live in mixed age groups, kittens move in with adult rats when they are 8 weeks old. They are given the kitten diet outlined above until they move in with the adults, then the whole cage is offered cooked white rice with whisked egg mixed in and microwaved. The amount of this is reduced gradually until they are on the normal adult diet by 10 weeks. They are fed on the normal adult dry mix from when they move in with the adults. This results in slower growth, increases longevity, keeps the rats healthier and protects all the rats from kidney problems and obesity.
The dry mix and fresh food for elderly rats is the same as for adult rats. I offer nutrical (a vitamin malt paste) to individual elderly rats that are struggling to maintain body weight and I will supplement with softer foods (fed to the rats that need it in a carrier separate from the group they live with) if they need a bit of extra help. The white rice and egg mix (cooked white rice mixed with a beaten egg and microwaved), egg and rice burns wet dog food or lite naturediet wet dog food is all used with vitamin supplements mixed in as and when the rats could benefit from them.
Supplements for the elderly could be a selection from the following (dependent on individual need):
Pregnant rats are fed the same diet as adult rats. They just often eat more of it as the pregnancy progresses so I increase the overall quantity to match their appetite. I make sure they are given high calcium and nutrient rich fresh food such as curly kale or broccoli everyday and supplement the whole cage with calcivet in the water twice a week for the duration of the pregnancy.
Nursing mothers are fed, along with their young, the same way I feed all kittens. The massive growth of the babies and the strain on the mother means I feel that extra vitamin supplementation is important; it just makes sure they are getting everything they need without over supplementing.
My rats are rarely given treats. I usually just pick something tasty out of the dry mix! I also occasionally give dried fruit, nuts and dried insects as treats.
Visit the ethics page to learn about my husbandry ethics.
My rats are housed in different types of cages that I've found to suit me and the rats over the years. The number of rats that will live happily together is influenced by age, activity levels, sex, temperament, cage furnishings and type of cage as well as the volume of cage space. 'Dead space' within a cage can be avoided by adding shelves, hammocks, ropes, baskets, wheels, tubs, ladders, parrot toys and other larger items to the cage.
My rats are always housed in all metal cages with very narrow bars, this is to prevent rats from getting through the bars or chewing out of their cages. I use Savic Royal Suite/Liberta Explorer style cages for my adults as they offer ease of access and a lot of height for climbing (also, rats often prefer to sleep up high) and a Furplast Duetto cage for birthing mothers up to once the kittens are ready to leave home, I just add cage furniture as the babies mature. If the space is used correctly it is possible to make a large cage into a huge cage. At the moment I have a group of 6 does in a Liberta Explorer and a group of 6 boys in a Savic Royal Suite.
I normally shredded cardboard as substrate. I find them all to be good for smells, easy for the rats to dig through, easy to carry around to make nests and it doesn't get walked around the house on my feet! If I can't get shredded cardboard then I will use hemp or bedmax shavings.
I use Yesterdays News in the litter trays, this is by far the best cat litter I've found. It is made up of small, very solid, 100% paper pellets that do not break up much, if at all, when wet.
Free-ranging and Playtime
All rats are handled individually each day. This is to check for illness and/or injury and to allow me to kiss and snuggle with each rat.
Every rat is given as much time as possible out of their cage. I offer them the option of coming out of the cage for free range time, but I don't force them out daily. For those that want to come out it will normally be about an hour, twice a week, more if I've got time. Sometimes cages will happily mix together when they are out of the cage which makes everything a bit easier.
The rat room is completely rat proof and free range time is in there. I will lay out some toys for them and they have a cat scratch tree in the corner. All I need to do is open the cages and they will toddle off and explore.
Very young kittens have a controlled free-range time on my bed, the sofa or a table. Once they reach a certain level of mental maturity, about 8-ish weeks, they are given the same access to the rat room as the adults. The girls are mostly very active and get into everything, the baby boys are like this too. My adult boys do run around for some of the time but like to sit and have a cuddle or fall asleep in/on the cat tree. The elderly rats mostly cuddle and sleep, but they do wander around for a bit. Some elderly rats never slow down and scale the shelves with the youngsters!
My rats receive veterinary treatment as soon as they need it, even if it is the middle of the night or a bank holiday. I put money aside each month into a savings account just for vets bills but if I have to I'll put it on my credit card!
I have very nice and knowledgeable vets that are happy to listen to me and try new treatments. Any ill rat is given the treatment it needs, regardless of expense or time, but will be euthanised humanely if no more can be done and/or they will have a very low quality of life even with treatment.
When a rat dies a postmortem will be carried out if necessary to determine the cause of death.
Any rat not from my line that won't be used for breeding will be neutered. This provides a lot of health benefits and increases life expectancy. It also reduces the risk of an accidental mating!
To learn about my breeding ethics see the ethics page.
My rats are, and always will be, my pets first and foremost whether they are used in breeding plans or not. I will only breed from those rats with excellent physical type, health and temperament. This can make for some hard decisions when the rat I adore and want babies from gets ill or grumpy but rat breeding is full of difficulties. The variety of a rat is currently secondary to their pet quality and physical type.
For more information on why I inbreed please read the article I wrote for the North of England Rat Society magazine.
I do not kill kittens or older rats that are surplus to my breeding program. My personal ethics and morals would not allow this but it is also very important for me to know as much about my lines as possible. This means I need every rat I breed to live out their natural life in order to gather as much lifespan, illness and temperament data as I can. Kittens that I do not wish to keep will be homed with people that I believe will give an excellent level of care to my babies. As all my rats are pets, no ex-breeding adults will be rehomed unless it is in the best interests of the rat concerned.
I attempt to keep in contact with all the people that provide a home for my rats throughout the rats lives. I do this to provide support and advice and to gather as much data as we can about my line of rats. Any of my rats that cannot remain in their new home for whatever reason will come back here and/or are rehomed subject to my approval.
Lifespan Breeding Goals
I am hoping for all my rats to live longer than the average lifespan of 24 months and eventually for 50% of the rats I breed to reach 3 years old. I have broken this main goal down into little steps and the goal I'm working on now is for 75% of each litter to live until they are 28 months old.
Rat lifespan can be influenced in many ways. The owners can influence it with diet, medical intervention, husbandry, exercise and moderating stress. As a breeder I hope to influence it with my breeding practices and by manipulating the genetics of the line. My husbandry may differ from that of people that home our rats, which is why I need detailed data of the way my rats have been kept throughout their lives.
Even though I keep my rats in a certain way I do not expect everyone to keep their rats the same way. So long as certain essential criteria are met I will only offer guidelines on how rats from us should be cared for. Gathering lifestyle data on as many babies bred here as possible should help us to narrow down what factors most affect our rats and their health, temperament and lifespan so I can better advise people on what conditions suit them best.
For more detailed information about how lifespan can be influenced please see this article by Alan DiGangi.
The Breeding Process
My does are mated when they are between 6 and 18 months old, normally they are mated at around 12-14 months. Does will mostly only have one litter, but some may have two. Bucks under one year are very rarely used for mating and usually I don't use buck over 20 months. In the future these ages may increase but genetic abnormalities are more common in older rats' sperm and eggs. By mating rats when they are older I am hoping to allow for a slow maturity, select for increased fertility (correlated with increased longevity) and give them more opportunities to become ill and/or develop behavioural traits that I don't want to see in my rats before I mate them. Any rat that does not meet my high standards of temperament and health will not be bred from.
A chosen pair of rats will be put together overnight if the doe is receptive to the buck, in the morning they will both go back to their cagemates in their normal cages. Does are fed the same diet as the adult rats. The quantity of food eaten by a pregnant mother increases through the pregnancy, so I feed more of the normal diet as time goes on to match her appetite. If any of her cage mates put on weight during this time they will go on a diet as soon as the expectant mother has left to live in her nursery cage. To be honest, it's pretty rare that anyone else in the cage puts on weight. I expect most does to give birth on the 22nd day of their pregnancy, but they are moved on the 21st into the top of a Furplast Duetto cage. She is given no cage furniture but she is given enough bedding to make a large nest.
Once the babies start to wander around and explore (about 14 days) I will start adding furniture to the cage, at first it allows Mum to escape the babies but once they learn to climb no where is safe any more! Once the babies are 5 weeks old the boys are moved into a separate cage (the other half of the Duetto). At this point the mother will start to spend less time with her daughters and eventually move back in with friends permanently, leaving her daughters to live in their own cage. If the babies I am keeping are moving in with their mother I will introduce her and her daughters back to the main group when the babies are 8 weeks old.
The babies will be homed in same sex pairs or trios when they are 7 or 8 weeks old. As I am aiming for my rats to mature later the babies are usually not mature enough at 6 weeks to move home. I will keep babies from each litter that will help advance the line (and occasionally those I just fall for!) and the rest will be homed to people on my waiting list.
Homing kittens from Valiance Rats
If you would like to go on the waiting list for Valiance kittens please download an application form, fill it in and email it to us. Please put 'kitten application' as the subject. This helps us to identify when our email has put something in the trash folder by mistake.
Anyone that wishes to home Valiance kittens will be expected to complete an application form. It is not a test, it is just a way for me to get to know the people that will be caring for my babies and to learn how they plan to keep them. Some basic requirements must be met but otherwise I do not dictate that the rats be kept exactly as I would do. The basic requirements are:
Kittens are homed only in same sex pairs or trios at 7 to 8 weeks old to people on the waiting list. Occasionally some may become available to those not yet on the waiting list. Priority is given to those that have been on the list the longest. If you require a specific rat variety you may wait longer than someone with fewer requirements.
If the person first on the waiting list does not want the rats yet I will move down the list until the rats are homed. Turning down rats at a specific time does not mean you will lose your place on the list, if you are first you will remain first until you are ready to receive the rats that meet your requirements. You will be removed from the waiting list once you have received the kittens you were waiting for or if you request to be removed.
For details of future litters see the planned litters page.
Please check the rescues and fosters page for details of any rescue rats looking for homes.
Very special thanks go to Lucy Heath of Asbru Stud, Lisa Grove of Halcyon Stud, Ann Storey of Rivendell Stud, Holly Storey of Topthorne Stud, Mary Giles of Zephyr Stud, Alison Campbell of Shunamite Stud, Lloyd Allington of Eximius Rats, Lilly Hoyland of Lilliput Rats, Sarah Haggarty of Dauntless Rats and Kyra Murray and Tom Bunce of Atlas Stud for all their help and advice.
Initially, I mixed rats from Atlas with rats from one of the Zephyrs lines. The resulting mix was crossed into a Halycon line, then to a Shunamite rat and then to a rat from Rivendell Stud. Then I was left with a line that wasn't a line at all! I mated two does to a buck from Eximius rats that was very related to the rat I used from Rivendell Stud. This meant that it wasn't a total outcross but hopefully brough in some very good genes as the ancestors of this boy were very very long lived and healthy.
It's not advisable to outcross repeatedly the way I have done but I had little choice if I was going to keep any line related to my founding rats. I am not focusing on a variety but temperament and health, as I selected for these things I was left with one variety - chocolate. We do also get dumbo in this line from the original Zephyr rats and occasionally a havanna type colour when mink shows up.
I predict that mammary tumours and hind leg degeneration may be a problem in this line but I can't say which way the line will go yet as they aren't inbred enough to accurately predict anything. The rats that formed the base of this line were very people orientated and cuddly and I hope that all my babies will retain these qualities. They are very intelligent but prefer a quieter life, these are the rats for sitting and watching TV with you!
My second line is a new venture to help preserve the russian blue gene in the rat fancy. When it first arrived in the country a lot of breeders were working on it but few are now and the variety is beginning to lose the original look. Russian varieties have a double coat that is very short and dense and the blue is very dark and rich, which gives them a velveteen appearance.
My third line is an offshoot of line B. It is purely for myself because I love russian silver fawn. It's not standardised and isn't bred by anyone else, it's just one I particularly like and I'm not worried that I can't show them!
To see photos and a short description of the varieties I expect to see in the lines have a look at the varieties page.