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Home » Blog » Dumbo Rat vs Fancy Rat: A Comprehensive Guide

Dumbo Rat vs Fancy Rat: A Comprehensive Guide

Dumbo Rat vs Fancy Rat A Comprehensive Guide

Rats have been domesticated for over a century, offering fascinating varieties for pet enthusiasts. Two of the most popular types are Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats. While both make excellent pets, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. This guide delves into the unique traits, care requirements, and behavioral differences between Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats.

Dumbo rats are a specific variety of fancy rat. Regular fancy rats that are not Dumbos are often referred to as "top-eared" rats. Dumbo rats are characterized by their relatively larger ears, which are positioned lower on the sides of their heads, similar to the ear placement differences between show-quality and pet-quality guinea pigs. Additionally, Dumbo rats typically have a different body shape, with a more rounded back and lower shoulders. In the past, it was believed that Dumbo rats had shorter lifespans, but this was likely due to initial inbreeding rather than any inherent issues with the Dumbo variety itself.

Introduction to Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats

dumbo rat vs fancy rat

Dumbo Rats are named after the Disney character Dumbo, owing to their large, round ears situated on the sides of their heads. This unique feature gives them a distinctive and adorable appearance that many pet owners find irresistible. Dumbo Rats belong to the species Rattus norvegicus, commonly known as the brown rat or Norwegian rat.

Fancy Rats, on the other hand, is a broad term that encompasses a variety of domesticated rats. They are also of the species Rattus norvegicus and are bred for their diverse colors, patterns, and coat types. Fancy Rats have standard ear placement on top of their heads, which differentiates them from Dumbo Rats.

Physical Characteristics

Dumbo Rat Characteristics

  • Ears: Large, round ears positioned on the sides of their heads.
  • Body Size: Generally similar in size to Fancy Rats, though some may appear slightly bulkier due to their ear placement.
  • Fur and Color: Dumbo Rats come in various colors and coat types, including standard, rex, and hairless varieties.

Fancy Rat Characteristics

  • Ears: Standard ear placement on top of their heads.
  • Body Size: Comparable to Dumbo Rats, with a sleek and agile build.
  • Fur and Color: Fancy Rats are bred in a multitude of colors, patterns, and fur types, including smooth, curly (rex), satin, and hairless.

Behavioral Differences

pet rat vs wild rat

Dumbo Rats

Dumbo Rats are often perceived as more docile and laid-back compared to their Fancy Rat counterparts. Their gentle nature makes them ideal for first-time rat owners and families with children. They are known for their affectionate demeanor and enjoy social interaction with their human companions.

Fancy Rats

Fancy Rats, while also friendly and social, tend to be more active and curious. They love exploring their surroundings and engaging in playful activities. Their inquisitive nature makes them fascinating to watch and interact with, though they may require more stimulation and enrichment in their environment.

Care Requirements


Both Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats thrive in spacious, well-ventilated cages with multiple levels. A minimum cage size of 24 x 12 x 12 inches is recommended for a pair of rats, with larger dimensions preferable. The cage should be equipped with solid floors to prevent foot injuries and provide a comfortable living space.


A balanced diet is crucial for the health of both Dumbo and Fancy Rats. High-quality commercial rat pellets or lab blocks should form the basis of their diet, supplemented with fresh fruits, vegetables, and occasional treats. It is important to avoid foods high in sugar, fat, and artificial additives.


Rats are generally clean animals and groom themselves regularly. However, it is essential to provide them with a clean environment to maintain their health. Regular cage cleaning, along with occasional baths if necessary, will help keep your rats healthy and happy.

Health Considerations


Common Health Issues

Both Dumbo and Fancy Rats can be prone to certain health issues, including respiratory infections, tumors, and dental problems. Regular veterinary check-ups and prompt attention to any signs of illness are essential for maintaining their well-being.


The average lifespan of Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats ranges from 2 to 3 years, though some may live longer with proper care. Providing a nutritious diet, a clean environment, and regular social interaction can contribute to a longer, healthier life.

Social Needs

Interaction with Humans

Both Dumbo and Fancy Rats are highly social animals that thrive on interaction with their human caregivers. Spending time handling and playing with your rats will help strengthen the bond between you and ensure they remain well-socialized and happy.


Rats are naturally social creatures and should be kept in pairs or small groups to prevent loneliness and promote mental stimulation. Keeping single rats can lead to behavioral issues and stress, so it is always recommended to have at least two rats together.

Breeding and Genetics


Dumbo Rat Breeding

Dumbo Rats have a recessive gene that gives them their distinctive ear placement. Breeding two Dumbo Rats will result in all offspring having Dumbo ears, while breeding a Dumbo Rat with a Fancy Rat can produce a mix of Dumbo and standard-eared rats.

Fancy Rat Breeding

Fancy Rats are bred for a wide range of traits, including coat color, pattern, and texture. Responsible breeding practices are crucial to maintain the health and genetic diversity of the rat population.

Enrichment and Stimulation

Toys and Activities

Providing a stimulating environment is crucial for the mental and physical well-being of both Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats. A variety of toys and activities can keep your rats engaged and prevent boredom. Some popular enrichment items include:

  • Chew Toys: Essential for keeping their teeth healthy and preventing overgrowth.
  • Exercise Wheels: Ensure the wheel is appropriately sized for rats to avoid spinal injuries.
  • Tunnels and Hides: Offer places to explore and hide, mimicking natural burrowing behavior.
  • Foraging Toys: Stimulate their natural foraging instincts by hiding treats in puzzle toys.

Interaction and Training


Rats are intelligent animals capable of learning tricks and responding to their names. Positive reinforcement training can be a fun way to bond with your pets and provide mental stimulation. Simple tricks like coming when called, standing on hind legs, or running through a maze can be taught using treats and praise.

Safety Considerations

Rat-Proofing Your Home

If you allow your rats free-roaming time outside their cage, it is essential to rat-proof the area to prevent accidents and injuries. Here are some tips to ensure their safety:

  • Block Small Gaps: Rats can squeeze through tiny spaces, so ensure there are no gaps they can escape through.
  • Remove Hazardous Items: Keep electrical cords, toxic plants, and small objects that could be ingested out of reach.
  • Supervise Playtime: Always supervise your rats during free-roaming time to prevent any mishaps.

Handling and Socialization

Proper handling techniques are crucial for building trust and preventing injury. Always approach your rats calmly and gently scoop them up with both hands, supporting their body. Avoid grabbing them by the tail, as this can cause stress and injury. Regular handling and socialization from a young age will result in well-adjusted, friendly pets.

Choosing Between Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats

Consider Your Preferences

When choosing between Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats, consider what aspects are most important to you. If you are drawn to unique physical traits and a gentle temperament, Dumbo Rats may be the ideal choice. If you prefer a variety of colors and coat types, along with an active and curious personality, Fancy Rats might be more suitable.

Adoption and Breeding Considerations

Whether adopting from a breeder or rescuing from a shelter, ensure that the rats are healthy and well-socialized. Look for breeders who prioritize health, temperament, and ethical breeding practices. Rescuing from a shelter can be a rewarding experience, giving a rat in need a loving home.

FAQs About Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats

What is the difference between Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats?

The primary difference lies in their ear placement. Dumbo Rats have large, round ears on the sides of their heads, while Fancy Rats have standard ears on top. Both are varieties of the same species, Rattus norvegicus, and share similar care requirements.

Are Dumbo Rats friendlier than Fancy Rats?

Dumbo Rats are often considered more docile and laid-back, making them ideal for first-time owners and families with children. However, individual temperament can vary, and both types can be equally friendly and affectionate with proper socialization.

How long do Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats live?

Both Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years, though with excellent care, some may live longer.

Can Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats live together?

Yes, Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats can live together harmoniously as long as they are properly introduced and have enough space. Rats are social animals and thrive in the company of their own kind.

What should I feed my Dumbo Rat or Fancy Rat?

A balanced diet of high-quality rat pellets or lab blocks should form the basis of their diet. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and occasional treats can be added for variety and nutrition. Avoid foods high in sugar, fat, and artificial additives.

Final Thoughts

Both Dumbo Rats and Fancy Rats bring joy and companionship to their owners with their unique traits and lovable personalities. Understanding their differences and care requirements will help you provide the best possible environment for your pet rats and considering pet rat vs wild rat. Whether you choose a Dumbo Rat for its distinctive ears or a Fancy Rat for its variety, both will make delightful additions to your family.

However, if you are dealing with unwanted rats in your home, it is crucial to seek professional help to ensure humane and effective removal. Critter Stop is a reputable wildlife removal company with a fantastic reputation and excellent customer reviews. They provide high-quality work and great customer service, making them the best choice for your rat extermination needs. Don't let a rat infestation disrupt your peace of mind; contact Critter Stop today for humane and professional wildlife removal services.

Contact us at (214) 234-2616 to get a free estimate of our services. 

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