We all know (and if you don’t, you should) that rats make some of the best small pets in the world. They’re sweet, social, playful and INCREDIBLY intelligent. Oh, and they’re super cute to boot. But when bringing these little fellas into your home, you probably want to know how old they are, right? I would. If you’re adopting a rat that’s less than three - four months old, they’re not fully grown, so you can pretty much guesstimate their age within a few months. However, if you’re adopting a fully grown rat (between 250-400 grams), it’s MUCH harder to tell. So, how old is my rat? What should we look for as we try to pin down their birthday?
As we’ve spoken about many times, generally, good health = good appearance and bad health = bad appearance. Pretty straightforward and very similar to humans. And so, looks can be deceiving in rats. If you’ve adopted a rat previously living in a poor environment or eating a less-than-stellar diet, they could easily look much older than they actually are. If this is the case, priority number one is getting that rat back to healthy. And then we can focus on guessing their age.
Look at Their Coat
Think of a rat’s coat as human skin. A baby, toddler, teenager (and many adults) have much prettier skin than I do. Generally, the younger the skin the more untouched and flawless it is. The same goes with rats. The younger the rat, the more silky and smooth the coat. If a rat’s coat has an average and even length, it’s likely that the rat is under 9 months. During puberty, the coat will develop thicker, longer guard hairs intertwined with the soft baby fur. Males do, though, tend to have more coarse fur than their female friends, so keep this in mind. If fur is dull, missing, unkempt and just looks all around kinda rough… it’s likely that the rat is a senior, possibly over 18 months. However! Be warned that the dull coat that may actually be due to poor diet and health, not necessarily age. Try top quality food and fruits and veggies for a period of time. If the coat bounces back, they’re probably not as old as you’d originally thought.
Color of Their Teeth
While it’s not a fool proof method (genetics and health play a role in how quickly a rat ages and tooth pigmentation), observing the rat’s front incisors is a good indication of how old your rat really is. Younger rat tooth coloration will be a pale yellow shade. As rats age, their tooth color will darken, and in adulthood, a dark yellow is most common. As they transition to being seniors, the color will continue to darken, commonly being tinged with orange. Generally, the darker, the older.
Physically, those are the key indicators of your rat’s age. Of course, you can always contact the person from whom you’d obtained the rat to try to get additional information, which I highly recommend anyway.
Whether you’ve adopted a young rat or an old one, they’re gonna love you the same. So, even though it really is nice to know (well, think you know, anyway) their age, what’s most important is their happiness.