How to Care for a Hairless Rat

Hairless rats, also known as Sphinx rats, are very unique in appearance. They are virtually hairless (virtually, as most have varying degrees of hair on their nose, tail and so forth,) with extremely soft, sensitive skin. They come in shades of pink and grey.

Hairless rats can live alongside furred rats without any problems. In fact, it’s actually ideal to keep them with furred ratties since they provide a bit more warmth while cuddling.

Sphinx rats are much more sensitive to cold than their furred counterparts, so it’s important to keep them in a warm, draft-free location. Provide some fabric for them to use as a burrow in the event that they get cold.

In dry regions, you may need to massage a bit of Vitamin E oil to the rat’s skin to prevent cracking, chapping and drying. Another strategy: soak three or four crouton-sized bits of bread in olive oil and serve to your hairless rat daily. This will help keep his skin moisturized.

Hairless rats have extremely sensitive skin, so they cannot tolerate bedding with a rough texture. There are only two suitable forms of bedding for these small pets: the extra-soft variety of Carefresh bedding or fabric. Fabric bedding is ideal, as it’s less expensive and a chilled rat can climb under a bit of fabric to stay warm.

To make your own fabric bedding, use old sheets, t-shirts and other tight-weave cotton. Cut the fabric into 1-foot squares (approximately.) Fleece can also work well, but it’s not as absorbent. Fleece can be placed on top of the “bedding material” for use as a hiding spot or blanket. It’s important to avoid towels and loose-weave fabrics, as the rat’s little claws and toes can get caught in the fibers.

Whatever bedding you use, it will need to be changed once per day (or more frequently if your rat is experiencing a problem with skin infections.) Since they’re hairless, this type of rat has extremely sensitive skin and they are prone to rashes and infections from direct contact with urine and feces.

Some hairless rats are also prone to pimples and cysts. Sebaceous cysts are the most common. These cysts form when sebum — the natural layer of oil on your skin’s surface — clogs the follicles or pores on the skin’s surface. Sebaceous cysts, which are filled with a toothpaste-like paste, can get infected. They can also get quite large, resulting in pain and discomfort.

It’s fairly simple to lance the cyst at home and most heal without a need for antibiotics. But in some cases, oral antibiotics are required to promote healing.

In tomorrow’s article, we’ll explore how to identify a sebaceous cyst in a hairless rat, how to prevent them and how to identify signs of an infection.

Check out our rat care articles, including one article with information on how to bathe a rat, along with tips for caring for an elderly, paralyzed rattie.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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