Rat Health Care & Information

Showing Rats

Your Rats
Breeding & Showing
General Info

So you have rats that you wish to show?

Will it be shown in the pet or varieties classes?

To be shown as a variety, it has to ‘fit’ into one of the classes as defined on the varieties schedule. If you are not sure, ask someone or bring the rat along to it’s first show as a shoulder rat or enter as a pet (if suitable) and ask people what they think at the show about your rat. There’s always the next show!

When shown as a pet, the rat is judged on friendliness, tractability, condition and health, but if they are clean and the judge doesn't get carved up by sharp toenails, it definitely goes in the rats favour. Pet classes are split into Adult owned, Juvenile owned and Breeder owned sections and also buck and doe and quite often have extra prizes that vary from show to show, like prettiest doe, most handsome buck, cleanest rat, etc.

How do you prepare your rat for a show?

Show preparation in some respects starts as soon as the rat is born – healthy diet, lots of handling, care and attention. (It actually starts before the rat is born, by selecting the best parents!) But in reality we are talking about the few days before the show here!

Entries normally have to be in (at the latest) 3 days before the show, so just before you phone or e-mail your entries in, check the rats you are looking to show (this goes for pet and variety). They should be in the peak of health: - coat looking healthy with no ‘holes’, scabs or scratches, eyes and nose looking clear and clean with no sign of discharge, chest and breathing should sound clear. If your rat is showing any signs of ill-health or mites then it should not be shown and is likely to be disqualified by the judge anyway. Apart from the fact that you can pass these onto other people’s rats, which will make you unpopular, if your rat is sick, it will stress it more taking it to a show, so it is not fair on the rat.

Don’t forget to book hire tanks if you don’t have a show tank of your own to use.

Once you have submitted your entries to the show secretary, you can start the real preparation. If required the rat should be bathed. Bucks in particular get very greasy with orange muck on their skin across the loins area. To wash a rat, ensure the water is lukewarm, use rat-friendly shampoo (pet shops stock a couple of varieties suitable for small animals) and ensure that you wash the shampoo out well before drying the rat. Make sure that you dry the rat completely after the bath. Dark rats should be washed a couple of days before the show, to allow their coats to settle and regain their natural shine. Rex rats should be bathed about a week in advance, as the rex coat looks better if it has a chance to get some of the natural grease back. Pale or white rats will need washing either the day before or even the day of the show so as to be clean for their class.

Rat’s toenails should be clipped, it is recommended that you clip their toenails before you bath them as this can save you some scratches! Using nail clippers, trim off the white sharp part off each nail. (the judge will also appreciate a rat with short, blunt toenails)

This preparation applies to both variety and pet classes. Even though the pets are being judged on friendliness and tractability, if they are healthy, clean and don’t scratch the judges it will go in their favour.

What happens on the day of the show?

Do a health check of all your rats before leaving home. If any have noisy breathing, war-wounds from fighting, scabs or any other ailment, they should be withdrawn from the show and left at home.

Put the rats in whatever carrier you have to take them to the show. Allow plenty of time to get to the show and prepare your rats once you are there – there is nothing worse than having got caught in traffic and having to rush your preparations! Doors normally open for the shows at least an hour before the judging starts, which should give you plenty of time. 

Ensure you take: -

Show tanks – or hire if required (one rat per tank for adult rats, kittens can go in unalike pairs). Pets can be shown in small cages/carriers or plastic fish-tanks as per the NFRS standard tank on the right. Note that the Ferplast Geo XL or Ferplast Nettuno XL with a properly fitted sliding wire lid is accepted as a suitable tank for showing varieties in at NFRS shows from 2005.

Shavings or alternative pale substrate (or alternatives allowed for some regional clubs) – the hire tanks are not supplied with substrate so you do need to bring your own. Substrate should be no more than about a couple of inches deep in the bottom of the tank. Safebed (plain white soft paper bedding) is permitted for kittens in addition to the base of shavings/biocatolet.

Water bottles – although not allowed to be left on the tanks unless the conditions are really hot, your rat will appreciate water after the showing has finished

Apple, cucumber or carrot (alternatives allowed at some regional clubs) – you need one chunk of apple, cucumber or carrot for each rat shown for moisture for them while they are in the show tanks. Judges do not appreciate seeing the rat 'bedded' on a 'fruit salad'!

Snack or food for the journey home – particularly if you have travelled a long way to the shows (wet pasta or sweetcorn is often appreciated) 

Other useful items: -

Water spray and cloth (or babywipes) – to wipe off any marks that have appeared during the journey and to wash the tail and ears if needed

Toothbrush – last minute cleaning of tail

Nail clippers – trim any last minute toenails

Soft cloth and/or brush – for buffing and shining the coat

When you arrive at the show location, collect any hire tanks and your stickers from the show secretary (you may be asked to pay a deposit for show tanks). Take yourself to somewhere where you have a bit of space and sort your rats into their tanks with a couple of inches of substrate in the bottom.

Go through each rat in turn, checking for any problems and dirty marks. It is still not too late to withdraw if your rat is not 100% fit, although any withdrawals on the day will usually be charged for. (If a rat is disqualified it will put a penalty point against your name towards having to have all your rats checked before exhibiting, so it is better to withdraw a sick or unhappy rat, rather than risk the judge disqualifying them.) Wipe off any dirty patches, smooth the coat with the soft cloth to help the shine and put the rat in the tank. Cut up the apple, cucumber or carrot and put a chunk in for each rat.

Put the stickers supplied on the tank in the top right hand corner of the opening end of the show tank (if using the tanks with the sliding lid – for the plastic lidded type tanks permitted by some regional clubs this is the narrow ends of the tanks). When you are satisfied you have done everything you can, place you rats on the showing table with the rest of the rats to be shown. You are now free to do whatever! Perhaps you could look around for anyone who needs help – everyone is new to showing once in his or her life!

You could consider offering to help out with the running of the show, particularly if you are an early bird who is well organised. The kind of jobs available to help out with are: -

  • Stewarding – taking the rats to the judge and keeping some order on the table of rats waiting to be judged. Some of the bigger shows may need several people to help with this and when people are first putting their rats on the table it is useful to have extra helpers. Rats are judged in lowest number order first. Stewarding is an excellent way of learning about judging and showing rats. Varieties stewarding is often arranged by the Judges Co-ordinator as this is part of the NFRS training scheme, but the pet steward is always arranged by the show secretary.

  • Scribing – some judges like to have someone writing the notes for them. These notes are usually written up for the club magazine and on the critiques which are handed back to the exhibitors on the day. This is also an excellent way to learn about showing and judging rats and the show secretary will almost always arrange these roles for the pet and varieties judges.

  • Kitchen – everything from cooking to carrying, the kitchen is always in need of lots of helpers and the more helpers available, the less each individual has to do as the Kitchen Manager can set up a rota for the day.

  • Running Fun events/raffle - many shows have agility and other fun events being run and a helping hand is usually very welcomed. Also helping with the selling of raffle tickets is a useful job to offer to do.

  • Helping the show sec – the show sec (jobs on the day – no mention of the mass of organisation before the show here!) has to make sure everything is ready in the hall, sort out the entries and labels, get payment off everyone, sort out the hire tanks, sort out tables, sort out kittens for sale and either check themselves or get a judge to check the kittens, write the prize cards, sort out the rosettes, take the hire tanks back in, make sure the hall is in the same condition as when arrived – I am sure that any offers of help will be gratefully received! Please feel free to offer!

  • What to do when judging has finished?

    When you are advised by the steward or show secretary, you may collect your rats from the table. Prepare your rats for the journey home, moving to carrier if not the show tank, giving water and food. If you have a hire tank, ensure you put the shavings in the bin and remove your stickers from the tank. If you don’t, you only make work for someone else! With most shows, it is insisted that the hall is cleaned before the presentation will start so please do offer to help clear up. The hall has to be put back into the state it was in before the rat show, so a hand to clear tables, sweep the floor will always be appreciated!

    Collect any prize cards and rosettes you have won, and then you are free to go.

    What about the future?

    Take note of the judges comments in the club magazine and on critiques, it may help with your breeding plans or handling/socialisation plans for the pet classes. If you get the chance at shows, chat to the judge and other experienced rat breeders/owners about your rats, this feedback will help with your future breeding and showing plans.

    There is so much to learn about our rats, and showing can be a fun way of meeting other rat keepers and of course getting more rats – kittens are rarely for sale at shows, but many breeders will take reservations or put you on their waiting list if you fancy some of their rats!

    Article written by Estelle

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    Images & Text Copyright © 2008 Estelle Sandford, Alpha Centauri
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    Last modified: February 08, 2017