Rex Rats: Origins, Facts, Care, Traits (With Pictures)

While most rats have straight, smooth coats, Rex rats are unique because they have a wavy, curly coat. This curly coat gives them a very distinct appearance, making them highly desired among rat owners.

Rats are smart, affectionate, cute, and highly intelligent. They can learn tricks with ease and are among the most social animals on earth. They form incredibly strong bonds with their owners and love to play, making them excellent pets.

rex rats image

However, while Rex rats are quite popular as pets, most people do not know a whole lot about them. Today, we’re going to change that. We’ll go over everything you need to know about the Rex rat. Topics such as how to care for these adorable critters and whether they’re a distinct breed will all be discussed in detail.


Rex Rat fact sheet

NameRex Rat
SpeciesRattus Norvegicus
Lifespan2 years
Experience requiredGreat for beginners as well as experts
TemperamentAffectionate, docile, social, intelligent
Minimum cage sizeAt least 30” x 15” x 20” for 2 rats, bigger is better
DietOmnivorous, 80% pellets, 20% fruits & vegetables. Occasionally meat, fish, nuts, or seeds.

What is a Rex rat exactly?

A Rex Rat is a variety of the Fancy rat characterized by its curly coat. In addition to being curly, the coat is also shorter than usual. This short, curly, wavy coat is present in both males and females, but males usually have more distinct curls and a better-looking coat. On the flip side, males are also more likely to have bald spots. An interesting fact about these cute critters is that besides a curly coat, they also have curled whiskers.

They were first bred in 1976 in England by the geneticist Roy Robinson. In the same year, they were standardized by the National Fancy Rat Society. It didn’t take long for this new rat variety to move across the pond into the US. In 1983, the first Rex rats were imported into the States. Once these rats had made their way into the US, their popularity grew rapidly. Today, they’re among the most popular Fancy Rat varieties.

Are Rex Rats a distinct breed?

No, Rex rats are not a separate breed. They’re the same breed as all pet rats: The Rattus Norvegicus, also known as the Fancy Rat. They’re simply a different variety of that breed. There are 7 different varieties of the Fancy Rat of which this rat is one.

Many people are under the assumption that Rex rats are a different breed because they’re quite different from other rats, but that’s definitely not the case.

Rex Rat: Appearance and Variants

The one standout feature that the Rex rat is most known for is of course their wavy, curly coat. However, many people do not know that there are in fact 2 different variants of the Rex mutation.

The first is the standard Rex, and the second is the double Rex. Double Rex rats are different from the standard variety because their whiskers are more curly and their fur more patchy.

In addition to being curly, their coats can have many different colors and patterns.

Colors include:

🐀 Rex Rat Colors 🐀
  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
  • Cream
  • Gray
  • Fawn
  • Platinum
  • Silver
  • Chocolate
  • Champagne
  • Lilac
  • Mink

Patterns include:

🐀 Rex Rat Patterns 🐀
  • Berkshire
  • Essex
  • Blaze
  • Hooded
  • Masked
  • English Irish
  • Irish

Another interesting to note is that rat variants are not exclusive. For instance, just because a rat is a Rex does not mean that it cannot also be a dumbo or tailless. It’s very possible for a rat to have a Rex coat while also having dumbo ears or not have a tail!

Size

In some species, such as guinea pigs, Rexes are larger than normal. This is not the case for rats. They’re the same size as all other rat types, except for dwarf rats, who are about 30% smaller.

On average, they’re about 9 to 11 inches in length and they weigh 1 to 2 pounds.

Rex Rat Temperament, Traits & Characteristics

Rats are very social, affectionate, and loving creatures. They can form incredibly strong bonds with their owners and other rats. Because they are so social, you must have rats in groups of two or more so that they don’t get lonely. Lonely rats can exhibit bad behavior.

Furthermore, many people are often surprised to learn that rats are incredibly smart. They’re the smartest rodents on earth and one of the smartest animals on the planet. They can learn incredibly difficult tricks and mazes with relative ease, as long as you provide them with adequate motivation to do so.

Many people believe rats to be dirty, this couldn’t be further from the truth. They’re actually very clean animals that spend a lot of time grooming themselves and each other.

In addition, they’re a great pet for first-time pet owners because they’re not aggressive. They do not bite unless they have no other choice. In fact, they bite even less often than animals that are often characterized as being very gentle, such as hamsters, mice, or guinea pigs.

On the whole, Rex rats, like all other pet rats, have an excellent temperament which makes them very well suited to being human companions. Not only are they very social, but they’re also clean, mentally stimulating, and very fun to be around.

👍 Rex Rat Traits
  • ✔️Affectionate
  • ✔️ Smart
  • ✔️ Intelligent
  • ✔️ Clean
  • ✔️ Social

Caring for a Rex Rat

Caring for Rex rats is not all that hard and they’re often described as being low-maintenance pets. However, no animal is truly low-maintenance. You have to be prepared to spend a decent chunk of time playing, socializing, feeding, cleaning, and generally taking care of any pet that you decide to get. 

What people mean when they say that they are low-maintenance is that they can take care of themselves pretty well. As long as you give them a good place to live with good food and a lot of love, they do not need much more to be happy!

Feeding a Rex Rat 🥕

Rex rats have the same diet as all other pet rats. They need a diet that consists of 80% pellets and 20% fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s recommended that you buy pellets that have at least 16% protein and fat content of around 4-5%. They can also eat the occasional piece of meat, fish, dairy, or nuts.

Here are some of their favorite foods:

🍎 Foods that Rex Rats Love
  • Fruits: Apples, apricots, berries, kiwi, melons.
  • Vegetables: Asparagus, bell peppers, aubergine, broccoli, carrots, kale.
  • Meat: Chicken, Turkey, Beef.
  • Fish. Salmon, Shrimp.
  • Nuts: Walnuts, peanuts, pistachio
  • Others: Sunflower seeds, yogurt, soybeans, rice

Of course, while rats are omnivorous and can eat a large variety of different foods, there are some types of food that must be avoided. These include:

☠️ Foods to avoid
  • ❌ Chocolate
  • ❌ Green parts of tomatoes (leaves, stalk, etc)
  • ❌ Dried corn
  • ❌ Raw Beans
  • ❌ Onions
  • ❌ Beets
  • ❌ Rhubarb

To learn more about what foods to feed and which to avoid, I highly recommend checking out the rat nutrition guide. It’ll teach you everything you need to know about what to feed your pet rat.

Housing a Rex Rat 🏡

The first thing to note is that it’s absolutely essential that you never keep a rat in solitude. They’re highly social animals that need at least one companion to keep them company. Because of this, you need to get a cage that’s big enough for the number of rats you’re planning to buy.

Generally speaking, a cage for two fully grown rats should be at least 30” by 15” by 20”. However, a bigger cage is always better. Also important is that the bar spacing is around 0.4 to 0.6 inches. This allows the rats to climb the cage but does not allow them to escape. Multi-level cages are recommended because rats enjoy having the ability to climb and explore.

Cage essentials

The things that these rats need in their habitat to thrive are these:

  • Bedding. Can be shredded paper, fleece, or aspen shavings.
  • Water bowl/Drinking bottle.
  • Huts or houses. Gives them a place to hide when they want to be alone.
  • Exercise wheel. Allows them to release pent up energy.
  • Tunnels. Satisfies their urge to dig and burrow.
  • Ladders. As mentioned, rats like to climb!

To learn more about buying rat toys, check out the rat toy buying guide.

Grooming a Rex Rat ✂️

Rats do not require a whole lot of grooming. They spend a large part of their day grooming and do a fantastic job at keeping themselves and their cage mates in pristine condition.

Also, while Rex Rats have a curly coat, you do not need to worry about brushing or combing it. It’s just not necessary.

The best thing you can do when it comes to grooming is to make sure that you keep their cage clean. As long as you keep their habitat free from smells and dirtiness, they’ll do the rest!

Rex rat lifespan

Like all rats, Rex rats do not live very long. Their lifespan is only about 2 years. Rats are particularly prone to cancer, so this is something you should definitely keep an eye on. Make sure that you take your furry friend to the vet for a check-up at least once a year, and any time you notice that something might be wrong with them. Other problems that rats 

The fact that rats have such a short lifespan is particularly sad because so many people form such strong bonds with them. It’s something that you have to be emotionally prepared for when buying one.

Buying a Rex Rat 💰

If after reading all of this information you’ve decided that this rat is for you, you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on one of these adorable rodents. There are basically 2 options:

  • Buying from a breeder
  • Buying from a pet shop

Adoption is usually not an option because rats have a very short lifespan and therefore do not live in shelters for very long.

The best option is to buy a Rex rat from a breeder. This will usually cost around $20. The reason why it’s best to buy from a breeder is that they treat the rats better and they’re often more socialized. In addition, they often use healthier lines to breed which makes it more likely that the rat you buy will be strong and healthy.

Buying from a pet shop is also an option, but not recommended. The only benefit of buying from a pet shop is that it’s usually cheaper (in the short run) and more convenient. However, while it might seem cheaper to buy from a pet shop, vet bills might actually make it more expensive in the long run.

You also have to keep in mind that while buying the rat itself is cheap, there are several recurring costs, such as food and bedding, that you’ll have to budget for.


Frequently asked questions

Is it normal for Rex Rats to lose hair?

Double Rex Rats are very prone to losing hair and this is totally normal. They gain and lose fur periodically. Their hair can also get thinner as they get older.

What are the genetics behind the Rex Rat’s curly coat?

These rats’ curly coat is caused by the dominant Re gene. Normal Rexes have the Rere gene while double Rexes have the ReRe gene.

How much does a Rex Rat cost?

Rex Rats are not very expensive, buying one from a breeder typically costs $20 to $40 from a good breeder.

Are Rex Rats rare?

They are not particularly rare. The Re gene responsible for their curly coat is dominant, which makes them quite easy to breed.


Final words

If a smart, curious, affectionate, and curly-coated rodent sounds like something you’d get along with then you can’t go wrong choosing the Rex rat. These incredibly intelligent creatures come in many different colors and patterns, so there’s something for everyone.

They’re great for first-time pet owners as well as experienced rat handlers and make a great addition to any home. As long as you provide them with a partner in crime and give them all the love and attention they need, you’ll surely form a lifelong bond with these adorable critters.

Jesse A.