These rats are my pets and I love them. I want their offspring to make great pets for you. That's why I am aiming first and foremost to produce healthy and long-lived rats with a great temperament. I feel I am ultimately responsible for the welfare of all the rats I breed, so you will be asked questions about how you will care for them, and there will always be a place here for them if you can no longer keep them. I feel that rats thrive best with companions of the same age, so my rats will be homed in same-sex pairs or groups of three, with a no-breeding contract.
Actually, what this all boils down to is that I really want to keep all of the rats I breed, they're my babies, and you will have to be a damn good home to persuade me to let them go. Handing them over feels like sending my kids off to uni, but with the additional thought that I may never see them again. The fact that they exist at all is down to me putting their parents together, so anything that could possibly hurt them is my fault and my problem. They will always have a home to come back to here, no questions asked. Um. Well, I might ask, but you don't have to answer. :-P
My feeling is that there are two stages to selection. When you have a litter of tiny kittens, you choose on kitten temperament, type and markings, not necessarily in that order because you need to look at the kitten as a whole.
When they get older and you're deciding who to breed with you need to look at temperament and personality again, the health not only of the individual but of their ancestors and siblings, and if all else is equal then their adult type and colour/markings.
I don't think I have a good handle on show 'type', but I look for a rat that looks 'right' to me, feels fit and muscular in my hand, and is energetic and happy. Colour I know I'll never be good at, as I'm a little colour blind. I can't tell if my minks are patchy, the colour looks the same to me, and different shades of blue and nuances of brown completely stump me. I'll be content if I breed pet rats that are happy in their homes and make their human slaves happy too, and if I can succeed in extending their lifespan at the same time that will be fantastic.
My rats always receive veterinary care when necessary. Vet bills are my biggest expense, but I have a large enough population here to self insure. The rats have their own bank account, into which I put one pound per rat per week. To date this has always covered any vets bills, although it has run a little close on occasion. I get nervous when the fund runs below £200 as a couple of operations could easily wipe that out.
My commitment is to doing what I feel is the right and appropriate thing for the rats in my care in the circumstances at the time. Situations are bound to arise which I have not anticipated, so I don't feel comfortable setting out absolutes.
I have never culled a newborn baby rat, but I can't say that there would never ever be a situation in which I would cull. I have never culled to reduce litter size; I prefer to supplement the mother's diet to support larger litters. I have once culled a baby gerbil born without back limbs, but I've since heard of similarly affected gerbils living a full life and would probably make a different call nowadays.
My ex breeder rats have always continued to live out their lives here, but I cannot say that there would never be a situation in which I would rehome an older rat.
I have in the past enquired about spaying a young rescue rat who was suspected to be pregnant. My vet advised that the risks of having the litter were probably less than the risks of the spay, so I didn't have it done. I continue to believe that on occasion it could be better to spay than to let an unwanted litter be born.
I have had many sick rats euthanised, and believe that it is sometimes appropriate to help them along rather than let them suffer. This is never an easy decision, further treatment is always considered where it could help, but I feel there sometimes comes a point where their quality of life has deteriorated to the point where keeping them alive is not in their best interest.