Midlands Rat Club

How to Show Your Rats

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Perhaps you've never been to a rat show before, or maybe you've been but not entered your rats before. Maybe you're nervous because everyone else seems to know just what to do, and you don't? It's not that hard at all, and you can enter two shows before we ask that you become a club member, although if you are showing at our annual cup show then you'll only be able to take home a trophy for the year if you've joined the club before the show begins.

Here's a look at what you need to consider and how the process works.

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Minimising infection risk between rats

If you have taken in new rats or if your rats have been in contact with rats not belonging to you, then we ask you not to show until 14 days has elapsed from first contact. This measure is in place for the protection of all our rats as it greatly reduces the possibility of spreading infectious diseases at our shows.

If any of your rats are under par or simply showing their age, their immune systems may become depressed and it is therefore it not advisable to expose them to the rigours of a long show day.

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Which rats to enter

You are the best person to judge how each rat will cope with the day. Most rats take the travel and the show day in their stride and spend most of the day asleep in their show tank. Obviously if a rat is nervous or tends to bite then he or she is not suitable for showing.

You can also take up to three 'shoulder rats' to most shows - check the show information page to make sure. Again, most rats take this in their stride, but do bear in mind that there is a slightly higher risk of their picking up an infection if they are 'socialising' with other rat owners during the day. All rats not entered in the show will need a comfortably sized carrier, complete with adequate food and water for the day.

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Points to remember

Rats must be eight weeks or older to enter the show. They must not be pregnant, and not have any bites, sores or injuries. Small scabs around the throat and/or tail base can be a sign of mites.

The MRC does not allow rats with harmful mutations to be taken to the show. At present, these varieties comprise:

  • Hairless or Sphinx rats, either genetically hairless or double rexes that are hairless.
  • Tailless or Manx rats, or rats which, through injury, are not distinguishable from these.
  • Black Eyed White rats may not be shown either in pets or varieties, but may attend the show. (This doesn't apply to faded roans, which can be shown in the pet classes.)
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Placing your entries

Your next choice is whether to enter your rats in the pet or the variety classes. Variety classes are judged against set standards of appearance and condition, whilst pet classes are judged on their tractability, temperament and suitability as pets. If any rat has a healed but visible injury they are not usually suitable for entry in the variety classes, but they may be allowed to be shown in the pet classes - it's best to check with the show secretary before you make your entries.

Our 'Which Variety?' online guide can help you to work out which class your rat would best be entered in. If you're not sure whether your rat is suitable for showing in the varieties classes, the Midlands Rat Club runs a 'Try before you buy' scheme where you can bring them along to be assessed before the show starts. If you think this would help you, contact the show secretary before the entry deadline.

The deadline for show entries is usually set three days before the show, but it's a good idea to put your entries in the weekend before the show. This saves a last minute panic just before the deadline, but isn't so far ahead that your rats' health and condition is likely to have changed.

The simplest way to place your entries is using the online Show Entry Form, which will be linked from the show information page from two or three weeks before the show. This gathers all the information we need about your rats. If you have problems using this, you can also email your entries to showentries@midlandsratclub.org.

Entries may be withdrawn up to 24 hours before the show without charge. Exhibitors withdrawing rats after this time or simply not turning up on the day will still be required to pay the entry fees for these rats.

If you enter the pet classes and you have rescue rats, then you can choose to enter them in the rescue challenge. For the purpose of this class, only the following are eligible:

  • A rat from an organisation run as a charity or not for profit business.
  • A rat from an organisation that accepts animals in with the view to finding them suitable forever homes.
  • A rat that is removed from a lifestyle that is contrary to acceptable and suitable care.

Rats from the following situations may not be eligible for the rescue challenge:

  • Rats which have been purposely bred for sale.
  • Rats bought from a pet shop, including from a pet shop adoption centre.
  • Kittens produced as a result of an accidental mating.
  • Kittens produced as a result of mis-sexing from a pet shop.
  • Rats bought from a breeder (whether adult or kittens).
  • Rats given from one home to another (ie passing on unwanted pets).
  • Rats bought/taken from an advertisement website.
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A few days before the show

This is the time to begin preparing your rats for the show. Most rats don't need bathing - they keep themselves clean and their natural odours are not usually offensive, and bathing can remove the natural oils that keep their coat looking shiny and in good condition. If you have a light coloured rat with stained fur then you may be able to remove this with sensitive baby wipes.

Tails, on the other hand, quite often need a little attention before the show as they can become stained. One method is to use an old soft toothbrush and some soapy water, brushing 'with the grain' in the direction of the hairs from the base of the tail to the tip only. Another method is to use a green scouring pad and soapy water - gently (but firmly) wiping the tail in the direction of the base of the tail to the tip only. Don't press too hard - you don't want to damage your rat's tail.

Finally the nails need trimming to avoid the judge being scratched during the judging. There are many different ways of doing this, but a quick YouTube search on 'clipping rat's nails' will give you some useful tips. Some people prefer pet nail scissors, others prefer human nail clippers, but generally it is easier with one person holding the rat and another doing the clipping. If you don't feel you can do this yourself, there will be someone at the show who can help you with this.

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The night before

It helps to get most of the things ready the night before the show to reduce the rush the next morning.

  • Show tanks and lids (if you are taking your own).
  • Substrate (at MRC shows substrate is included in the cost of your hire tanks, but with some other clubs you will need to provide your own).
  • Water bottles to attach to the tanks if it gets too hot during the day.
  • A water source such as cucumber or apple, sliced into thick chunks and sealed in a bag or container.
  • Some dry mix to add to the substrate.
  • Plenty of money to spend on food and goodies at the show.
  • A carrier for your rats to travel in, unless they are travelling in the show tanks.
  • A plastic bag to take any rubbish home in.
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On the day

Plan to arrive at the show well before judging begins to give yourself time to get your rats prepared and placed on the show bench.

Check the club website to make sure there are no last minute problems.

If the weather is hot, take an old towel that you can damp down to provide evaporative cooling for your rat carrier.

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At the show

Once you arrive you will need to find the show secretary to pick up your tank labels and pay the entry fee for the rats you are showing. If you are using hire tanks, look for the Show Tank Station to pick up your hire tanks. As mentioned earlier, at MRC shows the hire fee includes the substrate. If you need help with nail clipping, the show secretary should be able to suggest someone who can assist.

You will have been given two sticky labels for each rat you are showing. Slide the lids onto your show tanks, and add the labels with the numbered one at the opening end of the lid. Add your moisture source and some dry mix to the substrate in the tank.

Use the printed list to make sure you put the right rat in the right tank. Keep this list in a safe place, because it can be confusing when you go to collect your rats after the judging and it's helpful to have the tank numbers.

Place the tanks on the show benches for pets or varieties.

Now you are free to shop, volunteer for kitchen duty, buy or help to sell some raffle tickets, and talk to lots of people about rats. The raffle is usually drawn at around 3pm, followed by the rat agility competition. If your rat is in the show they will have to wait until judging is over before they can take part in this.

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After the judging

The judging usually takes most of the afternoon, and once it's over the winning rats will be kept back on the judge's table for photographs. After the photos there is usually a call to say you can collect your rats.

Once you collect your rats, you may see that small coloured dots have been stuck to the labels. These show the placings, one for each stage of the show that the rat has progressed through. The colours are red for first place, blue for second, yellow for third and green for fourth. A useful mnemonic is 'Rats Bring You Gladness'.

If you have hire tanks, pop your rats back in their carrier while you empty the substrate into a plastic bag. You will need to take this home for disposal, as most venues do not have disposal facilities that we can use. The tanks should be wiped out and returned to the Show Tank Station.

It will take some time for the prize cards and rosettes to be written out, so this is a good time to help to clear the hall and store any tables and chairs that need to be put away. It's usually late afternoon by the time the presentations begin.

With a little luck you will be picking up a prize card at the end of the show, or maybe even a rosette. Remember to pause for a photo once you've been presented with your rosette.

There are no cash prizes at rat shows, but you'll find this doesn't diminish the sense of achievement from winning a rosette, and we like to celebrate this with pictures on the club website. If it is the MRC annual cup show and you've won a trophy for the year you will need to sign for this before you leave.

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Home again

The final stage once you've arrived home and taken care of your rats is to let everyone know what you have done this weekend, and look out for the show photos on the club website.