For those of you without pet rats, you might not know that rats clean themselves a lot. For the most part they keep themselves so clean that we don't need to give them a bath at all, unless they get into something toxic, smelly or sticky. At that point a ratty bath may be necessary. But rats will also clean themselves so much that they start pulling out their fur or in some cases, they nibble off their cage-mates fur.
What is Barbering?
Barbering refers to the excessive and compulsive cleaning in which the fur is actually nibbled off or pulled right out of the skin. Rats in a cage with a cage-mate may barber each other leaving bald spots on the other rats fur.
What Causes A rat To Barber?
There are many reasons a rat may barber himself or a cage-mate. The most common are because of mites, ticks, fleas or lice. These tiny insect may be hard for a human to see on a rat but they can itch your rat's skin and make him chew the fur off to get rid of the itching.
Baby rats may barber their mother's stomachs when their teeth come in and some lactating mother rats may barber their own stomachs if there is any irritating around the nursing sites.
Other reason might be because of skin ulcers, lesions, small cuts or abrasions. Rats will sometimes over groom any small cuts they get on their skin, leading to barbering. A rat might also barber when they are stressed, annoyed, or lonely.
How To Stop a Rat From Barbering
Most times when you see rats grooming each other, they are not barbering. They are just grooming each other and it might even look like one is combing the fur of the other with their teeth while nibbling them at the same time.
If barbering is apparent and bald spots start occurring, check for mites, fleas or lice. They are sometimes hard to see but a trained veterinarian will be able to tell you if that's the problem.
Put more toys in the cage, take the rats out and play with them more often. Rats are very social animals, being lonely or bored may cause them to barber themselves or their cage mate. Buy a bigger cage. A larger cage and more toys will give them something to do and things to explore.
But in some cases there's not much you can do if the rats are barbering for other mental reasons. In the end it won't hurt the rat being barbered or the rat doing the barbering, but you might end up with rats who have no fur on their face, head or legs.