About SITH Rattery
Specializing In Temperament and Health
(Last Updated Jan 30 2016)
Lizzy, SITH Rattery.
Hi, I'm Lizzy. I live in New Westminster BC Canada, near Vancouver, with two cats, Muppet and Zorro, and my dog Nemo, (all of whom are rescues) and usually around 20 beloved pet rats at any given time. I've been keeping pet rats for over 30 years now, having inherited them from my kids. After successfully raising 2 children, and spending many years working both full and part time for various charities, most recently Amnesty International, I am now retired from the workforce, which means I have plenty of time to devote to the main passions of my life, my pets, animal rescue, and mentoring other hobby rat breeders.
Why I became a pet rat breeder
My experience with pet rats began in the area of rat rescue. I have been involved in animal rescue for some 40+ years now, first with the SPCA, then later with the Small Animal Rescue Society of BC, Little Mischief Rescue Society, Homefinders Animal Rescue Society, and Best Friend Rodent Rescue. During the course of my volunteer work, I raised and placed litter after litter of rescue babies, and sometimes we got lucky in terms of health, temperament and longevity, but more often than not, things seemed to go terribly wrong. There were many litters where all of the females, and even some of the males developed mammary or pituitary tumours, often before they'd even reached one year old. Sometimes, no sooner was one mammary tumour removed, than another grew in it's place. One of the rescue rats I personally adopted had to have tumours removed on 5 different occasions. Other litters were predisposed to early heart disease, strokes, cancer or chronic respiratory illness. Despite the best of veterinary care, many of these rats were not making it much past their first birthday, and leaving a trail of heartbroken adopters in their wake, myself included.
Then in the early 2000's the rescue I was volunteering with started to see a sharp rise in megacolon, due to more and more pet stores breeding or importing rats that carry the high white megacolon causing gene. Early onset megacolon is a fatal birth defect that sets in shortly after a baby is weaned. In order to avoid an excruciatingly painful death, most agree that euthanasia is the best option. In 2004 Homefinders Animal Rescue raised 3 litters of babies in a row that developed this condition. Many of the babies, eight out of nine babies in one litter, had to be euthanized at the height of their baby cuteness and playfulness. This included an adorable pair of boys that I had adopted myself. It was utterly heartbreaking, and for me, it was the last straw, the one that convinced me that people in the BC Lower Mainland deserved an alternative to what the pet stores and backyard breeders were churning out.
How I prepared to become a pedigreed rat breeder
Rat breeding was not something I rushed into however. I even tried really hard to persuade other local rat keepers to get into it first, but everyone kept encouraging me to do it. Almost from the dawn of the internet, I have been well connected in the pet rat community. I had been an early member of The Rat Fan Club and Rat and Mouse Club of America, as well as a member of the yahoo group, the ratlist, going back to it's early days when as the world's only online pet rat forum, it was a listserve on a college server. I even served for a time as a volunteer on their related rathelp group, providing rat health care information to new rat owners. In 1996, I was privileged to attend 6 European rat shows. It was getting to meet pedigreed rat owners and breeders in person and learning about the improved health and longevity of pedigreed rats, that inspired me to adopt my own first pedigreed rat. I drove all the way to a rattery in Tacoma Washington to bring home the great RMR Darth Darby, best known as a Jedi fighter extraordinaire and the eternal webmaster of Sith Rattery. In 2000, I became a founding member of RatsPacNW,a pet rat club that takes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia. I also joined the RatsPacNW yahoo group, which we have since moved to Facebook. I highly recommend this discussion group to anyone in the Pacific Northwest who has pet rats!
In March of 2001, I attended the first RatsPacNW show, and even helped with the judging, even though none of us really knew what we were doing at the time. Since then, I have missed very few RatsPacNW shows and events. From that point on, I began studying rat genetics and soon began training and gaining experience as a show judge. By the time I decided to venture into breeding, I was a fully accredited show judge and at least half my rats were pedigreed. For about 7 years, I'd kept both pedigreed rats and rescues, and I'd come to further realize the advantage pedigreed rats have over pet store bred/rescue rats in terms of health, temperament and longevity. While it's true there are never any guarantees, I found the improved odds quite astounding. Contrary to what many people seem to think, having a pedigree is not some sort of snobbish status thing. All it really means, is that you have a record of the health and temperament history of the line and have a fair idea of what to expect from future litters.
How I started my rattery
I bred my first few litters of rats under the close mentorship of two highly respected, long established ratteries, Curly Whiskers Rattery in Boise Idaho, and Rodents of Unusual Sweetness Rattery in Seattle Washington. For the first few years I consulted them and other breeders in RatsPacNW before every move I made, eventually gaining the confidence and experience to branch out and make my own decisions... although even today, I still sometimes turn to them, and to other experienced breeders in the club, for advice. All of the rats I've ever bred came from the healthiest possible lines and were pedigreed for countless generations by other ratteries before I even started working with them. Since then, I have done my best to improve on those lines, completely stopping many of branches of them, whenever the health and temperament didn't measure up. While some people may believe that rescue and rat breeding are in conflict with each other, so long as proper quarantine practices are maintained, that really couldn't be further from the truth. Since building up a good reputation as a breeder, I have made more contacts, and managed to help place more rescue rats than ever before.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the two main lines I chose to focus on as a breeder were Dalmatians and European Roans. This is because these two lines completely mimic those much sought after markings common to the gene that produces megacolon, yet are completely megacolon free. I will also admit to being extremely attracted to dwarf rats, mainly for their health and increased longevity, and the fact that most are tumor free. Altogether though, I ended up working with 6 different lines over the years, some examples of which can be seen here.
Over the past 10 years I have branched out to mentor and co-mentor many other new ratteries as well. Throughout this time I have continued to volunteer in rat rescue, and tried to help bridge the gap between rescuers and pedigreed breeders. One of the things I am most proud of is helping several local breeders who got off on the wrong foot, to switch from breeding pet store rats to pedigreed rats.
Finally, I just want to make it clear that rat breeding is very much a hobby for me and for those that I mentor. We definitely don't consider it to be a business. When you tally up all the vet bills, not to mention the basic rat care needs, it's actually a very expensive hobby. The only way to make money at rat breeding, would be to sell to pet stores, or online as feeders for other animals. This is something we would never do. We got into this hobby for the sheer love of pet rats, and a sincere desire to improve on the lines being bred and sold locally. Yes, many of our rats have done very well in shows, but our main goal remains to focus on improved temperament, health and longevity above all else.
Just One Last Bit of History
After 2 terms as Vice President of the RatsPacNW club, and two terms as club President, I recently stepped back into the Vice President's role again. Locally, I hosted an annual pet rat show called Ratstravaganza for many years, as well as holding various other "rat free" pet rat related events throughout the year, such as rattery open house parties, holiday socials, and World Rat Day parties. I am still hosting the occasional pet rat people party in my home, and I am still looking for volunteer to take over hosting shows. I am seriously getting too old for that, although I am still happy to help someone else!
My former partnership with Small Joys Rattery
In the Fall of 2006, I was approached by Erin, with whom I had recently placed some babies, about the possibility of doing a joint litter with her. I remember thinking at the time, having seen so many new rat breeder wannabes come and go, that this kid will probably never last... but I agreed to work with her and she became my evil Sith Apprentice, eventually branching out on her own to form Small Joys Rattery. Erin and I, were completely in sync when it came to our goals and objectives. The two of us did a lot of learning together, and worked in full partnership for at least 7 years, before her gradual retirement from the hobby. Erin is now studying Forestry at UBC.
Jackie, our brilliant rat photographer
In March of 2012 we were fortunate to connect with a new rattery partner, Jackie Basque from Abbotsford BC. Formerly with Dancing Dandelion Photography, Jackie is taking a break from professional photography, while focusing on raising a family. For these past few years, she has been the official volunteer photographer for our rattery. Luckily for us she works for baby rat snuggles! But Jackie's help has not been limited to photography. She has become a highly valued member of the team, helping with co-breeding, baby raising and more. Jackie has 4 rats of her own, 3 lovely daughters, and a dog.
Carrie, my former evil Sith Apprentice
Carrie, who lives in Langley BC, joined the Sith Rattery team in August of 2014, and while learning the ropes, kept the rattery afloat for more than a year past the time I had planned to retire. This is her story:
I fell in love with rats several years ago, when I first learned
what wonderful pets and companions they are. The timing wasn't right
for me to adopt, until recently. I now have 7 beautiful boys and 2
Where we are at now
The older I get, the more difficult it has become to manage a large number of rats, and to physically lift and clean all the cages. I also have close family members with severe rat allergies so it has been important to get my numbers down. I am still volunteering with rescue, although currently trying to wind that down as well, and still offering my pedigreed males for stud to approved ratteries, but otherwise I am pretty much retired from the hobby. There will still be the occasional litter posted on this website but they will be few and far between, as I continue to suggest that potential adopters contact local rescue or one of the many ethical ratteries I have formed affiliations with.
For more information about SITH Rattery, please see our breeding and adoption policies and our frequently asked questions. If you have any questions that you don't see answered on these pages, or if you would like more specific information about our rattery or the history of any of our lines, please don't hesitate to ask.