Handling and temperament again

Why does the view that “handling rats produces ticking time bombs and hides true genetic temperament” gain so much traction on facebook groups?

Temperament is, as thousands of scientific articles will tell you, determined by a combination of underlying genetics, environmental factors, and epigenetics. Not handling rats doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of environmental factors – you’re just giving a different set of environmental factors to people who do handle them.

I would hazard a guess that the majority of people who know that handling rats doesn’t produce “ticking time bombs”, and who manage to breed rats quite happily without constantly having to cull large percentages of our animals for having such poor temperaments that they can’t be trusted to pet homes, have decided that it just isn’t worth getting involved the majority of the time.

You can’t try to give people information based on experience as they continue to tell you how worthless experience is, if that experience hasn’t led to you coming to the same same conclusion as their chosen internet guru for 2017. You get told that your rats are just so different that they just can’t be compared (even if you have loads of experience breeding rats exported from the US). That your rats obviously have terrible temperaments (even if they regularly do well at shows under probably the most comprehensive pet standards for rats in the world). That your rats are ticking time bombs that WILL eventually maul a child (even if it just hasn’t happened over all your experience of rats – which you’re not allowed to mention someone will start telling you how experience is worthless).

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it – and frankly, having to keep pointing out that actually, we’re doing this, there is more than one way to skin a cat, isn’t doing any good to people who refuse to even listen and instead mainly resort to mockery, so we’re just getting on with it. In five years time when this particular cult has died off, we’ll probably still be mainly getting on with it.

Handling and temperament

If we have two genetically identical rats, but I handle mine gently, playfully, and regularly, and yours are handled infrequently, and when they are they’re handled purposefully to do temperament testing such as scruffing, or exposure to loud noises etc, the rats remain genetically the same, but the expressions of those genes will differ. Saying one is showing “true genetic temperament” and one is “trust trained” or “a ticking time bomb” is totally misunderstanding that both ways of raising a rat involve the environment that they’re being raised in working with the genetics to result in the end product.