Rat shows will always hold some risk of infection as, with a lot of animals from different sources coming into contact, there is always the chance that something is being carried, unnoticed, which may infect others. We can take some precautions against this and much of it is simple and sensible quarantine procedures.
Basic quarantine for rats is seen as 2 weeks of no signs of illness before doing introductions (although there are a few infections that can take longer than 14 days to show) where the new rats are kept in a premises not sharing the same airspace as your own rats –- a friend's house, garage, outhouse, etc. and an extra 2 weeks during the introduction to your own. Assuming no signs of illness during this period, your rats are unlikely to be carrying infection.
Before you come along to a show, think about the below:
Many people seem to think rats not entered in the show enjoy coming along to shows as 'shoulder/cuddle rats', but realistically it is probably one of the most stressful situations a rat can be brought into and sadly it is the shoulder/cuddle rats that have been worst affected at shows where infections have been present. Where 'show rats' are usually at their peak of fitness and in their prime and only handled by one experienced judge, shoulder/cuddle rats are often older or may have weaker immune systems making them more susceptible and also are handled by many inexperienced rat owners. While it is lovely to meet the extra rats at shows, do think hard about whether you are prepared for the risks. For this reason, currently the NFRS does not allow 'shoulder' rats at shows.
'Rat Trains' have become an increasingly popular phenomenon over the last few years and these can be a major cause of transfer of infection.
Please do not collect or deliver rats to or from a show venue unless you are sure the rats have been properly quarantined or are from a reliable known source. Proper quarantine is where the rats have remained well for at least 2 weeks. If you are acting as part of a rat train for others, ensure you have taken all precautions possible to protect your own rats and that includes not travelling them in the same car or keeping them in the same airspace unless you are confident they are quarantined or you have quarantined them yourself.
The health and welfare of all of our rats relies on everyone being responsible. Please think about the above and feel free to ask questions on anything you may be unsure about.