Partial hair loss associated with grooming of self or of cage-mate.

Clinical Signs

May observe the following:

  • Hair loss on abdomen, limbs, shoulders, head or muzzle, more often without signs of inflammation or scabbing (skin smooth and intact).


Barbering is a type of alopecia (hair loss) that is termed acquired, meaning that the rat was not born that way. It is believed to occur due to any one of the following reasons: either behavioral brought on by stress, boredom, power-grooming by a more dominant rat over its cagemate, hereditary factors in which one of the parents, or
grandparents exhibited signs. Siblings, as well, may or may not show signs of power-grooming.

Because the rat chews the hair so close to the skin, it gives the appearance of being clean shaven, hence the term barbering. The most common places for barbering to be seen on the body is the stomach or front legs if over grooming self, or on the muzzle, head, or shoulders of a cage mate.

In barbering the condition of the skin itself is generally not affected and its appearance will be normal without signs of inflammation, irritation, or cuts. This condition, unless irritation should develop, does not require treatment.


Case History of Barbering

  • Fig. 1: Barbering in a 6-month-old female rat (Irma)
  • Fig. 2: Cagemate barbering of female rat.
  • Fig. 3: Barbering of forelimbs in 6-month-old female rat (Luna)
  • Fig. 4: Self-barbering in litter mates (Madeleine and Victoria)


Skin assessment will show broken hair shafts or blunt ends where hair has been chewed, and absence of lesions in the area of alopecia.

Obtain history: Self barbering, or a more dominant (Alpha rat) cagemate doing the barbering.

Skin scraping results will be negative for dermatophytes or parasites.


No specific treatment required, unless signs of irritation or inflammation develop, then see Infectious Alopecia.

See “Prevention” below to help curb the need to over groom. Note that even with diversion techniques the rat will still have the tendency to over groom self or cagemate.

Nursing Care

  • Ensure clean cage environment to prevent infection to skin where over-grooming is occurring.
  • Observe for any signs of dermatitis or inflammation.
  • Seek veterinarian assistance if inflammation or irritation of skin develops from over-grooming.


  • Remains free from inflammation or irritation to skin.


  • Provide diversions such as toys, running wheels, play objects.
  • Include hidey areas, such as: tubes, small huts or igloos, to escape at intervals from the cagemate doing the constant barbering.


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