When I tell people I have rats I almost always have to clarify that I mean the pet kind, not the pest kind. And a look of disgust is still usually followed, “you mean you choose to keep rats?!” Yes. And they make wonderful pets. So let me tell you what I excitedly tell everyone not yet enlightened to keeping rats as the pet kind.
Rats have long been associated with diseases or hygienic issues. They’ve been dumped with the reputation of being dirty creatures that only exist as vermin. But today many people have begun to embrace these tiny animals as pets. When Disney’s Ratatouille hit our screens, the pet rat finally saw some good press, with Pets at Home reporting a 50% increase in the sale of rats after the films release. As well as in pet stores you can get pet rats who have retired from medical trials, or from specialist breeders.
Rats that are kept as pets are usually variants of the brown rat, amongst some other species that have been pets since the 19th century. These rats don’t have the usual behaviour that wild rats do. They are friendly and can be taught tricks and be tamed. There are plenty of facts about rats which most of us aren’t familiar with. Rats are intelligent, highly social animals and make incredibly rewarding pets to look after, so lets get into the list of why I believe they are the perfect pet.
1. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks. But you can teach your pet rat!
Rats are extremely intelligent, and that makes them easy to train. You can train your pet rats to respond to their names, give paw, spin, and much more. The options are endless.
2. They’re so intelligent in fact, that even the army train them to identify unexploded bombs. Saving lives
Landmines can remain unexploded below the surface for decades in areas post-conflict. According to The International Committee of the Red Cross, more than 800 people are killed and 1,200 maimed by landmines every single month – most of them children, women, and elderly. It is the job of specially trained African rats to sniff out these mines, so they can be safely removed. Since rats are trained to sniff for explosives, they yield far less false positives and can even detect plastic landmines. What takes a human almost two weeks, one rat can do in just a day.
3. Rats may also ‘smile’ with their ears! When they’re happy their ears relax, become droopy and slightly pinker
4. A whole community on TikTok is dedicated to pet rats and labels them as ‘pocket puppies’
5. They’re actually really clean, cleaner than your pet dog or cat
Domesticated rats pride themselves on keeping clean, they’re constantly grooming themselves and each other. They use their tongue which is similar to a cats tongue to comb through and clean their fur. If you have an affectionate rat, it will probably try to help groom you too!
6. Rats are so easy to litter train
It doesn’t take long to train your rats to use a litter tray, and sometimes they don’t even need help. Having a litter tray in their cage makes cleaning much quicker and easier since they all do their business in the same spot!
When a rat is very happy, they will show you with their eyes. Boggling refers to when a rat’s eyes seem to move quickly in and out of the socket. It’s caused by the grinding of the rats teeth and often seen when your rat is happy and content.
8. Pet rats do not pose any more of a health risk than pets such as cats or dogs. And they were not responsible for the black plague!
It’s long been thought that rodents and their fleas were thought to have spread a series of outbreaks in 14th-19th Century Europe. But, the BBC has reported that the spread of Black Death, can be “largely ascribed to human fleas and body lice”.
9. A group of rats is called a mischief, and mischievous they are
It’s impossible to get bored of your pet rats, each of them have their own distinct personalities and quirks. Because you shouldn’t keep rats as individuals it’s always a pleasure to watch your rats interact and play with each other even if you’re too busy for playtime.
10. Rats make lifelong bonds with their owners
All you need to do is ask any rat owner, and they’ll tell you that rats recognize their owners and respond to their sight and voice. They are very social and love to hang out with their humans on the sofa, on shoulders, and in laps.
I adopted my current rats Paul, Simon, and Dave, about 4 months ago. They’re all just over a year old, and my very own pocket puppies! If this list hasnt convinced you that there’s more to rats than sewage and disease, let me try to convince you one more time. I sat down with Ale to talk about what it’s like owning rats, and to introduce them all.
Watch the interview below.
-insert video interview here / youtube embed –