Have you wanted a pet, but weren’t sure you had the time to care for a dog? Or maybe you don’t know if you want the 15 year commitment of a cat. Fish are great, and easy, but they don’t do much. Ferrets are cool, but they may not be legal where you live. Frogs are cute, but they can’t cuddle while you watch Netflix.
The solution is rats. And before you say, “Ew!” keep reading.
Rats are amazing pets. I currently have ten pet rats of my own, and I volunteer with a local pet rat rescue. I am on a mission to fix the reputation of pet rats. Here are a few things to consider…
1. Pet rats do not equal pest rats
The domestic rat, or fancy rat, is different from the wild rats that give exterminators business. They have different physical features and have been bred for hundreds of years to have mild, sociable demeanors. You can hold my pet rats. They’ll even give you kisses. Don’t pick up a wild rat. You will get bit and need stitches.
Pet rats also don’t carry the diseases that wild rats carry. You run no risk of the plague or salmonella with a sweet little fancy rat.
2. Rats are trainable
Their ability to be trained corresponds directly with the amount of work you want to put in. With minimal effort, rats can be litter-box trained. That’s right, they will only poop in one area of the cage if you train them to do so. Rats learn their names and will come when called.
I have met rats that can dance pirouettes. Rats love to play fetch. A friend of mine once had a rat who would fetch his pack of cigarettes. The rat would also lecture his owner about the dangers of lung cancer (just kidding.) And then there is Cirque du Sewer, the world’s only rat circus. Her rats jump through hoops and walk on tightropes.
3. Rats are really into Netflix
Rats are as cuddly as dogs. One of my rats who recently passed was my “boob rat.” Susie would just sit inside my shirt for hours. She would groom herself or take a nap. Sometimes she would poke her head out and see what was on Netflix.
Liz and Alice are a bit more exploratory. But they never venture far before they come back to check on me. They will both crawl up my shoulder while I’m watching TV and give me a quick kiss on the nose. My boys are my biggest cuddlers now. Boy rats are lazy, and they love to be scratched and tickled. Weasley will just hang out on my shoulder.
4. Rats can be spayed and neutered
Owning rats does not mean you will end up with a million baby rats. The rescue I work with sterilizes all of our rats before adoption. It cuts down on overpopulation, helps with behavior issues, and prolongs their lives. Because of spaying and neutering, I have a mixed colony. My girls keep my boys from being too fat and lazy, and my boys help chill out my girls.
5. Rats are cleaner than most small animals
I grew up around birds, and they make a huge mess. I have owned a hamster and a hedgehog. That hedgehog was disgusting. My rats? They are cleaner than my dogs and my fiancé.
Rats spend as much time grooming every day as cats do, if not more. They groom themselves and each other. As previously discussed, they can be litter trained.
6. Rats eat your leftovers
There are very few things rats can’t eat. Rats have evolved to have amazing livers. As long as they have a healthy base to their diet, like lab blocks and fruits and vegetables, don’t be afraid to give them that pizza that’s about to go bad.
7. Rats love you even if you don’t have a lot of time
Ideally, rats need about thirty minutes to an hour of human interaction every day. If you have more time to give, they will enjoy it and so will you. Did you stay out all night and not get home till noon? Take a nap, then spend time with your rats. They’ll forgive you, and they won’t judge you for the poor choices you might have made last night.
Rats have been villainized in pop culture for hundreds of years. I have found that they are some of the sweetest, most loving, and most intelligent creatures on the planet. And rats are like potato chips — you can’t stop at just one!
Always check out rescues and reputable breeders before bringing home a rat. And always do your research before you own any type of pet!
What are your top reasons for having pet rats?