History has depicted them as filthy creatures that brought about the Black Plague of the Middle Ages. Hollywood has shown them as vicious killers ready to attack humans at the slightest provocation. Is it any wonder most people are fearful at the mere mention of their name?
How can such a small animal elicit such a huge reaction? But more importantly, do they deserve their reputation?
Before you judge rats, it might help to understand a little bit about them. Everyone knows rats are rodents, but did you know a male rat is called a buck, a female is a doe, and the babies are called pups or kittens? Rats reach puberty at an early age, between 6 to 8 weeks. Their bodies are between 9 and 11 inches long, with a tail up to 9 inches and they come in many different colors and varieties. Rats have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years and are most active at night.
Now that you know more about them, let’s take a look at some of the myths people believe about rats as pets. Maybe you’ll see them in a whole new light.
Rats are mindless creatures.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Domesticated rats are intelligent with a natural curiosity which makes them very trainable. They can be taught simple tricks with relative ease and love the interaction of learning. My son has a three year old Blue Fancy rat named Samantha. She quickly learned her name and will come when called. She also learned to play fetch, chasing a small plastic ball when it is rolled away from her on the floor, then rolling it back.
Rats are vicious, dangerous creatures.
Rats are very friendly, social animals. They are easily tamed simply by being handled from a young age. Rats enjoy spending time with their owners; bonding with them much as a dog bonds with a person. They love being petted and being close to their family. Our rat loves to sit on my shoulder while I’m writing at my computer, sometimes falling asleep while she is up there.
Rats are filthy, disease bringing rodents.
In reality, rats are very clean creatures, grooming themselves daily. The sign of a healthy rat is a clean, well-groomed coat. They are not a low maintenance pet, but are much easier to care for than a hamster or larger pet. Replacing the bedding in their cage every week, and making sure they have fresh food and water daily will go a long way to make your furry little friend happy. I’ve found that rats are orderly animals. Every time Samantha’s cage is cleaned she rearranges it to suit her needs. She likes her house, bowls, and toys to be where she wants them.
Rats are not playful.
Rats enjoy interaction with their human owners, requiring daily play time. They need at least an hour outside of their cage every day to play and socialize with their family, as well as toys to play with when you can’t be there. The best toys I’ve found are ones designed for cats. Pick ones that can’t be chewed by your rat, because they will chew. Samantha has two plastic balls with bells inside that she plays with. You can hear her at night, rolling those balls around to make the bells ring.
Rats are only nocturnal creatures.
While this is mostly true, it isn’t set in stone. Rats will be up when they think you are. Yes they are up at night, but they are also up during the day. They will wake up if they feel that you are ready to play. Taking them out during the day is a great way to train them that daytime is a good time to play. Samantha sleeps during the night and day, but she is always willing to come out during the day and spend some time with me or my son.
Rats can be a great first pet. They are easier to maintain than a dog or cat, and are friendlier than a hamster. With a little understanding your family can reap the benefits of rat ownership too. Give rats a chance. You’ll be glad you did.
About the Author
Dawn Arkin is a former rat phobic who discovered the joys of having a pet rat later in life. This article has been submitted in affiliation with http://www.PetLovers.Com which is a site for Pet Forums.