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Let's face it rats have a bad rep. They are seen as pests and vectors of disease, and haven't really been able to recover their rep since... well... the black plague, I suppose. BUT domestic rats are intelligent, loving, and very clean. People always gravitate towards rabbits or guinea pigs as a small house pet, but rats outdo these two twice over. I've owned them all, cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, you name it, and I've probably picked up its poop at some point. By profession, I am a pet sitter, so every day I'm looking after a fur family. Since owning rats, however, I'm completely converted. Most rat owners will tell you how much they adore their bucked toothed fur children, but I'm here writing a whole article on it, I'm that passionate, and I assure you with a good reason for carrying on. Let me bullet point it off for you:
- Rats are like small dogs, they are always happy to see you, and they love being around you. Rats have the bonus of no barking as well! Welcoming and quiet! They love a tickle, and will lick you affectionately, just like a puppy.
- Rats are very interactive. You aren't going to get a lot out of a guinea pig or rabbit in terms of content, but a rat is hours of entertainment, because they are incredibly intelligent and have unique personalities. I have included a Youtube video of rats performing tricks, just to show how smart these little guys are. Rats want to interact with you, they want to hang out, and are very curious. They are super social, so it's best to buy them in pairs. Plus the antics of two rats interacting with each other is priceless.
- They come in crazy varieties. If you live in the UK or US you are fortunate enough to be able to purchase a dumbo rat. Give dumbo rats a google, you won't regret it. In Australia, dumbo rats aren't available, however they come in all kinds of patterns and sizes too. Rats will grow to different sizes. I have two girls on the same diet and one's a straight-up round ball and the other is skinny as can be.
- They will eat what you are eating. It's good to feed rats a proper diet (I recommend Origins Rat food) however for treats they will eat just about anything. It's hilarious watching them eat spaghetti, and also fun to be able to share with your furry pal. You can enjoy some couch time and snacks together. Some raw foods aren't safe for rats, but outside of that, small portions of pretty much any human food is ok.
- Rats bought from reputable pet shops or breeders are not disease carriers. Look out for shops that source from breeders who have bred out most of the common genetic ailments that rats have. Rats often develop respiratory illness, but this won't be an issue if you source them from a breeder with good credentials. Don't worry respiratory illness is genetic in the critters and not contagious, also very easily treated.
- Easy to hide in an apartment. Now I'm not saying this is what you should be doing, but if it comes down to it, you won't have to give them away. Sneaking these little dudes into apartments that say no pets aren't all too hard and I've been doing it for years. Make sure come inspection time however, you have somewhere them and their cage can hang out for a few hours out of sight. They can come with you almost anywhere. I have a soft carrier for my girls (like a handbag) and they come on walks with me in it.
- Cheaper than pretty much every other pet. Rats are generally around $15 and a cage is easy to snag for free on gumtree or an online marketplace. Sometimes if you adopt a rat off someone online they will supply a cage. My first two girls came free with a cage. Make sure you check for signs of illness before purchase (Fluffed up fur, red residue around the eyes and nose). Make sure they have plenty of space and can climb in their environment. The taller the better, with levels for perching on.
- No two are the same! As I said above, they have unique personalities, and they all have their own little quirks and preferences. I've never owned two rats who had the same personality. They will each have their own habits and likes/dislikes.