I am a British traveller with a love for writing, photography, and fun! Hoping to share some of my experiences with the world. :)
Published November 10th 2012
Why rats make brilliant pets
Since I can remember, I've always been a huge animal lover. I remember always nagging my mother for another animal to look after. Thankfully my Grandad was a huge animal lover too, so he didn't mind helping me with the workload.
My Grandad always kept birds in an aviary but I didn't quite feel connected to them. As a child, I was quite afraid of them and the noise used to drive my nanna mad. So apart from the family dog, I felt I needed something to look after myself, and have had pets, including rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, hamsters, gerbils and - as much as people squirm when I say it - a rat.
I bought my pet rat a couple of years ago, and I would recommend one to anybody. If you want a companion but can't have a dog or cat, or if it's your child's first pet, they really are perfect.
Rabbits are great but not everybody has the space for one. Guinea pigs are friendly but again take up a lot of room and shouldn't really be without a companion. They also can be very noisy. I enjoyed having gerbils, however I was bitten here and there when they were in a bad mood. Similar to hamsters, even though they are slower and sleepier than gerbils and might enjoy a cuddle a bit more, they definitely have a grumpy side and I wouldn't recommend leaving a young child with one. My worst experience was mice. They were too small and fast to ever really fuss, they smelled and used to fight each other all the time.
Since moving into an apartment, I haven't been able to keep a dog or a cat, but I wanted a small animal to look after and play with. I really wanted a guinea pig but I remember the noise and the effort to keep them happy and I was just too busy to look after two animals and really didn't have the space.
I remembered my friend having a rat when I was younger and she loved it. She'd let it run around her room like a dog. And yes, even I (the large animal lover) didn't quite feel comfortable with having a rat. However we went to the pet shop and I fell in love with this tiny little rat. I remembered as a general rule that male animals are more smelly than girls, so we went with a girl.
My boyfriend was fairly horrified when I bought her back and I wasn't too comfortable handling her, but I continued to handle her and like many handled animals, she just couldn't get enough.
She grew a lot from when we first got her but she was a nice size. Big enough to cuddle without crushing her but small enough to keep in a cage not a hutch. She'd be grateful for scraps of fruit and veg and actually had a personality.
Rats are really intelligent and you can actually train them to do certain tricks. My rat just loved to chase her tail and have her tummy tickled. (I think she thought she actually was a dog). And in the end my boyfriend, who to start with wouldn't even look at her, would get her out for cuddles too. As long as I've had her she hasn't bitten anyone and is fairly easy to look after.
Rats tend to use one or two spots in their homes to go to the toilet so the smell never gets too bad. They can also have a life span of up to eight years.
I think pets are a great idea for kids to learn to look after and respect living things. But just like any animal, rats need to be handled correctly and looked after correctly for them to be the ideal friendly pet I've been talking about.
If you are considering buying a rat, why not look at a local rescue centre? Many rats there have already been hand reared and are used to people. Unfortunately the price of rats means that a lot are given as 'joke presents' and leaves a lot of pets homeless. Remember, a pet is for life.