My guess is that you thought 1 of 3 different things when you read the title of this post:
1. “Oh my god! You have rats?! Poor you!”
2. “Eeeewww, rats are so gross…with their gross rats tails and the gross diseases they carry…so sick”
3. “OMG you have rats?! I LOVE rats!! I just posted a video about my rats on youtube because they are so cute”
If you are looking for a lurid rat tale filled with rat nest locating, rat trap placing etc you can move on. This isn’t that kind of post. In fact it is more like a love story. A rat love story.
How could we not fall into love with these two? Becky is on the left and is a Dumbo rat. She is such a sweet, snuggly and gentle girl. Nori is the one on the right. This pic is very Nori. She has loads of curiosity and spunk.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” you say? “Are you talking about rats?” you ask?
Yes. I am. I kid you not. It all started with the girls wanting a small pet they could snuggle. Like a cat. Their dad is allergic to cats. This is upsetting to them to say the least. Lil’S has been know to write songs about this topic including hits like “I have a choice: my dad or a cat”, “I’ll get a cat when I get my own apartment” and “Run, Kitty, Run”. Since the cat is a no-go, we moved on to researching other small animals for pets. The Missus was determined to get a hamster. We read and researched and visited some hamsters at pet stores. But hamsters are solitary animals and I had visions of fights over who could hold said hamster and possibility of “squishing” seemed high in that scenario. Also they bite a lot. We moved on to information gathering about gerbils. You need to get at least two of those at a time. We even found an animal rescue with some gerbils looking for homes. Gerbils bite less than hamsters. But they are jumpy and skittish. Not a great cuddle factor rating. I had images of the kids loving them for all of two seconds and getting bored or bitten. I saw days of mama cleaning stinky pine shavings and of sad neglected rodents living in a cage….
I saw a rat in one of the pet stores. It was in plastic hut with only its tail sticking out. I thought to myself “ew, who in their right mind would have a rat as a pet?”. The sales person had a soft spot for rats and gave me a pamphlet (only one gerbil in stock that day). I got back in the car and read the pamphlet and was intrigued. They are really smart. They can learn to come when you call them by name. THEY CAN BE POTTY TRAINED!!! They can learn tricks. They very rarely bite. They don’t live very long (don’t think less of me…this is a new venture and I liked the idea of a short-lived foray into the world of rodents if it went badly). I went from a visceral negative reaction to a pragmatic, rational response of “this pet option seems to best fit with my family’s needs”.
I don’t know if you can tell, but Becky is licking her hand. Lil’S can hold and pet Becky into an almost catatonic state! We’ve had Becky and Nori for four weeks now and they are potty trained (mostly) and are starting to come when we call them. The kids rush home to play with their rats. The rats rush to the door of their well-appointed cage to be let out and play. They are clean and easy to care for. We used the purchase of these animals to teach the kids about budgeting and we price compared everything. The kids are paying for their food and toys with their allowance. They are quiet pets. They are social and easy-going. They are fun to watch. We have plans for these rat girls of ours. They’ve stimulated great discussions on stereotypes and prejudice. “Why do people hate rats so much mom?”, “why do people think they are gross (dirty, carry disease, stupid)?”, “why won’t people give rats a chance?”. Given my own initial reaction to the idea of having rats I’ve had to examine my own strongly held beliefs. Who knew?
We also have a rat guru in the form of an amazing 16-year-old girl who produced this video that I think you’ll enjoy. I know the girls and I are looking forward to mastering these with our rat babies:
We’ve corresponded with her through her facebook page and she has amazingly insightful advice for the newbie rat owner.
I still can’t believe I’m writing about rats. I still can’t believe I OWN rats. Most importantly I can’t believe how easily they wiggled their way into our hearts. We may even join the crazy rat lovers out there and one day produce a “look how cute my rats are” video ourselves.
For those of you looking for more rat owning information start here (we did):