Rats. When most people hear this word, their mind conjures up images of disease and plague-ridden rodents scurrying around in the dark. For others, rats are adorable, intelligent, and loving bundles of furry joy.
It is often wondered why anyone would want to keep an animal with such a bad reputation as a pet. Well, we put on our detective hats and delved into the world of rat appreciation to find an answer for you.
#1. Rats are intelligent
There is a good reason why rats are the favoured test subjects for mazes and puzzles. They are intelligent, inquisitive, and love to solve puzzles. Due to this innate intelligence, domesticated rats can be trained just like dogs.
They can learn and remember their names, do tricks such as sitting on command, and will come to you if called. Some people have even managed to teach their little furry companions to play games, like basketball or fishing for frozen peas.
It is difficult to become bored with pet rats, since they adore puzzles and are quick learners – the more complicated the games get, the happier rats are.
#2. Rats are extremely clean
This will probably come as a surprise to many people, but domesticated rats are tiny clean freaks. Their reputation as unclean plague bearers is completely undeserved. In fact, rats maintain a higher level of personal hygiene than the average household cat.
When multiple rats are kept together, they will share the grooming duties amongst themselves. Their rough little tongues, on the other hand, allow for dirt and dust to be removed quickly.
It is also common to find small litter boxes in rat cages. That’s right – rats can be trained to use a litter box. This means that there will be less of a mess to clean up and when combined with their general cleanliness, rats will not smell anywhere near as bad as other rodents, such as mice and guinea pigs.
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#3. Rats are easy to care for
Rats are one of the easiest pets to look after, other than rocks. Since they don’t smell terrible and can use litter boxes, their cages are incredibly simple to clean. Their old bedding should be removed once or twice a week and the inside of the cage will just need a quick wipe before it is ready for its new bedding.
There is no need to worry about hairballs or vomit either since rats are incapable of vomiting (which is why poison is so effective against them). So, there is no chance of stepping in tiny puddles of puke anytime soon.
When it comes to feeding rats, things get even simpler as they will eat almost anything. All major pet shops carry rat food pellets, which contain all of the nutrition needed to keep them happy and healthy. However, they are just as content on eating vegetables, fruits, grains and other ‘people food’, such as pizza.
Don’t have a lot of space at home?
No problem! Rats don’t require that much room to be happy. They are content with a cage, a drawer in a cabinet, or even an old fish tank (without the water) so long as you let them out to run around and stretch their little legs.
#4. Rats have a personality
Once rats have become accustomed to their surroundings and owner, they feel comfortable enough for their personality to shine. As intelligent animals, each rat has its own charm and quirks.
Some can be hyperactive and constantly exploring the place, while others can be laid back and would want nothing more than to snuggle with their owner on the sofa.
The more time is spent with domesticated rats, the more people realise how loyal, entertaining, and unique each rat is. Through their individual personalities, we get to experience how varied their little rat kingdom actually is.
#5. Rats are very affectionate
Since rats are smart and have amazing personalities, they will gradually come to trust and love their owners. Like most pets (reptiles, amphibians, and insects excluded) they respond to love and care and will develop a deep bond over time.
When out of their cages, rats will actively seek out their owners for a company and to perch on their shoulders or curl up in their hoods. All they really want is to be close to us and to give us tiny sandpaper kisses.
#6. Rats make excellent pets for children
Taking all of the points above into consideration, coupled with the fact that rats are unlikely to bite their owner (unlike gerbils and hamsters), rats make a surprisingly good pet for children.
Their affectionate nature also makes rats easier to handle than other rodents. They will sit happily in a child’s hands without rapidly twisting and turning to escape.
It is an even better match when we also consider the natural inquisitiveness of both rats and children. They can both spend hours at a time playing with a few cardboard boxes and tubes without getting bored.
It should go without saying, all rat/child bonding and playtime should be supervised by an adult until the child is old enough to be trusted with this small, squeaking amount of responsibility.
So, there we have it. Although they may be gross to some people, rats actually make quite good pets.
Whether you want a pet, but live in a small apartment, or would like to teach your child a thing or two about responsibility, rats are a great alternative. Plus, you get to freak your friends out as your rat buddy scurries up your arm to sit on your head!