From my experience with rats there are two quite extreme reactions to them, kind of like marmite. People either love them or hate them. Those who love them find it is normally due to having experience with them as pets. Those who have a dislike for them, base their opinion on those from the wild. Personally I have always wanted rats since I was a little girl. To me they have a lot to offer, just like dogs, however smaller. Rats are quite the intelligent creatures, they offer companionship, love and respect their owners, and can even be trained. I would argue that rats would make a great pet for those who want such qualities, and here’s why…
The musts of owning rats
You may have already noticed, that when discussing the ownership of rats, I do not refer to owning just one rat. This is because rats are highly social creatures, and do well with living with other rats. Think of wild rats – if you see one, you know there is more near by. So if you are considering becoming the proud parent of rats, I strongly suggest owning at least two. However, before this daunts on you, do remember that by having at least a pair, they then have each other to rely upon for play and general companionship. If you do work long hours, it is ok to leave them alone. Unlike for example dogs, where they require ample attention. With my rats, I have five girls. They keep each other company. Then when I am home and settled in for the evening, I ensure I give them around an hour handling, and free range time. This also goes towards building that level of trust between owner and pet. Arguably owning rats is similar to the responsibility of owning a hamster, with rats enjoying interaction from you. Where as with hamsters they can commonly be quite skittish and fast. Plus rats are bigger which makes it easier in terms of handling (in my opinion of course!)
What to watch out for
Naturally with looking into the ownership of any pet you need to weigh both pros and cons. I find with my rats (being the rat lover that I am), that I definitely find them a lot more rewarding to allow the downsides to affect my decision of owning them. Saying this there are two main “issues” I wish to bring up. The biggest is that rats only have a short life span of 2-3 years. They are only with us for such a short amount of time. On the plus side if you are someone worried about the long term commitment of owning a new pet, this could be the pet for you. The other is that due to rats primarily living in a cage, you do want to keep on top of the cleaning side of things. You could say this about any animal really. They deserve to be spot cleaned through out the week, with a weekly deep clean of the cage. If you have a sensitive nose however, you want to make sure you don’t skip your regular spot cleans. Naturally this does depend mainly on the amount of rats you have and the size of the cage. Owning my five means I do have to clean them a lot more compared to the two I first started out with.
Other things to consider
Another thing I had to consider was the gender of my rats. Rats can breed from as early as 6 weeks, with a gestation period of around 21 days, along with the capability to breed again straight after giving birth. So if you want to own both males and females you would need to prepare for the lifestyle of keeping them in separate cages. And double the commitment! Naturally you would also want to research which gender would suit you. I stuck with girls, because admittedly the first rats I fell in love and adopted were girls. Thus have kept girls ever since. Furthermore you want to avoid getting one rat from one place and then a different one from another. As social as these animals are, you would still be forcing essentially two strangers to live together. So would need to go through the effort of having them live separately, and then slowly introducing them to each other. Personalities can clash, just like with people.
Getting the final word in
Once again, I just want to add that rats are truly delightful creatures. When it comes to giving them their free range time, there are days I put a sheet over my bed. They are brought into my room and I just sit there reading a book or doing some work on the laptop whilst they play and explore. Majority of the time they end up snuggling up to me. Like with any animal you do need to put in time to get rewarding behaviours back. In the very beginning it can seem like that is so far away. As long as you are committed to building that bond however, rats generally catch on quite quickly.
If you would like to learn more please click on the following link to our page on rats which also gives you access to a downloadable care sheet. https://wildsci.co.uk/animals/reggie-the-rat/
Alternatively you can see our rats for yourself, just book a session with us! For more information please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 020 3372 4300