When you hear the word rat what do you think of?
Do you think of dirty rodents that travel through sewers and filth spreading diseases like wildfire?
Or do you think about the cute pile of fluff at your local pet store?
If you’re anything like the old me, you probably saw that pile of rats and beelined straight to the traditionally-cute pets – the bunnies or fluffy hamsters.
I mean, have you seen a rat’s tail?
I used to be terrified of rats but one day I decided to overcome my fear by holding one for the first time. I didn’t expect to fall in love with rats that day, but I did, and I haven’t looked back since!
My “Rat Journey”
I adopted my first pair of rats in the summer of 2015. I remember researching for weeks: What cage should I buy? What is the best food? How about good bedding for rats? I didn’t take the decision lightly and I put a lot of work into building the best home for my first two babies.
Blue was a Dumbo Agouti and Magnolia was a Black Berkshire.
Blue has always been my most personable rat, she loved everyone and wouldn’t hesitate to jump on the couch just to see you.
Magnolia was far shyer and didn’t love being handled but she would greet me everyday just the same. It didn’t take long for me to add two more rats to my mischief – Miesha and Pixel. Unfortunately, my time with all four was short and I lost them to various health issues.
In 2017, I got my current babies: Peach and Roo. They are sisters, and both carry the Dumbo gene like Blue.
Peach is unique because of her ruby-red eyes that gave me quite a scare the first time I saw her sway her body back and forth. That’s when I learned how vision quality differs between eye colors and the techniques rats will use to counteract this impairment.
I’ve been lucky with Peach and Roo, who will be two at the end of December, because unlike my first four rats, they haven’t had the same health issues.
I think this goes to show how important quality breeding is for the health and well-being of a pet rat in the long term.
Keeping pet rats has taught me a lot about responsible pet ownership. They were the first pets I brought home as an adult and had 100% responsibility for. I learned how to find veterinary care, administer different medications, and I made sacrifices so Blue could get the surgery she needed.
Even though there have been some difficult experiences involved like saying goodbye earlier than anticipated or having one of them go missing in my apartment (Looking at you Magnolia!) for over 24 hours, I wouldn’t change anything.
Here are five reasons why I love my pet rats:
1) Unless they’re asleep, they’re always happy to see me.
If there is one thing in the world I can always count on, it’s opening my rats’ cage and having both run out to greet me. You could say it’s because they know there is a good chance I’ll give them a treat, but I prefer thinking that they’re excited to see me.
After all, I can’t recall getting the same reaction from any of my childhood pets, so it makes me think this is a behavior unique to the friendly nature of most pet rats.
2) The way they insist on sleeping in a giant pile of cuteness.
It shouldn’t come as a total surprise that I included the way rats sleep on a list of reasons why I love my pet rats. After all, it was one of the first things I mentioned in the introduction!
There’s just something comforting about rats loving their cage mates so much that they don’t mind sleeping intertwined in the most uncomfortable looking positions.
I still remember the day I bought my first four girls a Lixit Space Pod after reading reviews online. I bought a small size that shouldn’t have been able to fit more than two rats comfortably but that didn’t stop all four of them from squishing together for a leisurely nap.
3) I don’t need to worry about walking them in the dead of Winter.
While living in a part of the world that experiences harsh winters that last around four months or longer every year, not having the responsibility of walking a dog multiple times everyday is nice.
Although my rats still require socialization and time outside of their cage during the day, I would much rather supervise their “cage-free time” than go for a walk in below freezing temperatures.
While I agree that having a dog might not compare to having pet rats, I don’t feel like I missed out on personality or companionship, which is something I worried about before bringing my first two girls’ home.
4) Each one is unique with their own personality.
When I first brought home Blue and Magnolia, I was surprised by how different their personalities were. While I did choose Blue because she was the only one who was comfortable enough to try and escape the enclosure at the breeders, I had no idea she would turn out to be as personable and friendly as she was.
As I mentioned earlier, Magnolia remained shy her entire life, but she did warm up to me towards the end of her life. Pixel was my most skittish rat and Miesha was a good mixture of Blue and Magnolia’s personalities.
Peach and Roo are the only rats I’ve owned that were born in the same litter. Before I got to know them, I thought their personalities and temperament would be similar but they’re just as different as my other rats.
Peach is timid and more reserved whereas Roo is friendlier and more likely to escape their cage when given the opportunity.
5) The way they hold treats with their tiny little hands.
My final reason for loving my pet rats might sound silly in comparison to the other reasons on my list but I don’t know how you could watch a rat hold a morsel of food in their tiny hands and not squeal in delight.
To add to the cuteness, I like to offer my girls multiple treats and watch them try to carry them to their special treat-eating spot. It usually ends with them stuffing their face, dropping a treat and picking it up repeatedly until they finally reach their destination. It’s adorable and their determination to not give up any treats is admirable in my opinion.
I might have a love for that pile of rats at the pet store now, but it certainly didn’t happen overnight.
It took time to overcome my fear and the prejudices I had developed from years of misinformation.
I’m glad I took the time to become informed about keeping pet rats because I would have missed out on the experiences I shared with my own girls: the good and the bad.
If you’re nervous like I once was, why not spend a little extra time getting to know the rats at your local pet store? You might fall in love like I did!
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