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Rats as Pets – 5 Myths Busted
History has depicted them as filthy creatures that caused the Black Death of the Middle Ages. Hollywood has portrayed them as ruthless killers ready to attack humans at the slightest provocation. Is it any wonder that most people get scared at the mere mention of his name?
How can such a small animal cause such a big reaction? But most importantly, do they deserve their reputation?
Before judging rats, it may help to understand them a little. Everyone knows that rats are rodents, but did you know that a male rat is called a cub, a female a doe, and that babies are called puppies or kittens? Rats reach puberty at an early age, between 6 and 8 weeks. Their bodies are 9 to 11 inches long, with a tail of up to 9 inches, and they come in many different colors and varieties. Rats have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years and are most active at night.
Now that you know more, let’s take a look at some of the myths people believe about rats as pets. You might see them in a whole new light.
Rats are mindless creatures.
Nothing could be further from the truth. House rats are intelligent with a natural curiosity that makes them very trainable. They can be taught simple tricks relatively easily and love the interaction of learning. My son has a three-year-old blue rat named Samantha. She quickly learned his name and will come when called. She also learned to play fetch, chasing a small plastic ball as it moved away from her on the floor and then rolling it back.
Rats are vicious and dangerous creatures.
Rats are very friendly and social animals. They are easy to tame simply by being handled from a young age. Rats enjoy spending time with their owners; bond with them like a dog with a person. They love being petted and being close to their family. Our rat loves to sit on my shoulder while I type on the computer, sometimes falling asleep while she’s up there.
Rats are dirty, rodents carry disease.
Rats are actually very clean creatures, grooming themselves daily. The sign of a healthy rat is a clean, well-groomed coat. They are not a low maintenance pet, but they are much easier to care for than a hamster or larger pet. Changing the bedding in their cage every week and making sure they have fresh food and water every day will keep your furry little friend happy. I have discovered that rats are orderly animals. Every time Samantha’s cage is cleaned, she rearranges it according to her needs. He likes his house, bowls and toys to be where he wants them.
Rats are not playful.
Rats enjoy the interaction with their human owners, which requires daily playtime. They need at least an hour outside of their cage each day to play and socialize with their family, as well as toys to play with when you can’t be there. The best toys I have found are the ones designed for cats. Choose ones that your rat can’t chew, because they will. Samantha has two plastic balls with bells inside that she plays with. You can hear it at night, rolling these balls to ring the bells.
Rats are only nocturnal creatures.
While this is mostly true, it is not written in stone. Rats will rise when they think you are. They do wake up at night, but they also wake up during the day. They will wake up if they feel you are ready to play. Taking them out during the day is a good way to train them that the day is a good time to play. Samantha sleeps through the night and during the day, but is always willing to go out during the day and spend time with me or my son.
Rats can make a great first pet. They are easier to keep than a dog or a cat, and they are friendlier than a hamster. With a little understanding, your family can reap the benefits of rat ownership, too. Give the rats a chance. You’ll be glad you did.
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