Blue ribbon rodent show hits city

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 6, 2012 in Rat News | Subscribe

Once you go rat, you’ll never go back.

It’s a saying among fans of domestic rats and something local residents will be able to decide for themselves at Ratstravaganza, the eighth annual B.C. Pet Rat Show that will take place in New Westminster on Saturday, Feb. 12. Everyone is welcome to attend Ratstravaganza, including rat lover and people who are curious about the critters.

“For the most part it is people who have them and people who are interested in having them,” said Royal City resident Lizzy O Sullivan, who is organizing the show. “A lot of times it is families who are interested in them.”

In the standard classes, rats are judged on qualities such as their appearance and temperament. They can also compete in the pet classes, which includes costume contests and rat races.

“That has a lot more audience appeal,” O Sullivan said of the pet classes. “In Canada we put more emphasis on the pet classes.”

Pet class categories include most talented, most unusual, longest tail, squishiest and kissiest.

“These are pretty much all audience choice. We vote by audience clapping,” O Sullivan said. “Our pet shows start at 1 p.m. That is when we have our biggest show of people.”

One of the goals of Ratstravaganza and other pet rat shows is to raise the profile of rats as pets and destroy some of the myths surrounding rats.

“We have a long way to go in changing the public’s perception,” O Sullivan said. “People have this perception of filthy animals that carry the bubonic plague. That is so far from the truth. They clean themselves more frequently than a cat. They hate to be dirty.”

According to O Sullivan, domestic rats are less likely to bite than other animals kept as pets, such as hamsters.

“They have been bred for hundreds and hundreds of years, first for lab purposes,” she said. “They were initially bred to be as docile as possible.”

The B.C. Pet Rat Show, whose past five shows have been in New Westminster, is part of the rat show circuit in the Pacific Northwest that includes stops in Seattle, Portland and Boise.

“We get a tremendous turnout,” O Sullivan said. “It depends a lot on how much publicity we get. I have been at shows where we have thousands of people file through.”

The show, takes place at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall at 316 Keary St. Doors open at 11 a.m. and the show runs from 12 to 5 p.m., with pet classes starting around 1 p.m.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children and free for children under three years of age.

The show is sponsored by RatsPacNW, a pet rat club that seeks to promote rats as pets through shows and educational events like Ratstravaganza. The event also includes the sale of various types of rat merchandise, baby rats that are available for adoption, a craft table for kids, and visits by Whiskers the giant rat mascot, animal rescue groups and Hero Rat, an organization that trains rats to sniff out landmines.

Pet rats have been given a bad rap because people assume they’re the same as wild rats.

“They have almost nothing in common with a wild rat. It’s been said they have as much in common as a poodle does with a wolf,” O Sullivan said. “It’s almost a different kind of animal. They have been domesticated for so long.”

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