Snippits: Awww, rats!

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Sep 13, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

I’m a pet lover, pure and simple. I’m fond of all the standard types – dogs, cats, horses, bunnies, even goats. I’m less enamored with those you can’t hug, like slimy little fish and snakes, although I know folks who swear they’ve bonded with both. I’m not big on messy birds either, but I’ve known people who adore their birds, like a friend’s elderly aunt whose parrot, Will, finally keeled over and broke his neck following too much love and affection . . . and chocolate, my friend suspects.

Once Will had torn up a Styrofoam cup after devouring a heaping helping of chocolate ice cream. He liked to do that, eat the ice cream and then tear the cup to shreds. My friend was squatting, cleaning up the mess, when Will flew down and parked nearby to observe the clean-up. “Whatcha doin’?” he squawked. “Whaddaya think I’m doing, you *^%# bird?” my friend squawked back. This was standard behavior for Will, and he was lucky, according to my friend, that his neck wasn’t broken years earlier than the date of the fatal fall. So yeah, there are pets; then, there are pets. I listened to “Fresh Air” on Public Radio the other day. An author/animal expert was being interviewed, mainly about his new book on dog discipline, but he also revealed his strange (okay, I thought it was strange) attraction to rats. He has several pet rats, and he gushed at length about what delightful pets they are. Upon looking into the subject of pet rats further, I discovered that thousands of relatively sane folks in the U.S. have rats for pets, including celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Nicole Richie, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kim Basinger, Clint Eastwood and Paris Hilton. Paris Hilton? Well, I said “relatively sane.” And I’m not talking about hamsters. Hamsters and rats aren’t the same. I had hamsters when I taught school, much to hubby G-Man’s distress (he chased one with a broom one night), and they’re different. No, sir, I don’t do rats, but if the idea interests anybody, I can tell you some stuff. I have done my homework on rats. Here are facts from The average life span of a rat is two to three years, although the longest living pet rat (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) didn’t expire till past his seventh birthday. His name was Rodney.

Their furry little bodies are usually from 9 – 11 inches, but the tail adds another 7 – 9 inches. Lovely.

Males are called bucks, females are does, and babies are pups or kittens. Awww. Rats reach puberty at 6 – 8 weeks of age, and females go into heat every 4 – 5 days. The females may seem agitated or restless during this time. No comment. According to leading animal behavior experts, rats are smart and social, curious, quickly tamed and easy to care for, although they need at least an hour of free time out of their cages to roam and romp around the house – nice if you like the patter of little feet. They’re nocturnal, which means they like to scamper here and there after dark. Rats love to nibble playfully on their masters; obviously that would be a distraction in the middle of the night.

Because they’re social animals, they need other rats for company. A pet lover shouldn’t have just one. Groups are ideal. (Yeah, like fire ants.) What about physical characteristics? Is this important? Sure. You want a firm, well-rounded body on your animal, and the nose, ears, eyes and rear end should be “clean and free from discharge.” I should say so.

“Many owners,” says the article at, “compare the companionship of a rat to a dog.” So if you’re seeking something lovable and your Chihuahua is too big, scout the ratteries in your area — or you might consider adoption. There actually are shelters that care for orphaned rats, but you must be careful because those that are rescued might be “skittish and shy.” Never fear, if you’re patient you can calm the aggressive ones. Wear gloves . . . and, oh yeah, hide the broom from your spouse/roommate!

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