Weird News: There’s a rat in my kitchen, bedroom, toilet, living room…

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jun 29, 2012 in Rat News | Subscribe

Jan 28 2011
Brian Mciver

THE pitter-patter of tiny feet is not an unusual sound to hear in a married couple’s house.

But when it is accompanied by scratching, the odd high-pitched squeak and swishing pink tails, it’s the sign of a family home that is something slightly different from the norm.

Welcome to the Rattray house, where the parents are GP Kate and lab supervisor Kevin and the children are TWENTY-NINE pet rats.

The Scots couple – whose surname is a coincidence – are among of the UK’s most dedicated rat-lovers and feature in a new Channel 4 documentary.

Kate, 31 and Kevin, 39, spend £1000 a year feeding and caring for the rats, which have their own room and get special Christmas and birthday celebrations.

Despite the rodents’ association with filth and disease, the Rattrays insist their beloved fancy rats are the best pets anyone could wish for. When one of them is put down, it’s like a death in the family.

Kate is a life-long rat fan and brought them into her husband’s life.

She said: “It does annoy me that they get such a bad rap, especially when you open magazines which talk about cheating stars who are described as love rats or they use pictures of rats for them.

“They are wonderful pets and they are like our family and our children.

“They are usually associated with disease and being dirty and I think it’s because people associate them w ith the plague, even though it was the fleas that carried the plague, not the rats themselves.

“But these are not wild rats that live by canals or in sewers, they are fancy rats. They are very clean, they use litter trays in the cage and are always washing themselves.

“There is no risk to humans from them.

“If you watch the show, you see one of the girls brings her baby to the club, and lets the rats climb on the baby and that shows how little risk there is if she is happy for t hem to run all over her baby.

“They are great fun, and are very entertaining and interactive.

“When we get home from work they are up at the cage bars waiting for us to say hello, like a dog would be.”

Kate, from Stornoway, and Kevin, from the Borders, both live in Leeds and are members of both the Scottish Rat Club and the Yorkshire Rat Club, who feature in tonight’s documentary.

Kate said: “We don’t like the way rats are generally portrayed and there is a real negativity around them.

“We wanted to take part in the film to show what they are really like, how t hey are great pets and wonderful animals to live are great pets and wonderful animals t o live with and educate people about them.”

Kate has always had rats, saying “there’s no pet like them”, but Kevin took convincing.

The couple met on an online dating site in 2002. Kate said: “I wasn’t attracted because of his name, Rattray. That’s a happy coincidence.

“But when we got married, there was no question about whet her I would change question about whether I would change my name because I love it.

“At first, he wasn’t sure because he had grown up on a farm where they would have been treated as pests and he had the typical opinion of rats.

“But we decided to get some pets together and went for a pair of rats.

“We were told they were both males, but two weeks later, we realised one was female when we found eight rats in the cage. We gave most of them away but we gradually got more and have 29 now.

“That might seem a lot but we know people who have much more than that.

A breeder would have as many as 600.

“I’ve never had any maternal feelings to have kids and Kevin is the same so this is what we do, and we love our rats.”

While the Rattrays enjoy a loving family life, they have the highs and lows of birthdays and bereavements.

Kate said: “For Christmas, we put decorations around the cages and we line decorations around the cages and we line their hammocks with Christmas wrap.

“We have parties for all of their birthdays with special cake and candles, usually Golden Syrup bars or Jamaican ginger cake.

“When they die, we take it very seriously. It’s always very sad and hits you hard because we do love them.

“We have lost 17, and it’s never easy. Some owners do their own euthanasia but we always go to the vet.

“We have a funeral for them, and bury them in the back garden, while my mum paints a little tombstone.”

Kevin concluded: “People think we’re pretty mad but their attitudes do change quickly once they meet them and see how much fun they are.

“Before I had rats, if I’d met someone with that many I’d have found it odd – but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

First Cut : Head Over Heels In Rats, is on Channel 4 tonight at 7.30pm.

The Rattray rats in full

Snippet, Diablo, Meg, Millie, Tiger, Lucky 13, Rebel, Spirit, Kinney, Stacey, Barley, Hops, Winkle, Steele, Bauer, May, Beadle, Xilla, Grandma Dixie, Popplewell, Pecorino, Nella, Bathory, Beelzebub, Etta, Rigg, Scave, Doom, Camber

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