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Rats as Pets – 5 Myths Busted

History has portrayed them as filthy creatures that caused the Black Death of the Middle Ages. Hollywood has portrayed them as vicious killers ready to pounce on people at the slightest provocation. Is it any wonder that most people cringe at the mere mention of their name?

How can such a small animal cause such a huge reaction? But more importantly, do they deserve their reputation?

Before you judge rats, it might help to understand a little about them. Everyone knows that rats are rodents, but did you know that a male rat is called a buck, a female is a doe, and the babies are called puppies or kittens? Rats reach puberty at a young age, between 6 and 8 weeks. Their bodies are 9 to 11 inches long, with tails up to 9 inches long, 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 about them, let’s take a look at some of the myths people believe about rats as pets. Maybe you’ll see them in a whole new light.

Myth #1

Rats are stupid 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 with relative ease and love the interaction of learning. My son has a three year old Blue Fancy rat named Samantha. She quickly learned her name and will come when called. He also learned to play fetch, chasing a small plastic ball when it is rolled on the floor and then rolling it back.

Myth #2

Rats are vicious, dangerous creatures.

Rats are very friendly, social animals. They are easily tamed simply by being handled from a young age. Rats enjoy spending time with their owners. he bonds with them like a dog bonds with a human. They love to be petted and be close to their family. Our rat loves to sit on my shoulder while I type on my computer, sometimes he falls asleep while he’s up there.

Myth #3

Rats are dirty rodents that cause disease.

In fact, rats are 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 daily will go a long way in keeping your furry little friend happy. I have discovered that rats are neat animals. Every time Samantha’s cage is cleaned, she rearranges it to suit her needs. She likes her house, bowls and toys to be where she wants them.

Myth #4

Rats are not playful.

Rats enjoy interacting with their humans, requiring daily playtime. They need at least an hour out 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 the ones that your rat can’t chew because they will. Samantha has two plastic balls with bells in them that she plays with. You can hear her at night, rolling those balls to ring the bells.

Myth #5

Rats are only nocturnal creatures.

While this is mostly true, it is not set in stone. Rats will rise when they think you are. Yes, they 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 outside during the day is a great way to train them that the day is a good time to play. Samantha sleeps through the night and day, but is always willing to come out during the day and spend some time with me or my son.

Rats can make an excellent first pet. They are easier to keep than a dog or cat and friendlier than a hamster. With a little understanding your family can also reap the benefits of rat ownership. Give the rats a chance. You’ll be glad you did.

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