As a rat parent of 8 years and a breeder of 5, I have gotten a lot of comments about rats being gross or scary. While I understand that some people simply aren’t animal oriented or have valid reasons that they are apprehensive toward particular critters (for example, I knew a man who lived in a rat infested house when he was young and was often bitten during his sleep), this just isn’t true…
The first thing I’d like to point out that, like dogs, there are wild versions and there are domestic versions; both types are very different in terms of behavior and health. Wild dogs have been domesticated since the beginning of human kind; Rats have been domesticated since the mid 1800s. Therefore, yes, a wild rat might attack or carry disease, but so might a wild dog or cat or any other wild version of the pets you like.
Also like dogs, rats are intelligent and can be taught numerous tricks including handshakes, fetch, dance, kiss, and more! Don’t believe it? Just go to Youtube and search ‘rat tricks.’ I’ve had rats who were litter trained and would come to the sound of their name being called.
Rats surprisingly have something in common with cats too, that being they are obsessed with cleanliness. Rats will frequently be seen licking themselves, sometimes even using water from ponds or bottles to help. They also groom each other. One more thing: like cats, a rat’s natural enemy is the dog.
Outside of snakes, people seem to mostly assume cats are a danger to rats; I have gotten a lot of people say ”I’d totally get a rat from you, but I have a cat!” I’m known for letting my rats roam my house and I’ve never had a problem with a house cat hurting them. Once rats reach their adult size, they are too big for these little felines to see them as a toy or food (generally speaking).
“But what about rat bite fever?”
Yes, there is such a thing as rat bite fever, which is basically the same as cat scratch fever. In both species, if you have an injury (inflicted by the animal or not) that gets contaminated with certain germs from their feces, it has the potential to make you pretty sick. This is why washing your hands and keeping cuts covered is important. However, that goes for all animals and even people. You can also become ill from certain germs from dogs, reptiles, humans (including yourself), etc, especially where feces are concerned.
“OK, but I still think they’re creepy!”
That’s fine. I think narwhals and chimps are creepy. It’s ok not to be ok with rats. Nevertheless, I urge you to give them a chance. Domestic rats have personalities just like cats and dogs and they LOVE attention; just be gentle with them. As well, please don’t go around saying that rats are gross and frightening. I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate me mouthing about how your pet or even your kid is nasty and scary. In short, liken a rat to a larger, smarter, nicer hamster ^_^
~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden