Homestead News pet rat pets rats rescue pet

‘Got rats?’ Some say they make the ideal small pet. — Homestead — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

‘Got rats?’ Some say they make the ideal small pet. — Homestead — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Minerva the rat poked her head out of the fleece hammock and sniffed the air, her tiny pink nostril twitching, framed by delicate white whiskers. Her proprietor, Shea Rolnick of Winterport, held a spoon displaying 4 dabs of peanut butter — one for every of her rats.

Tempted by the deal with, Minerva extracted herself from her slumbering companions and slid out of the hammock, her lengthy, bald tail trailing behind her as she ran down a ramp in her cage to greet Rolnick.

“I’ve had many rats over the years,” Rolnick stated. “They’re cute and social and wonderful.”

Home rats, bred and raised to be pleasant and delicate, are held in excessive esteem by pet house owners round the world. Nevertheless, on account of many individuals’s aversion to wild rats, this pretty low-maintenance, low-cost and clever pet typically is ignored, Rolnick stated. Even a glimpse of a rat’s lengthy, bald tail is sufficient to give some individuals the creeps.

“A lot of it is social stigma,” she stated. “Rats are just seen as vermin, not as pets. Which, I get. For years, for decades, for centuries, they were vermin and not pets, but these are very different.”

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Two of Shea Rolnick’s pet rats play of their cage on Jan. 9, at her residence in Winterport.

How home rats differ from wild

“It’s like the difference between wolves and your pet dog, or a lion and your pet cat,” rat fanatic Sarah Levine stated, evaluating wild rats to home rats. “They’re completely different.”

Levine is the consumption coordinator for Mainely Rat Rescue, a nonprofit group that finds new houses for deserted or surrendered pet rats. Based in 2007 by a gaggle of rat house owners in southern Maine, the group has expanded to serve a lot of the Northeast.

Earlier than Levine started working for the group in 2015, she by no means owned a rat. Now she has a number of, and she or he fosters rescued rats till they can discover everlasting houses. To date, she’s discovered them to be nice pets for her household.

“My kids have bonded more with our rats than any of our other pets,” Levine stated. “The rats just crawl all over them and they love it.”

If socialized from start, home rats — also called “fancy rats” — are often pleasant towards individuals and are much less more likely to chew than different small animals, corresponding to hamsters and gerbils, Levine stated. They often are extra wanting to play and be dealt with, typically greeting their house owners when they strategy the cage.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Shea Rolnick holds considered one of her pet rats, Minerva, on Jan. 9, at her residence in Winterport.

“I have many different animals, and most are indifferent to me,” she stated. “So I enjoy how much rats are really excited to see you and want to hang out with you.”

Pet rats, Levine stated, are recognized for perching on their house owners’ shoulders to get a great view of the world. Nevertheless, they all have totally different personalities. Some are curious and like to discover. Some are extremely meals motivated and subsequently straightforward to show tips for a tasty reward. And a few are snugglers, apt to twist up in your chest like a cat when you watch a film.

Now an advocate for pet rats, Levine typically wears a sweatshirt that reads, “Got rats?” And sometimes, the shirt will encourage feedback, particularly from individuals who have a robust dislike of rats. However she doesn’t let it hassle her. Typically she is going to take the alternative to elucidate to the commenter the distinction between home rats and the wild rats you see roaming the alleys of New York, digging via trash and lurking in the sewer.

“I think once people actually get to know a [domestic] rat in real life, those negative thoughts quickly go away and they realize how cool they actually are,” Levine stated. “I think a lot of people just don’t get a chance to see a rat.”

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Shea Rolnick holds considered one of her pet rats, Minerva, on Jan. 9, at her house in Winterport.

Are rats actually that sensible?

Rats are so clever that folks truly debate whether or not they are smarter than canine. Nevertheless, the cognitive capabilities of the two species are troublesome to match. Rats have entrance ft that perform extra like human palms, with lengthy digits that may simply grasp and carry objects. This enables them to carry out tips that appear particularly human-like and clever.

As a result of most rats might be motivated by meals, it’s pretty easy to show them to carry out numerous tips, and there are a mess of rat trick movies obtainable on-line to assist.

“My daughter had a rat who would jump hurdles,” Levine stated. “Some people teach them to spin in circles and roll over. You can teach them to play basketball. The sky’s the limit.”

Along with studying complicated tips, rats can drawback clear up and recall particulars, as proven in numerous research that contain rats navigating mazes. Research even have uncovered that rats dream, are ticklish and behave in ways in which might point out empathy for his or her fellow rats.

Getting your rat

Once you buy or undertake a rat as a pet, it is very important know that the animal was bred to be a pet. In lots of instances, individuals buy their first rats at pet shops, Levine stated, and typically these rats have been bred to be snake meals, not pets. There’s an enormous distinction, although they are the similar species.

“Feeder rats are bred as feeder rats,” Levine stated. “Unfortunately they don’t make good pets, for the most part. They aren’t socialized. We end up with a lot of them because they bite and aren’t friendly.”

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Shea Rolnick holds one among her pet rats, Minerva, on Jan. 9, at her house in Winterport.

To assist individuals discover the ideal rats for them, Mainely Rat Rescue sends the rats they obtain to foster houses that then work to study extra about every rat’s character. These traits are then listed in the rat’s profile for potential adopters to learn.

For instance, the group at present has a pair of brother rats, Taco and Tamale, who “would generally prefer to sit in a lap or on a shoulder until they’re ready to explore. Hands in the cage are likely to receive kisses and gentle grooming, and treats are taken without hesitation.”

Mainely Rat Rescue sometimes adopts out rats in pairs or extra as a result of rats are social animals and often won’t thrive if dwelling alone, even when they are given loads of consideration by their proprietor. Adoption charges vary from $eight to $80, relying on the age of the rat and whether or not it’s neutered or spayed.

Home rats are sometimes bought from breeders, that are situated throughout the nation and embrace The Ladybug Rattery in Acton and the Maineiac Mischief Rattery in Newport, New Hampshire.

One other factor that some rat house owners think about is the rat’s bodily look, which may differ significantly. Rats are available all types of colours and patterns, even inside the similar litter. Their fur may be totally different textures, and their ears can range. Whereas “standard” rat ears are spherical and sit on prime of a rat’s head, “dumbo” ears sit on the e of the head. And there are additionally tailless and hairless rats. You possibly can study extra about these bodily rat traits from American Fancy Rat and Mouse Affiliation, which was based in 1983 for individuals fascinated by rats or mice.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Minerva the rat snacks on a bit of spaghetti. Whereas her meals include meals particularly formulated for home rats, her proprietor gives her quite a lot of treats, and spaghetti is one among her favorites.

Caring for rats

Jen Pittis, a nurse in Bangor, has owned a number of rats over the years, beginning when she was in eighth grade. She’s had Vanilla and Beam, Mocha and Java, Cocoa and Fluff, and Christina Yang and Meredith Gray. And all of them knew their names, she stated.

“They were really clever and funny,” Pittis stated. “They all had their own different personalities.”

Proudly owning a rat is like proudly owning a small canine or cat, she stated. They crave consideration.

“I’ve owned hamsters and gerbils, too, and they’re fun, but they don’t have the personality or smarts of a rat,” she stated. “So rats in some ways are a much bigger commitment. You have to stimulate them and play with them a lot. But they’re also a lot more rewarding.”

Nevertheless, in contrast to a cat or canine, rats have to be stored caged when unattended. They’re far too small and damaging to be allowed to roam free, and they can simply be injured or killed by different family pets.

To provide rats extra freedom and stimulation, some rat house owners arrange a rat-friendly area for them to discover and study tips. At her residence in Winterport, Rolnick has rat-proofed a bed room the place she will set her 4 rats free to play.

“They give us hours of enjoyment just watching them doing their thing,” Rolnick stated.

For his or her cage, Rolnick invested in one among the greatest: a Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation, which is a big wire cage that prices about $250 and has 4 tales. A step from that might be the single Critter Nation, retailing for about $150, and the $80 Rat Manor.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN

One in every of Shea Rolnick’s pet rats makes use of its litter field, which is situated in its cage. Home rats are sometimes litter educated so they do not depart waste throughout their cage.

And like different small animals, rats require a feed bowl, rat meals, a water bottle, and a spot to sleep and play. Rolnick’s cage consists of fleece hammocks made particularly for rats, in addition to an igloo-shaped shelter, a 12-inch train wheel and a number of other cardboard gadgets for them to chew on. She additionally covers the ramps in her cage with material sleeves so her rats don’t get their ft caught in the bars as they climb between tales. And she or he has two litter packing containers, crammed with rat litter, situated in a single nook of the cage, nicely away from their meals bowl.

“They’re very fastidious about washing,” Levine stated, “so they themselves should never smell. If they do smell, there must be something wrong with them. They must be sick.”

On common, home rats reside to be 2 or three years previous. Widespread well being points embrace tumors, particularly amongst females, in addition to respiratory infections. To attenuate your rat’s probability of creating respiratory points, Levine suggests cleansing its cage typically and refraining from spraying air fresheners or different substances in the air round the cage.

She additionally suggests discovering an area veterinarian that treats rats. Not all small animal vets will take rats. In some instances, you might want to hunt out the nearest unique animal vet as an alternative.

As a result of rats have a brief life span, they are a fantastic animal for people who find themselves unsure the place they will probably be in 5 years. However be forewarned, as soon as you’re taking house your first pair of rats, chances are you’ll not have the ability to cease, Levine stated.

“They’re like chips. Once you get some, you’ll keep wanting to have more.”