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My first pet rat

Updated on January 6, 2008

How I began to love rats

The story of how I became interested in rats is a good one to share. Why? Because it helps dispel some myths about rats, and also showcases some things you should not do when you have a pet rat.

I've always been an animal lover, and particularly liked rodents. Probably because my parents wouldn't let me have a cat, and I knew I'd be living in dorms for a while. Rodents are quiet, and much easier to sneak into dormitories.

One day I was visiting a friend in another dorm, and her roommate started talking about how she had a pet rat and was going to "set it free." I didn't know anything about rats, but I knew it was cruel to put any domesticated animal out in the wild to fend for itself. Cruel, inhumane, and just horrible.

Quickly, I offered to take the rat from her. Forgive my lack of knowledge about rats, but I accepted the glass aquarium Heather came in, not knowing how bad these are for rats' sensitive respiratory systems. Well-ventilated cages are a must for rats.

The first thing I had to get over was Heather's tail. So many people say the only thing they don't like about rats is their slimy looking tail, and I admit I was a little freaked out by it.

But Heather was my new companion, and she deserved to be handled and petted. So I started stroking her tail. It wasn't slimy at all, much to my amazement. It was soft and furry when I stroked in one direction, and bristly in the other direction.

When I held Heather, she used her tail like a propeller to balance herself, and sometimes partially wrapped it around my wrist with almost prehensile strength. Her tail was awesome.

I'm also not one to leave animals stuck in their cages. I must have sensed Heather's strong desire to get out, so I played with her on my bed a lot, letting her get "lost" in my sheets.

One time I let her run around on the floor, after carefully making sure there were no holes for her to escape through. She loved it! I found her playing in a pile of clothes (I wasn't the neatest person in the world), poking her head out and having a ball. From then on, Heather rarely stayed in her cage.

I also realized that Heather would probably love a variety of food, so I started giving her green, leafy vegetables, carrots, and lots of cool things. Unfortunately, I also gave her lots of popcorn, something which made her begin to get fat. Not good. An occasional snack is okay, but rats need to eat healthy, just like we do.

What really sold me on rats was when I realized how easy they are to train. Heather was playing on the floor one day and I started calling her name. To my surprise, she came straight to me. I repeated the new "game," and she complied almost every time.

Unfortunately, though, I did get caught with a pet in my room, and had to give Heather to another loving home. Luckily, this new owner realized I'd overfed Heather, and knew that she needed a rat companion.

So, thanks to Heather, I learned how awesome rats are. And I learned about caring for them properly. I went on to have 9 more rats once I moved to an apartment. Heather lived the rest of her days with a wonderful owner and new rat friend.

Are you a rat owner, or are you considering it? When did you first realize that you wanted to have pet rats?


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