Rats as Pets

Ratsaspets Scott Underwood posted a couple of scans from a book called Rats ...As Pets. I had this book, and agree with him that the most striking part is the "unadulterated joy seen in these faces" of the pet owner. Do I remember correctly that the girl is the daughter of the author, Dr. Herbert Richards?

The current crop of rats as pets books have lousy covers!

Today's ephemera: Rats as Pets


  1. I had a rat that looked just like that as a kid. And over a quarter-century later I still have the thermal wool blanket with a corner chewed off from the time I set her cage too close to my bed. Oh Moxie, how well you lived up to your name.

  2. If a rodent is what you want (as a pet) then make it a rat. hamsters, gerbils, mice, …all too high-strung and lacking in curiosity as compared to rats. I had a few lab rescue rats and i never had to close their cage door; at night they just returned to their cage. Delightfully intelligent too… always trying to take over the world (narf)

  3. I had several rats as pets in college, and they do indeed make great companions. They are extremely clean and easy to take care of (they’ll eat practically anything…they’re rats!)

    I may have to get a couple for my kids…

  4. I had some rats as a kid, but my first rat, an albino named Snowy, she was the smartest damn thing i’ve ever seen. she would obey verbal commands and had the vocabulary of a reasonably intelligent dog. she knew ‘cage’ and ‘wheel’ and ‘come’ and ‘up’. we didn’t train her or anything either, she just picked up on stuff. we’d let her run around the house because she’d always go back to her cage if she had to do business.

    we were lucky because we knew one of the few vets willing to take tumors out of rats for $20 a pop, so Snowy lived for a good 4 years. i still know exactly where she’s buried, almost 20 years later. loved that rat.

    RIP Snowy

  5. When I was a kid, my sister had rats and slept with them. They were the ones to wake us up when we had our house fire at 3 a.m., so I have a fond spot in my heart for rats.

  6. People that have never owned a rat (and not just one sitting in a cage on a shelf, but one you interact with) don’t understand how a little rodent can be such an amazing pet. But they can.

    I had a horrible car accident, and for almost a year Henry would diligently sit on my shoulder through the long painful evenings.

    Man I miss that little guy…

  7. I had rats, and they were the best pets ever. (Except for that period when I lived in Alberta where it’s illegal to keep pet rats, I had Norwegian Gerbils. That’s right.)

    The best thing about rats is that, unlike other pocket pets, they actually like people. They’ll even adjust their sleeping schedule so they are awake for people time. Bet you can’t say that about your dirty ol’ hamster! Their personality is like a small, smart dog. When I introduced them to nervous people, I used to say, think of him as a Palm Dog.

    People think they’re dirty or spread disease with their feces, but just like any other animal (eg dogs) it’s garbage in, garbage out. Feed them a healthy diet and you’ll have a healthy clean rat.

  8. I have lots of pets (dogs, chickens, cats, fish, rats), and I have to say rats offer a lot of enjoyment, especially considering the low cost and minimal care they require.

    They make great first pets for children too. My kids love to play with our rat and she is very friendly and affectionate with them. You can even teach them cool tricks, just search YouTube.

    Here is a photo of me with Lulu, my rat: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nlongtin/3440188362/in/set-72157614652908331/

  9. There was a girl at my elementary school in the ’70s who had a couple of pet rats, and brought them for Show-and-Tell. In one day, she became the coolest kid in our grade.

  10. We love out rats. The most surprising thing to us was the amount of personality they have. We have two sisters from the same litter, and visually, there is not much to tell them apart. But after a few moments of interaction, we can always tell which is which just by their little habits.

    And speaking of Flickr, there is of course a pet rat group with tons of pix. http://www.flickr.com/groups/petrats/

  11. I’ve had the privilege of sharing my homespace with a half dozen pet rattums over the years. They are, ounce for ounce, some of the brightest and most affectionate animals you can keep. The only drawback is they are tragically short-lived.

  12. When a friend of mine moved away and was unable to take her two rats with her, I adopted them. I agree that they are fantastic pets in every way. They are intelligent and affectionate, easy and cheap to care for, and provide lots of entertainment value. I was very sad when they died – within a month of each other – at the ripe old age (for a rat) of four.

  13. I had that book! And yes, I agree about the sense of joy. I’ve owned dozens of pet rats over the years, and I can think of no other pet that brought as much pleasure for as little trouble.

    Current book covers are nowhere near as good.

  14. Fun rat story: when I kept rats, I really kept rats. I had this gigantic cage, something like 5 feet high, 6 feet across, and 3 feet deep, with lots of platforms. There were 10 rats in there.

    I put a ledge around the outside of the cage about halfway to the top, and put a cardboard box on the roof. I’d leave the door open so that they could also perch outside and on the roof. They really liked to stuff themselves, every last one, into that box on the roof.

    So anyway, I get up one morning, check on the rats, and they’re all gone! So I started calling, and then I noticed a little nibbly nose sticking out of my sofa!

    Apparently one bright rat had figured out how to get past the ledges on the side, and all the other rats followed. They then proceeded to take up residence in the sofa. Every last one.

    I coaxed most of them out by calling them, and the last few I had to get out by smacking the fabric a few times. Then I modified the ledge to be more rat-proof.

    Now *that’s* what a ratty old sofa is.

    1. Robert, awesome story…especially the bad pun at the end.

      My SIL/BIL and their kids had a pet rat. He was great. Having to say goodbye to one every four years though would tear my heart out. Of course, the cats we have (3) would probably love to have one around….

      1. The short lifespan is the main drawback. I’ve had cats and rats at the same time and they barely acknowledged each other.

    2. I had 31. People always asked “How do you keep them from reproducing?”

      “Well, when they are weaned the boys go with Dad and the girls go with mom!” Duh.

      I did have to clean the males’ cages before the females because if I did the female cages first the smell of them on my hands would get the males riled up and they would scuffle a little. Otherwise there was no discord.

  15. Rats are such amazing companion animals! Smart, affectionate, less smelly than mice, and with half-decent bladder control. (Actually, those things alone already give them twice the positive characteristics of my current roommate.)

  16. I’m going to jump on the pro-rat bandwagon. We had a rat years ago who developed a tumor. We took her to a bunch of vets, but kept being told we should just put her down and buy another one because rats were too hard to operate on and didn’t live long anyway. We were having none of it — she was friendly and inquisitive and had a distinct personality; she was a pet, not a toy. We finally found a vet who was willing to operate on her. He even had to put in a tiny little IV line with anesthetic to knock her out first. He removed the tumor and won our eternal gratitude when she lived another two years after that. Dude was a hero (as was my then father-in-law, who ponied up the $103 we didn’t have so that we could save our $3.95 rat). People who don’t get it never had a rat.

    1. Wonderful story, as are all of these, but the fact that you loved your “cheap” little rat enough to find a vet that cared, makes me smile!! And what a nice father-in-law. It’s not “just” a rat, y’know!! ;-)

  17. One more vote for rats. If you care going to make pets of rodents, the rat is BY FAR the best rodent pet. Gerbils, hamsters, are all nasty little things. Rabbits eat their own sh*t. Mice, I don’t know. But rats are sweet, so long as you don’t mind their tails. They have rat tails. But you really can’t blame a rat for having a rat tail. What else would you want it to have?

    Rats rock.

    Ours died. Now we have a dog (pain in the butt) and chickens (very sweet).

  18. As a lad, I was quite frightened of rats, mostly because of a horrible movie, “Food of the Gods”. However, a family friend brought her pet to a birthday party for my niece, and I found the little guy to be adorable. He’d sit on my shoulder and just hang out, stroll down my arm to someone else, and generally be a buddy.
    Plus, if you read NEVERWHERE, by Neil Gaiman, you’ll realize just how much respect rats should be given.

  19. We just had to put our last girl to sleep today.
    It’s always hard seeing them go.
    They’re fantastic beasties.

  20. One of my first jobs was at a pet store, and I was constantly trying to talk the moms who brought their kids in for a “small animal pet” out of hamsters and into rats. WAY better pets than any hamster! And I’ve had both.

  21. I have that very book on my shelf right now. The rats I had as a kid were my favorite pets, ever. I can’t wait for my son to get old enough to have a couple of his own.

  22. I got hooked on rats 10 years ago and have just adopted my 26th, 27th, and 28th–Sinjin, Tertius, and Upton. Two have “disabilities”–one has only one eye and the other is “old.” That happens to be my own current “disability.” The best thing about rats is how funny they are. They have a sense of humor. They’re very particular; there’s a little bit of Martha Stewart in every one of them. And if they don’t like what you’re doing, you just “talk to the hand.” I can’t imagine life without them. In the summer we all move into the one air-conditioned room and I’m surrounded by rats and cats. (They get along.) It just doesn’t get any better than that! So, here’s to everyone who takes a rat in to their heart and into their life.

  23. Yes, RATS. :D The only small rodent-y pet worth bothering with, as others have noted. Oh, and you should be aware that the term ‘pet’ is deeply offensive to our rattie companions[!!! heh] – they, like dogs and (some) cats and some of the brighter parrot species, are far more non-human cherished friends than anything else. And the love will go both ways. Yes, your rats will love you and pine to spend time with you. It’s awful and ironic in a very ‘wrong’ sort of way that their lives are so short, when they’re so smart and loving and full of very individual personalities, while lots of very, very *stupid* non-human species (and some nasty, stupid humans.. yikes!) can outlive them many times over. Anyway, though, yes, rats are love. Once you go ‘rat,’ you’ll never go back. :)

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