Pet of the week: The domestic rat

Dirty, nasty creatures

Not at all. Blame the urban myth about never being more than three metres form a rat in a city centre, blame the often misquoted Jimmy Cagney ("Why, you dirty rat!"), blame Roland Rat's atrocious "Rat Rapping" single of the early Eighties – either way, rats have had a pretty hard time over the years. But they are really a misunderstood little animal.

Nonsense – they gave us the bubonic plague

Another myth. Being such hygienic animals and therefore the ideal habitat for a nasty, virulent plague looking for a host, they were merely the unwitting bearers. It is thought the species originated in northern China, and migrated along trade routes to Europe over the centuries, arriving in Britain in the 17th century.

But rats as pets?

Why on earth not? They are very clean, bright, lovable creatures, and they seem to enjoy human contact, which makes them ideal as a family or "starter" pet. Besides which, if your children can learn to love a creature as maligned as a rat, then they might overcome prejudices against other undesirables, such as broccoli, slugs or George Osborne.

Not a lot of people know this...

Rats are the second most successful mammal on earth, and have colonised every continent except Antarctica. But this success has come at a price, as they are used extensively as animal models for testing everything from cosmetics to dietary products.

What do you need to keep a rat happy?

A decent-sized wire cage, say 50cm by 80cm, with plenty of interesting features for them to enjoy and lark around with. I say "they" as rats do like company, and they should be kept in same-sex pairs (otherwise they breed like mice or even rabbits – you get the gist). Incidentally, males are called bucks and females are does. As I said, they are clean animals and their cage will only need mucking out once a week. Shredded newspaper or sawdust is the best for bedding; they will create their own little nests as they see fit.

What do they eat?

Most pet stores will carry a generic rodent mix, but this can be supplemented with bits of fresh fruit and veg, or even dry dog food – just beware not to overfeed your rats, as they need to burn off those calories if they are going to live a long, healthy life (about two to three years).

What about play time?

You should try and devote at least an hour a day to playing with your rodents, as they react well to human stimulation. Never, ever pick them up by the tail. It's just cruel and wrong.

Not to be confused with...

Pedigree Siberian hamsters, as Manuel referred to them in Fawlty Towers.

How do I get hold of one?

You should contact the National Fancy Rat Society ( who can advise you on reputable breeders.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam