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 ( nfrs.org) who can advise you on reputable breeders.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there