Sunday, 4 September 2011

Rats, and why certain things annoy me...

I'm a big fan of rodents and rats in particular. Rats, along with dogs, are my favourite animals. I've been keeping rodents as pets for a very long time and it's only now that I have Beau that I'm rodentless.

Let's see, I've had three Syrian hamsters (Jaffa, Biscuit and Rue), three Russian hamsters (Cadburys, Galaxy and Flapjack), five gerbils (Crunchie, Jazz, Maverick, Tipsy and Circus), two guinea pigs (Dougal and Len), two degus (Brimble and Bramble), a Shaw's jird (Woody), a mouse (Harvest), and eleven rats (Mayweed, Togepi, Eevee, Peanut, Domino, Madder, Malachi, Mouse, Loki, Pancakes and Shae).

I've also worked with rodents. Fancy mice, spiny mice,striped mice, pygmy mice, fancy rats, edible dormice, chinchillas, degus, guinea pigs, Russian hamsters, Syrian hamsters, Roborovski hamsters, bushy-tailed jirds...

And let me say that out of all those, the scariest, most evil creatures were the edible dormice. You had to wear gauntlets (those big gloves for birds of prey) to handle them, and they would growl at you without you even being able to see them. Second most evil, were the hamsters.

Now, I don't understand why people think hamsters make better pets for children than, say, rats. Hamsters need to be trained to be hand tame (rats don't!), and even then they'll probably still bite. I have a scar on my thumb from my friend's aptly named hamster, Nibbler. I also have a scar on my finger from my gerbil, Jazz, but she bit me because I was breaking up a fight between her and Crunchie. I just got in the way.

I have never been bitten by a rat. Ever.

My mum had a cockatiel called Pringle and around that time I had my first rat, Mayweed. Mayweed was the best rat ever. He was intelligent (could open doors and knew his name), loving and gentle. Pringle the cockatiel would often try to pull Mayweed's whiskers. One day, Mayweed had clearly had enough of this and so grabbed a mouthful of the bird's feathers. Pringle, being a wind-up merchant, came back for more. This time, when Mayweed went for him, I put my hand between the two of them. My rat, not being able to stop in time, closed his jaws around my finger. But he did NOT bite me. He realised he'd gotten me instead of the bird and pushed me away with his paw. I've never experience anything like that with any other animal. He knew he'd made a mistake and he managed to stop himself in time - Jazz my gerbil, did not. Hence my scar.

Now, what really annoys me is when they use rats on 'I'm a Celebrity, Get me out of Here.' The celebrities screech and squeal and do the usual 'how disgusting' nonsense that people do when they see a rat and then, whenever they have to put a finger near the rats, will exclaim 'They're biting me!'

What utter, utter nonsense. You would know if the rat had bitten you, you'd have blood pouring out of your finger. Rats have sharp claws and yes, to idiots, I imagine this must feel like biting. I wish the producers of this show would inform the ridiculous 'celebrities' that rats do not bite.

Actually, I wish they wouldn't use rats in their show at all. It's cruel.

What also annoys me is people who think it's okay for them to tell you how disgusting your pet is, just because it's a rat. I detest cats and yet I would never tell someone that their beloved pet was disgusting.

I've heard people say they don't like rat tails. Rat tails don't move all that much. If you put your finger beneath a mouse's tail, the tail will curl around your finger. Do the same to a rat tail and it doesn't grip the same way.

I've also heard people say that rats are dirty and that they smell. Rats do smell, all animals smell. But they don't smell half as bad as hamsters. And in fact, mice are the smelliest rodent. If you've ever watched a rat, you'll notice how much time they spend grooming and cleaning themselves also.

Another misconception is that all rats are black, or brown. Yes, in the wild. But pet rats come in all sorts of different colours. I've taken my rats to the vets before now only to have people come up to me, peer into my clear pet box, and say 'oh what a pretty little thing! Is it a hamster?' and when I reply 'No, it's a rat,' I see the look of disgust appear on their faces.

Let me end with this picture below. Do this look like a dirty, smelly, evil creature that will bite your face off? I think not.



  1. If I had to have a rodent-type pet I'd definitely go for a ferret. I wouldn't have a rat, but I share your bafflement at people who want hamsters or guinea pigs.

  2. Ferrets are cool (mustelids, not rodents ;-)), they smell pretty bad though!

  3. Argh! Monster! It's going to bite my face off!

    (no, not really).

    We so narrowly avoided getting several black rats last year. We were in a rescue/ pet shop having a look around and there was a cage of the most amazing climbing rats. They were gorgeous and all bright-eyed and lovely. They weren't quite skipping with their own tails like the ones in Harry Potter, but it was close.

    Loved them. My friend at school had a rat called Sebastian who lived inside her collar. I bet you're not a huge fan of '1984' -- it doesn't do a lot for the public image of rats...

  4. Hex! I've never read 1984, almost bought it the other day. Probably a good job that I didn't!

  5. You really should read 1984. What Hex is referring to is that rats play a bit, but very important part in the book. They are not central to the majority of the book.

    I have to say I hate rats. We moved onto a farm in my youth which was over-run with rats. My mom was mortified when people visited us in the winter the rats would crawl on the car tires and go jumping and skittering away when our company left. It took us a year to get on top of that situation. Our dog, half collie half German Shepherd learned to kill rats by grabbing them behind the neck and flipping them up in the air. A wild rat is a pretty fearsome predator for it's size.