However there’s still a lot of stigma about these adorable, furry, little delights. In this post I’ll share with you a few myths about rats that might surprise you, I’ll give you the facts and nothing but, and hopefully convince you that a rat might in fact be the right pet for you!
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1. Rats Didn’t Cause The PlagueThe Bubonic Plague a.k.a ‘The Black Death’ has often been blamed on Rats carrying the disease by stowing away on ships. The plague caused millions of deaths worldwide over several centuries, leading to a reputation that’s haunted Rats ever since. In 2015 a report on the BBC website cited a study that has almost certainly shown us that Rats couldn’t have been the carrier of the plague. This is a huge deal, especially since Rats get the unfortunate label of being dirty & “diseased”.
2. Rats Are AggressiveAnother myth about rats is that they’re aggressive. In fact it’s not true at all of domesticated Fancy Rats. Rats prefer to settle their arguments with small squeaks, some of which are inaudible to humans. While fights among Rats do break out, it’s rarely serious and is usually more to do with establishing a pecking order which is common in many species, even among Dogs.
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When it comes to their human friends, Rats will rarely ever attack unless provoked. Getting a small nip (which usually won’t break the skin) is fairly normal during the initial phase of getting your Rats used to being handled.
Most of the reputation that Rats get for being aggressive is due to Wild Rats sometimes attempting to lick food residue off of sleeping people, when the person wakes up frightened a sort of ‘confrontation’ can occur which causes Wild Rats to become temporarily aggressive. Even Wild Rats however only attack from a passive-aggressive standpoint and will not outwardly seek to attack people for no reason.
3. Rats Are UncleanThis myth comes back to the reputation of being ‘plague carriers’. The other side of this is that many Wild Rats live in sewers and similar dirty areas. While you should go to some effort as an owner of Rats to litter train them, since they do make a mess in their cages, their personal hygiene is impeccable. Some people even say they’re cleaner than Cats since Rats will clean themselves more frequently.
4. Rats Can’t Eat Cheese
Many Rat owners believe that Rats can’t eat cheese, but actually this is a myth. Rats aren’t lactose intolerant by default. Much like humans, certain individuals are lactose intolerant while others aren’t. However there are certain cheeses that should be avoided, anything like blue cheese where mold is present on the cheese itself is a really bad idea. Also cheeses with certain fruit and nuts in them can be a bad idea, which leads me onto my next myth…
5. Rats Can Eat Whatever They LikeRats aren’t the unstoppable eating machines that some people believe them to be. They can suffer from obesity, diabetes and can even suffer from cholesterol related diseases like heart failure and stroke. You can find entire Rat Nutrition articles on many Fancy Rat sites and blogs that detail precisely what they can’t eat as well as diet tips for keeping Rats healthy. Among Rat communities online, diet is probably one of the most heated issues and topics for debate, so it’s fair to say that this one is a myth.
6. Rats Can’t Love You Like Other Pets DoThis is a big myth and I’m not totally sure where it stems from. However, it’s definitely not the case. Rats are social animals, who pine for social interaction from other Rats as well as their owner. If you’ve ever been out all day, and you come home to your Dog waiting to see you at the door, the same thing happens with Rats at their cage. As soon as you let them out to see you, they’ll run up onto your lap for cuddles and lots of kisses, right before they start chittering to tell you how happy they are to see you.
7. Rats Aren’t Good Pets For Kids
Most children will often have a Hamster, Rabbit, Guinea Pig or Gerbil as a pet to take care of. This is because they’re lovely animals, that are fairly easy to take care of and teach some level of responsibility to your child early. One animal that doesn’t often make its way into our children's lives is the Rat. This is because we’re told Rats don’t make good pets for children... But they do and here’s why…
- Rats aren’t fully nocturnal, meaning they’re awake during daylight hours for good periods of time. In fact, over time, they tend to adapt their schedule according to their owners.
- Rats are more sturdy and can take rougher handling.
- Rats are more intelligent than any other rodent, making them hilariously good fun to watch and play with.
- Rats learn very quickly due to their intelligence, making them easy to train and quick to handle.
8. Rats Are Smelly
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Another myth that puts people off of Rats… While it’s true that Males (Bucks) can be smellier than Females (Does) it’s not true that they’re smelly in general. Since Rats clean themselves so regularly it’s usually not them that’s smelling, but rather the cage that can smell. This can be caused by not using a very absorbent bedding or from not cleaning their cage regularly enough. Of course more rats, means you’ll need to clean the cage more often, but this just goes to prove that litter training your rats is vitally important.
Conclusion: These are just some of the common myths about rats, but there’s so many more quirks to them and there’s always plenty more to learn (like did you know Rats laugh?). Hopefully whether you’re just a pet fanatic, or an owner of rats yourself you’ll have learned something from this list or maybe you’ll just appreciate it as something you can share with your friends. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, or other Myths that you wanted to share or have clarified!
Daisy runs RatCentral.com a blog for Fancy Rat owners, where she writes about a variety of topics from nutrition to rat care for beginners.