Rats. They're pretty misunderstood creatures.
Often lumped with the term "pests" or "vermin" (mainly by my dad), there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of love for the cuddly little critters. But they make amazing little pets. Because of their friendly nature, they're great for kids too - and are far less likely to nip than the likes of a hamster, for example.
With rats come responsibility, however. I've been asked a few times now if I'd consider writing a post on what you need to know before you decide on getting rats, so here it is.
Rats are expensive. A decent cage alone costs around £100, and that often doesn't include bedding, food, water bottles, hammocks, toys and treats. I clean Merry's cage once a week, and spot clean in between that. It's recommended against using products like wood shavings in a rat cage due to their sensitive respiratory system, so I use CareFresh, which sets me back £6 a bag - and a bag only lasts for a clean and a half.
Vet bills for rats can also be pricey, and are more common than you may think. One of my previous rats, Sam, had a sensitive respiratory system from the day I got him, and we often had to take him to the vets for a check up and some antibiotics. The check ups were around £20 and the antibiotics around £6.
They can be troublemakers. Being rodents, rats can often have the instinct to chew everything. One of my girls, Rolo, was particularly naughty with this and was known to chew the wallpaper off of my bedroom walls. The others were never as fussed, preferring to destroy their cage decor rather than items around the house.
When I went away to Harrogate for my birthday last year, I received a text from my mam who was looking after them. She was having a go at me for leaving the cage open when I left, and Sam was running around my bedroom floor. A few nights after getting back, I was awoken in the middle of the night by a bang. As it turns out, Sam had managed to figure out how to open the cage door and was doing it constantly, climbing up and sitting on the top during the night. I even had to padlock the cage!
They're sociable. I'd always recommend keeping more than one rat. They're very social animals and can get quite lonely on their own. I really miss the interaction that Merry had with Sam & Pippin before they passed away, but with him being the laziest rat going I don't think he's too bothered.
They require time. Rats love interacting with humans, from playing games and learning tricks to snuggling up on your shoulder or in your lap, so it's important that you spend a lot of time with them. I tend to bring Merry out of his cage for at least an hour every night, unless he hints that he wants to be back in earlier.
The positives of owning rats far outweigh the negatives, and can see myself owning many more in the future. If you ever see someone in a pet shop with their face pressed against the glass of a rat house, that would be me.
A little bit of info for the dog owners out there too - if you choose to insure your puppy or dog with MORE TH>N, for each policy sold they are donating £20 to the RSPCA. So not only are you protecting your pet, you are helping to protect animals in less fortunate circumstances throughout the country. Anything that helps to protect animals in need of a home is good by me!