There are around 200,000 pet rats in the UK with the RSPCA receiving more than 670 reports about rats in need last year, in comparison to 221 in 2020. The RSPCA says they are intelligent pets
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Forget puppies and kittens, how about having a pet rat in your home?
While they terrify many people and are incorrectly thought of as being dirty, the RSPCA wants to reverse their bad reputation.
They are also looking for new owners for these unwanted rats which they say make “sociable, intelligent and friendly” pets.
Dr Jane Tyson, rat welfare expert, said: “Rats are incredibly intelligent animals who can be trained to count, fetch a ball and high-five a human.
“Some have even been trained to safely locate landmines in war zones so that they can be removed. “
But she added: “Sadly, rats have a bad reputation for being dirty animals but this is not the case. Rats are actually very clean animals and will spend hours grooming themselves. They are also intelligent and highly sociable, forming strong bonds with other rats and with their human companions. They certainly don’t deserve their bad reputation.
“Some people may be put off by the wild rats they see in the street but domesticated rats can make really great pets as they’re clean, friendly and enjoy human company.
“Owners can teach them tricks to keep them stimulated and engaged and can also enjoy relaxing with them on the sofa. I think many people would be surprised by how friendly pets rats can actually be.”
There are around 200,000 pet rats in the UK with the RSPCA receiving more than 670 reports about rats in need last year, in comparison to 221 in 2020.
Dr Vikki Neville from the University of Bristol conducted a survey among more than 650 rat owners to find out how they are cared for at home.
She warned how her research found some cases where rats were not provided with opportunities to explore outside their cage or were not provided with both bedding and nesting materials. Others had never visited a vet.
Dr Neville said: “I hope that we’ll now be able to communicate the importance of these aspects of husbandry with owners so that they can best look after their rats. Rats are such intelligent creatures and are full of personality, just like tiny dogs, and I think they deserve the best life we can give them.”
The RSPCA says rats can suffer from health problems just like any animal, so it’s important to keep an eye on them for potential problems and take them for regular check-ups.
Anyone who can properly care for a rat should consider adopting a rescue in need of a home instead of buying.
These include Rhona, a one-year-old female rat, who was sadly abandoned in a garden with 14 other rats.
She has a mild head tilt which has given her the affectionate nickname ‘Wonky’.
Vets at the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester and Salford branch say they believe this is from a previous ear infection which has now healed. She is friendly and playful and needs to be rehomed with her two friends Terri and Cindi in an adult-only house with lots of space for them to explore.
Declan and Dermot are also looking for their forever home together. They found themselves at the RSPCA Blackpool branch after their previous owner could no longer care for them. They both enjoy being handled but would benefit from regular human interaction to build up their confidence.
Visit rspca.org.uk/findapet to see other small animals currently available to adopt.