The word “rat” for many people immediately conjures up the stereotypical vision of a beady-eyed, pointy-nosed rodent that scurries around at night in the trash. But actually, domesticatedrats can make phenomenal pets and are far from the invasive vermin that people commonly think of when they think of rats.
Here are five rat facts you likely don’t know:
1. Rats are superclean.
They are fastidious groomers that actually do not like getting dirty. In general, if they get something on their fur, they immediately try to clean it off. They love to groom each other (allogroom) and to gather and organize their food into piles. So they are actually quite neat. Rarely do they need bathing. Typically, the only rats that require regular baths are older, obese, ill or arthritic rats that have difficulty grooming themselves, or unaltered males that mark their territory with urine.
2. Rats are extremely smart and empathic.
Many people don’t think of rats as being smart, but they are actually very intelligent and easy to train. Their intelligence is why rats are so often used in psychological studies to help understand human behavior. They can be taught to perform tricks, master puzzles, run through mazes and even solve simple problems. All they need is a dedicated trainer and some motivation (usually with a favorite food reward).
It’s incredible the tasks rats can perform when they are shown how. For example, rats can be taught to play fetch and to catch a ball. They can also be taught how to drop a ball through a hoop, as in basketball. Rats will also respond to their names when called. They also show empathy and compassion for their fellow rats when they are in distress — qualities that are not often attributed to animals other than humans.
3. Rats make lifelong bonds with their owners.
Ask any rat owner, and he or she will tell you: Rats recognize their owners and respond to their sight and voice. They are very social and love to hang out with human family members on the couch or on peoples’ shoulders or in their laps. They will even try to groom their human companions as if these people were other rats in their “rat pack.” Pet rats love the warmth and contact of their caretakers and are actually very cuddly!