Looking for a low-maintenance pet? Consider rats

The BC SPCA is set to adopt its one-millionth animal this month. To commemorate the event, we’re profiling some of the adopters and adoptees.

November 13, 2015

By Kristina Matisic

Fresh out of university and starting a new teaching job, Lauren Martens decided it was time for some company. After scanning the BC SPCA adoption pages online, instead of opting for the usual cat or dog, Martens decided to adopt a family—of rats.

Mom Chummy and her daughters Trixie and Jenny now eagerly await Martens when she comes home from work, ready for some attention. “They’re very social, they love to say hi,” she says. “They come out [of their cage] and they’ll fall asleep on your lap or on your shoulder if you’re watching TV. They’re very smart. They learn very quickly. You can train them to do all sorts of things.”

While they don’t sing for their supper, Martens has taught them a few moves. “I’ll say dance and they go up on their back legs and move around, and they get their food. They’re really lots of fun.” Rat pellets and healthy snacks like vegetables are their mainstays, although they do exhibit some interesting culinary predilections. “They like to go bobbing for peas in water, which is quite a sight to see. And they’re just like people: they love junk food. If I gave them a choice between a small piece of a cookie or a carrot, they would choose the cookie every time.”

Not your average back alley rats, Marten’s rats are known as Fancy Hooded rats, a breed specifically bred as pets. They’re a bit larger than the average mouse and can fit comfortably in the palm of one’s hand. Something not everyone is comfortable with. “My grandmother doesn’t like them,” she says. “I mean, she’ll look at them. As long as they’re in their cage and not close to her, she’s fine. But she doesn’t want to touch them.” Most complaints seem to regard their “naked tails,” though Marten is quick to point out the tails are actually very “nice and soft.”

This isn’t Marten’s first foray into rodent care. She had a rat in high school and adopted these three earlier this year. Because they are extremely social, they most often are adopted in pairs. Rats usually live two to three years, which can make them a good pet for someone who is not ready for a longer commitment. “The rats are so friendly. They never bite and they’re really sweet creatures.”

If you’re #oneinamillion who have adopted an animal from the BC SPCA over the past 60 years, you’re invited to post a photo to their Facebook page.

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