Reasons to #loverats this World Rat Day
Did you know that rats can count, establish friendships and learn to high-five? Here are our favourite reasons to #loverats...
Everything you think you know about rats might be wrong
Did you know that rats are incredibly smart? They can count to at least four, are fast learners and have excellent memories. Rats also show amazing levels of understanding towards others of their own species. If one rat receives help from another, he or she will remember and return the favour in the future - and the more help the rat received, the more they'll give!
It's even been shown that when a rat is given a choice between receiving a treat just for themselves or having a friend receive a tasty treat too, they'll choose the option that also enables their friend to get a treat! How lovely.
'Rats are unintelligent' and other misconceptions
In the past, the much misunderstood rat has often received bad press - but more and more people are now seeing rats as pets, rather than 'pests'!
All rats (whether they're found in the wild, in a research laboratory, or cared for as a member of the family) are individuals with their own unique and fascinating personalities. Although rats are valued and treated very differently by people depending on the circumstances in which humans come into contact with them, they all have the same welfare needs and are equally capable of suffering. Each individual rat is able to experience a range of emotions, both positive and negative.
Just like dogs, pet rats can learn and respond to their own names and can be trained to do tricks, like giving 'high-fives', fetching a ball and rolling over. Much like cats, they're very clean animals, often spending hours grooming themselves or each other.
Rats are often very affectionate animals and will form close bonds with their human carers (lots of them love to relax on an owner's lap). They also love being tickled - and will remember which humans have tickled and played with them in the past, and will prefer to spend time with those people.
The Rat Pack: Ren's story
Ren has a number of pet rats... Here she talks to us about rescue rat 'Plum', the latest addition to her group.
My rats are the reason I get out of bed every morning. They're a huge part of my life and I love being around them.
Before my rescue rat, Plum found her forever home with me she was living by herself and was terrified of human contact. I couldn't stand the idea of her continuing to live like this and thought: what's the harm of adding one more rat to my existing group of four
The first two weeks of having Plum were spent training and bonding with her, so she learnt that I was not a threat and was not going to hurt her.
Within half an hour of our first training session, she went from constantly biting my fingers to giving me little high fives with her paw on my finger in exchange for a bit of sweetcorn. I was amazed at how quickly she picked this up and how she soon realised that being gentle would be rewarded.
Those two weeks flew by and Plum was ready to meet the rest of my rats. Rats have to be carefully supervised whenever they're introduced to each other. Initially, I kept these introductions short but as they got to know each other the times they spent together could gradually increase. Now they all live together.
After only after a few days of living with the others, Plum developed a spring in her step and was practically a completely different rat. The rest of my rats are so good with her. It's like they knew she needed looking after and now I often see all five of them cuddled up together.
Today, Plum loves coming out to explore - she'll even walk onto my hand when I open up the cage and try to climb up my arm.
Rescuing rats and seeing them develop into playful and curious beings is one of the best feelings. I couldn't imagine my life without them; they're so intelligent and always make me smile.
Pets not 'pests': Why rats make wonderful companion animals
Rats are very intelligent and affectionate animals that are capable of bonding with other rats as well as humans. If you're thinking about getting a new pet, why not consider giving a new home to a pair or group of rats? Our animal centres have rehomed more than 300 pet rats over the past two years!
For more information, our rat welfare pages have lots of useful advice on how to care for rats, their environment, their diet and more.