We have rats. Pets, not pests. Two little female rats that our girls named Cinnamon and Midnight.
When we told people we were thinking of getting pet rats, we got two very distinct responses: 1) Oh, pet rats are the best! They’re sweet and personable and intelligent and clean. You’ll love them. And 2) Rats? Are you serious? Disgusting. We may never visit your house again.
People who have had experience with pet rats can attest to their awesomeness. Those who haven’t had them or haven’t known people who’ve had them are predictably freaked out by the idea.
Poor rats have really gotten a bad rap. Yes, in the wild, and in New York City, they’re pests. But pet rats are really quite adorable, especially when you get them as babies.
This is Cinnamon. You can’t tell from this picture, but she’s the adventurous one.
This is Midnight. She might look adventurous in this picture, but she’s really shaking in her wee little boots. Midnight’s a bit of a scaredy cat. And she tends to poo when she’s nervous, so our neighbor girl here in her white coat was lucky she didn’t get a little present to take home.
Speaking of poo, the best part of these rats so far is that they litter box trained in exactly one day. So spot cleaning the cage is a breeze.
Here are a few more pics of their adorableness, and then I’ll tell you all about Weird Al the Rat Guy who sold them to us.
This last one is my favorite. I love the way they hold their food to nibble it. It almost looks like they have opposable thumbs.
OK, so Weird Al the Rat Guy. We looked all around for a breeder because we’d been told by people in-the-know not to get rats from the pet store. We found Weird Al down near Havarti’s parents, so we went to check out his rats one weekend when we were visiting them.
Al takes his rats very seriously. Before we made the appointment, he made me fill out a questionnaire and send him URL’s of websites I was looking at for what to feed the rats, etc. I appreciate his care, I really do. I just wasn’t expecting such a vigorous background check for procuring pet rats.
So we arrived at Al’s place, and we see this guy who couldn’t have been more than 4′ 10″ tall maneuvering the biggest, most beautiful white dog I’ve ever seen. The dog surely weighed as much as, if not more than, the guy. We approached him in the driveway, he introduced himself as Al, and let us pet the dog. Then he had us go in the house while he held the dog back so that the dog wouldn’t follow us inside.
We entered the house and went straight to the basement. He had probably ten or twelve big aquariums where he kept his rats, and a “play table” where he lets the rats run around for an hour or so a day. He also had an egg incubator down there. I didn’t ask.
I have to admit it didn’t smell the greatest. But we had learned in our research that male rats tend to be a little smellier, and having a couple dozen rats in one room is bound to be a little smelly.
Al met us in the basement, and I got a better look at him. Sweet smiley guy, with a bit of a mad scientist look about him. Actually, more of an evil genius look without the evil part. His curly hair sort of shot out of his head and then straight up, like he’d recently been struck by lightning. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, and his slight physical build made my 5′ 5″ and 120-something pounds look tall and formidable. But he was kind, and clearly loved his animals. He really deserves to be in a movie as the quirky neighbor.
He had six or seven female babies for us to choose from, and good gracious, were they adorable. We almost ended up getting three because I held one that nuzzled right into the crook of my arm and didn’t want to leave. But I wanted the girls to each be able to pick one, and we figured two was really enough.
As we left the house, Al showed us his backyard. Let me preface this by saying that Al lives in a normal neighborhood, not out in the country somewhere. In his little suburban fenced yard Al had three sheep, about six chickens, and an enormous – I mean, seriously huge – turkey, all wandering about freely. It was awesome. Technically, the neighborhood is in an unincorporated part of the city so it’s okay, apparently, to have a mini-petting zoo in your backyard. Who knew?
I just loved everything about Weird Al the Rat Guy, from his crazy hair to his farmyard in the suburbs. (Note to self: Always bring the camera.) I’d highly recommend him and his rats.