When most people think of pets, we immediately picture cats and dogs. Images of guinea pigs, parakeets or fish may come to mind. But today is the day to celebrate the Fancy Rats and Fancy Mice that over a half million happy people share their lives with.
Hamsters and gerbils enjoy popularity as pocket pets for children, and due to misconceptions and misguided phobias, rats and mice are often passed over. But the truth is that domestic rats and mice have a lot of advantages over their more popular rodent counterparts. For example, hamsters can be excellent pets but are nocturnal, so most of their fun-to-watch antics take place at night when they’re more likely to provide sleeplessness than entertainment. And many people who have owned a variety of small pets will attest that hamsters seem to be the most likely to bite, possibly due to their poor eyesight and dislike of being woken up from a deep sleep.
Domestic mice, on the other hand, can be quite social, active and adventurous. They are typically eager to jump, climb and explore toys and structures in their cages. They are quite small and fragile, so they may not be ideal for very young children to hold, but a well socialized mouse will enjoy snuggling and climbing on their owner. The biggest downside to pet mice is that they tend to be a little odorous, especially the boys.
The inquisitive nature of fancy mice paired with their need for enrichment provides a great opportunity for arts and crafts – using household objects and non-toxic glue to make places for pet mice to climb and hide is a great way to spend an afternoon, especially in the cold winter months!
Now, on to fancy rats. A lot of us here at Pembroke Animal Hospital currently have pet rats, or have had them in the past, so we know just how much fun they are. It’s important to stress that domestic fancy rats are NOT the same as wild, “sewer”, or “subway” rats. These rats were bred in captivity to be pets. A well socialized rat is surprisingly similar to an affectionate cat. They will greet their owners and are excited to snuggle. They are highly intelligent and can be taught tricks. They’re also meticulously clean, and some owners have had good luck litter box training their rats!
Fancy rats are bigger and sturdier than fancy mice, so they may be a better choice for younger owners. And again, most people who have owned and worked with a variety of pet rodents will agree that a rat gets the vote for least likely to bite!
Rats are happiest when kept with companions, but you’ll want to make sure their companions are the same gender (or have them spayed and neutered! Yes, we can do that!) Domestic rats are clever, curious, social creatures. Consider adding them to your family! Check with your local shelter or our friends at Mainely Rat Rescue to start the search for the perfect fancy companion for you!