40 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • NOVEMBER 2020
A RAT-IONAL CHOICE BY ALLISON MATOS
Picture the perfect pet that checks off all
the boxes: Smart, trainable, highly social,
affectionate, clean, hypoallergenic.
What if it has all these traits but doesn’t
purr or bark, because the perfect pet is
actually a rat?
While rat ownership has been popular
overseas for years, domestic ownership
is only recently seeing an uptick. This
may be due in part to animal lovers
seeking out pets for allergy sufferers.
But while American culture traditionally
views rats as subway vermin, food
at the bottom of the chain, or best suited
for laboratory testing, as people become
more educated about rats, their popularity
is on the rise.
“We’ve always had pets, but after
my daughter watched a National
Geographic special about mistreatment
of rats despite their high intelligence
and petlike qualities, she began her
research and asked for a rat for her
birthday,” said Long Islander Susan
Gregori, who recently opened her heart
and home to pet rats with her daughters
Emily and Sarah.
Sarah’s research yielded some interesting
results. Turns out, rats are very
social animals and, much like cats and
dogs, thrive on daily bonding with
their owners. Studies show training a
rat is quite achievable, with millions of
YouTube videos and Instagram posts
showcasing a variety of successful behavioral
training and tricks learned by
rats across the world.
Like all pets, rats require basic care, plus
a few extras. The bigger the cage the
better, as they require a great amount of
ventilation. Rats love tubes and tunnels
and sleep best on rat hammocks and can
even be litterbox trained.
Worried about the smell? Studies show
that rats who are given enough space
and time to roam free actually
have a naturally sweet smell. It’s
the cage that gets stinky so be
sure to clean the cage and
litter at least every
other day. Once
can roam around
the house just like
a cat or dog using their
cage only for sleeping.
“If you’re interested in becoming
a rat owner, do your homework,”
says Gregori. “Take caution when
purchasing from pet stores because the
lineage of the rat is often unknown, and
rat temperaments vary. While rats are
extremely intelligent and often sweet in
nature, a bite from one is not pleasant.
Your best bet is to find a reputable rescue
or breeder that understands your
needs and can pair you with
a compatible pet.”
Rats make great pets. (Getty Images)
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