British Columbia

Fancy rats: 3 reasons they make great pets

The Vancouver Animal Control Shelter hopes some people will see the appeal in owning fancy rats. The shelter currently has 68 of them, and they say they make great pets.

The Vancouver Animal Control Centre has been overrun with dozens of pet rats

Fancy rat on seat of black leather chair. The Vancouver Animal Control Shelter is currently dealing with 68 of these animals, and wants to find them good homes. (Getty Images/Flickr Open)

The Vancouver Animal Control Shelter is currently awash in pet rats after someone anonymously dumped 68 of them off at their building earlier this month. 

And while not everyone might see the appeal of owning a pet rat, the shelter is hoping that a few people who do will come forward to help them out by adopting some of them.

"There is a preconceived notion that rats are vermin-ridden, and disease-causing and disease-carrying," said Rachel Blyth with the shelter. "There is a difference in the genetics between the fancy rats that we have and your regular street rats that you see out and about in the garbage and such."

"Fancy rats," which are the kind the shelter has, are specifically bred as pets, and Blyth says that if you can get over your squeamishness, they make great pets.

Here are three reasons why.

They're great for apartments

Rachel Blyth holds one of the Shelter's 68 fancy rats. (Vivian Luk/CBC)

If you aren't up for taking care of a bigger pet like a cat or dog, rats make for a great alternative, according to Blyth.

They're low maintenance, and can even be trained to use a litter box just like a cat.

As long as you have the proper enclosure, bedding, food and water, fancy rats are happy in any size of home, Blyth said.

They're very smart

Fancy rats are quite intelligent, and can even be trained to perform tricks for treats.

But they also require a fair amount of stimulation, either in the form of human interaction, or with enrichment toys which can be found in pet stores.

They're very friendly

But when they're not exercising their bodies or brains, Blyth said that fancy rats enjoy human interaction.

They're comfortable being handled, and when out of their cages, are quite content to cuddle up with people and just relax.

"A lot of the time they'll just hang out on your shoulder or the hood of your jacket," Blyth said. "They're quite endearing little creatures."

Rats like these tend be social with humans, but also with each other. The shelter prefers to adopt them in pairs so they don't get lonely in their new homes.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Fancy rats: 3 reasons they make great pets


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