So you REALLY want to learn about rats?
March 30, 2010 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Now I can see the world through RAT'S EYES... RAT'S EYES... RAT'S EYES.

Sorry, 80s flashback there.

Great post.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:12 PM on March 30, 2010

Rats can make great pets, I had three myself once. The only negative thing about owning rats was the stupid responses from people to the fact that you own rats.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:38 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

My girlfriend has two rats, Bailey and Gus, and has cared for others before. They're lovely little critters but they are overclocked pooping machines.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:48 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I was twelve, I got to spend some great times hanging about in the JHU labs, where the grad students were generous enough to let me observe their pregnant rats wearing little metal hats housing the electrodes piercing their (the rats') brains navigating circular water mazes for rewards of little pans of chocolate milk. (Pregnant rats can less readily recall mazes than (female) un-pregnant rats.) Ever since, I've been rather fascinated by those clever, resourceful, fecund little mammals.
posted by orthogonality at 8:05 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

MaryDellamorte, I am afraid I am one of those people. I just cannot wrap my head around the idea of keeping a rat as a pet.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:14 PM on March 30, 2010

I do not want to know what rats do instead of vomiting. It's probably nightmarish. People, people! RATS ARE OUR ENEMIES! They would eat your children if you gave them HALF A CHANCE!
posted by longsleeves at 8:17 PM on March 30, 2010

There's so much information on this page, I feel like I'm in some sort of enclosed complex of interlocking tunnels with a non-intuitive floor plan, running around trying to find delicious tidbits of information hidden somewhere inside! All while under the effects of an experimental new drug!
posted by No-sword at 8:18 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

longsleeves: "They would eat your children if you gave them HALF A CHANCE!"

And a cat wouldn't?

Rats make great pets, very smart, trainable, and affectionate. Mine used to like to sleep in the armpit of my shirt as if it were a hammock. She was very friendly and outgoing, her one troublesome habit was scurrying up someone's leg as a way of saying hi. It was usually OK, but she never figured out that this was not so good an idea if said person was wearing a skirt.
posted by idiopath at 8:22 PM on March 30, 2010

A survey of the literature shows that information on vomiting does exist for a few species

Table 1. Vomiting response in different species. Species are grouped by Class (boldface), then by Order (italics).

My kids thank you Viol for keeping me occupied this past half hour while they got to stay up late. Daddy was working, I'll leave it at that. Good post.
posted by cgk at 8:39 PM on March 30, 2010

Rats make amazing pets. Like puppies that never grow up - they learn their names, tricks, and most importantly their nestmates' names (so they can come running if you try to give another rat a treat).

The only problem I have with rats is the peeing. It's everywhere, constantly, and I don't have the time to change their cage every five days. Especially not when there are desert animals like gerbils that can easily go three weeks without.
posted by Ryvar at 9:15 PM on March 30, 2010

I just buried my last rat. I had two, and one succumbed to rat pneumonia, and the second had either spinal paralysis or a pituitary tumor. He lost his ability to move his rear legs and lift himself up to drink. So I was giving him water from a syringe and after I had stopped he sank his teeth deep into my index finger. Not sure if I was over watering him, or if he had gone bonkers, but he was the friendliest, cuddliest little dude before he went bonkers and died.

I don't think I'll get any more rats because their susceptibility to tumors and other diseases is so high, and it saddens me when they die. Also, they are classified as exotics by veterinarians, so the cost of a visit is steep.

I've also gained rat super powers--the ability to scramble up furniture and pee all over my house.
posted by mecran01 at 9:27 PM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]

I've only ever had one rat, but I loved her. Her name was 'Sock' because for a long time one of my best friends (who was out of town for summer semester) was insisted all I had done was rolled up a sock in a cage and begun talking to it. Ah, the memories.

As mecran01 said above, they are highly susceptible to a lot of horrible, horrible things. I developed an allergy to her while I was out of the country for half a year and when I came back I couldn't handle her or clean her cage; I either broke out in hives wherever her claws touched me or my throat started to swell up from the dander. She developed some issue with her pancreas (I think) and just started to tank health-wise. I'd given her to a friend at this point who took good care of her, but I was out west in field camp when it all started to go downhill. Apparently she lost about 50% of her weight (she was only a little chubby beforehand) in a couple of weeks. My friend had her put down, which was very kind of her, and I buried her under a tree on campus with a little rock headstone etched with her name.

Anyway, they're great pets, and I was happy to have her for as long as I could. She was a bit of a pain in a way because she was so damn smart; when she was out of her pen if you didn't want her to get somewhere and weren't constantly watching her, she would get there. And then you'd have to coax her out of a small place, which isn't something she was always interested in. But they are pretty heartbreaking in the ways they tend to die. It's probably better for me emotionally that I can't really own another one again.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:38 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

My oldest daughter has three pet rats and I consulted this site about a week ago to see if we could find a reason for some oddball behavior from one of them. Nothing turned up (and the behavior seems to have gone away on its own), but I bookmarked it for future reference. It's good stuff. And she dearly loves her ratties.
posted by jquinby at 6:45 AM on March 31, 2010

The only negative thing about owning rats was the stupid responses from people to the fact that you own rats.

Someone probably said this already, but the only negative thing (for me) about owning rats was that they are so short-lived. The ones we had were probably already a year old when we got them and they lasted only another year or so. It probably didn't help the poor critters' lifespans that our beagles constantly terrorized them.

And they do pee and poop constantly.
posted by blucevalo at 9:12 AM on March 31, 2010

After the second hamster knocked off, it was decided in my household that we should upgrade to a rat.

My sister, being 10 or so, was going through a phase where every pet got a ridiculous Victorian name. So Tabatha the hamster was supplanted with Mathilda the rat, white with pink eyes and clever hands and an expression of concern. My mother and I made a college try to call the rat "Mathilda," but we couldn't do it with a straight face, so Rat she was.

Rat lived in a large cage in the corner of the kitchen; when she was young she could squeeze out of the top bars on her own. It didn't last. My mother quickly realized that a kitchen rat could happily serve as a general-purpose garburator, and soon, the rat was too big to escape. Eventually mom just left the top of her cage open, so she could toss in cutting-board scraps from across the kitchen like a three-point shot.

She was a cheerful creature, but eventually became so pear-shaped as to be a mystery rodent. Once my new friend Don came over to my house, and peered into her cage.

"What's that?" he said.

I gathered up the blob of rodent and held her aloft, tail dangling.

"A Manchurian King Hamster," I said. She peered at him.

"Wow," he said, and stared back. "What's her name?"

"Rat," I said.

"Oh." Don turned red.

On weekday mornings, when I didn't want to get up and go to high school, my mother would put the rat on my pillow next of my face, and I'd wake up to a little wet nose against my cheek, and the tickle of delicate paws. She would lick your nose, given the chance. You could never tell, with a rat, what was genuine affection and what was just being a rat.

Mother harboured her doubts, even as she doted on her expanding pet. After a couple of years had passed, and the rat had gone blind and become irretrievably lumpy and the time came to go to the vet's, she reminded herself that it was just a rat, for God's sake. But sitting in the waiting room, Rat wrapped her little paw around the tip of Mom's finger, and held on tight to the end.
posted by bicyclefish at 10:27 AM on March 31, 2010 [5 favorites]

We've had something like 92 pet rats over the past ten years (my wife is a "rescue" worker). When we mention this fact, the shocked expressions are fun ... so are the questions, like "do you breed them?" or "do they run around in your house?".

My wife has said we'll be stopping with the rat-keeping when our last six die. She just can't handle the tears anymore when they die.

I doubt it'll actually come to that, though. She's too much of a softie for animals in need of rescue, and I'm allergic to cats and dogs ... so it's likely to continue to be rat-rescue time in the dwbrant household.
posted by dwbrant at 6:22 AM on April 1, 2010

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