You never know what you are going to discover on one of Miles’ ‘walkabouts’! As a result of my latest walk with his group in Colonel Sam Smith Park, I learnt some surprising things about Domesticated Rats. The event started when a curious-looking creature, white with a brown hood and spots, approached our group, seeming happy to see us. As he climbed up my boot, I summed up the situation: a pet rat, abandoned in the forest, probably hungry and scared and needing to be rescued. Into my knapsack he went for the duration of the walk except for posing for Miles’ photo-taking session.
Once safely housed in a box in my house, I found out just how hungry he was and he ate anything offered. His name became obvious — Hoover! He seemed easy to please and I allowed him little excursions outside his box, which had now become two boxes joined by a tin can. I covered the desk in newspaper and allowed him to explore while I sent out emails to friends trying to find him a suitable home. He strolled around blissfully unaware of the perils awaiting him outside the closed door: two very experienced mouse and rat-catchers, two felines that often worked together as a nasty team. They had grave suspicions of what was going on behind that closed door and cruised around hoping for an opportunity to find out what exactly was causing all the extra activity.
While Hoover explored I looked up ‘pet rats’ and found they are a domesticated brown rat, Rattus norvegicus, initially bred as targets for blood sports in the 18th and 19th Century in Europe. Since then they have been bred as pets and called ‘fancy rats’. They come in a variety of colors, some brown-capped like Hoover and some even hairless kinds and some bred without a tail. They are an extremely social animal and as pets, need a partner. They are supposedly one of the easiest animals to train due to their adaptability, intelligence and focus.
Looking online, I found an informative site, “How to Set Up a Pet Rat Cage” and I was amazed at how involved and entertaining keeping pet rats can be. There is a large selection of paraphernalia for keeping the pet busy in the cage, from ladders, to walkways to treadmills and the more ‘toys’ provided, then the more enjoyable it would seem to be to watch this type of pet. If I did not already have my felines constantly patrolling the premises I might get caught up in providing the proper environment with toys and a pal for Hoover. A pair of ‘fancy rats’ would undoubtedly provide many hours of entertainment during our long winter months.