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More than 200,000 rats kept as pets in the UK because owners say they are “intelligent, active and social”

They are bugs, pests, plague carriers, the stars of horror novels, not to mention many nightmares, and even a real pantomime villain.

So is the RSPCA screeching up the wrong tree with the news that we are encouraged to keep rats in the home as pets?

Not according to existing rat fans (thanks Roland), who already have 200,000 pet rats in the UK…

the rat breeder

Some 30 years ago, Marti Leimbach was in the pet section of London’s Harrods department store shopping for dog food when she saw two “beautiful” rats she had to have.

Since seeing Chester and Archie, Marti estimates that she has been left with “hundreds” of the rodents. She currently has nine living in her Oxford home.

For the past four years, Marti, 58, has also been raising rats as a hobby under the name Blue Apple Rattery.

Martí recommends that people interested in rats as her pets have three. “That way, if one dies, you have the remaining two,” she says.

“Rats don’t like to be alone, they thrive in company. They are intelligent and active social pets that become very attached to their owners and to each other; they are very similar to dogs in that regard.

“I deliver rats to people who can provide them with loving and considerate homes that will provide these remarkable creatures with the care they need.”

Marti’s rats have also won prizes at NFRS shows. “There are different categories, like in dog shows,” says Marti.

“For example, all the rats that have a single colored fur will be in a group. People may be surprised when they find out that rat shows exist.”

One of the rats that Martí has ​​at home


daily mirror)

Marti Leimbach has nine rats living in her Oxford home



high five rodents

In 2021, two intelligent rodents, Frankie and Freddie, entered the Guinness World Record book for that year for their remarkable tricks.

Frankie set the world record for the most high fives by a rat in 30 seconds, an impressive 28. Meanwhile, Freddie secured the award for the most jumps through a hoop by a rat in the same period of time. time, completing the movement eight times.

They were trained by Watford project manager Luke Roberts, who adopted the duo, whom he affectionately refers to as “the kids”, when they were pups (baby rats). He started teaching them tricks when they were around three months old and settled into their new home.

Luke said he was inspired to train his pets after seeing a video online of a rat playing basketball. And he added: “It was like a bonding exercise with them. Training small animals that people think are gross can help change the public’s perception of them.

“You can turn it into something fun and inspiring. I wish people would give rats more chances.”

prize rats

Jem Quarry has been raising rats at Kismet Stud with his partner Lewis since 2008. He has loved rodents ever since he got his first two, Kasper and Cushty, at the age of 16.

Over the past 15 years, Jem, who is 33 and lives near Northampton, estimates he has spent £2,000 to enter his rats into shows at the National Fancy Rat Society, a rodent version of Crufts.

Several of his rats, including Apple Crumble, Clanger, and Poundcake, have won rosettes, cups, and even a rodent-shaped trophy.

Jem lists some qualities that make an award-winning rat stand out. “What you’re looking for is a rat that is very fit, has a nice, shiny, sleek coat, has nice, eye-catching eyes, and has a good color.”

Jem, who also qualified as an NFRS show judge in 2013, says, “I travel around the country putting my rats in a few a year. You have to feed them a good diet if you want them to do well, as part of the evaluation involves them having a shiny, sleek coat and being fit.”

Jem and Lewis currently care for 30 rats, including pups. “Everyone has different personalities,” she says.

“People are beginning to appreciate rats as good pets. There are a lot of videos on social media of them being interactive and very cute, which is changing the perception of them.”

Jem Quarry estimates that he has spent £2,000 to enter his rats into National Fancy Rat Society shows.



tv star rats

Animal trainer Grace Dickinson currently has 11 rats, nine brown and two ‘blue dumbos’, which she has trained to do tricks for film and television.

“My group of nine children are what I call my ‘specialist rats,’” says Grace, who is 38 and lives in Chelmsford. “They look like wild rats, so they have appeared on screen playing street rats and dungeon rats. Recently, they were in the second season of the Netflix show The Witcher.”

Grace’s blue rats, Stanley and Gus, were also on the recent ITV show The Secret Life of Pets, where they learned how to squeeze through holes, run along ledges and get from A to B .

“How long it takes to train them depends on their personalities,” says Grace. “The first part is to gain their trust and befriend them, for example by having them take your food away.

“They are so smart that you can teach them basic things in just a few short sessions. Once they have the first thing in the bag, they realize that it is fun and that they will learn everything else relatively quickly.

Like the RSPCA, Grace says it recommends pet rats, especially over more traditional options like hamsters and rabbits.

“Rats are much bolder and happier in the company of humans,” he adds. “They love to go out and be manipulated. Really, they are like little people.”

Grace Dickinson currently has 11 rats

therapy rats

Nicola Jackson is the proud owner of nine rats and finds them very useful when it comes to cold door knockers.

“Having rats has stopped people from trying to sell me stuff at my front door; not many people like it when I open the door with one on my shoulder,” she says.

Two years ago, charity worker Nicola had 39 rats living with her, in three large cages costing nearly £200 each.

She says: “My rats really helped me during the lockdown. I’m in a long distance relationship, so I was alone. My Saturn rat, who died early last year, would know if I had a bad day and would sit on me and hug me. They are very intelligent and affectionate pets.”

Nicola Jackson had 31 rats in one stage



She says the rats helped her during the lockdown



It was not the first time that her beloved rats helped her in a difficult moment. In November 2015, Nicola Jackson’s mother, Karen, suffered a seizure and tragically died in front of her daughter. Nicola, who is 34 and from Rosyth, Fife, was later diagnosed with PTSD, but says the two rescue rats she had at the time, Shredder and Splinter, helped her through her pain.

“Without them, I would have stayed in bed and not interacted with anyone,” says Nicola. “But the bond I had with my rats got me through it, even spending an hour playing with them would help me feel a million times better.

Nicola says that the only negative thing about keeping the animals is the fact that their lifespan is very short: they usually live only two or three years.

“I got a certificate of longevity for my little girl Poppy, as she made it to four years old,” says Nicola. “She was the longest I’ve ever had.

“Every time you have to say goodbye to them, it’s very hard.”

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