This is something fun that every rodent parent has to deal with at one point or another. It sucks. Like a lot. It’s always someone going on about how disgusting they are, calling them plague carriers, just all around being rude about your tiny little ball of loving fluff. It’s infuriating. But, there are a few things I found that helps ease the anger and, in some cases, can actually stop certain people from opening their mouths.
A big one is going to be education. I had several coworkers a while back that would always give me weird looks when I mentioned my girls and even asked me why I kept pictures of rats on my desk with that disgusted tone of voice. I used to just brush it off as nothing, but when it got to the point of actually being berated for my choice of family is when I decided it was a problem that needed solved. And I love solving problems. For most, education was the solution. A lot of people don’t know how wonderful rats can be, how smart they are, or how loving and fulfilling they can make your life. If it’s not a dog or a cat, folks just don’t seem to get it. That’s easily changed with a little education and conversation. Like, did you know that rats spend about as much time grooming as a cat would? Or that rats can be trained to do tricks, the same way dogs can? Most rats learn their names quickly and will even come when called. They can be taught to use a litter box, solve puzzles, and use tools. Rats have even been trained to find landmines, help stop illegal wildlife poaching, and even sniff out tuberculosis. Rats are amazing. Rats are helping save elephants and rhinoceroses. Can your dog do that? I didn’t think so. A little education can go an awful long way.
The biggest thing that helped me get the point across was that my oldest girl, Lucy, is actually my unofficial emotional support animal. From the time that I got her, she’s always had a knack for recognizing when I need her most. When I start to get anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed she’ll squeak from the corner of her cage as if demanding to be let out. She’ll then cuddle up on my neck, give me kisses, let me fiddle with her tail, and try to play with me (like how little kids do when you’re sad.) Or she’ll slide down the front of my shirt and just lean back against my heart, lick my fingers, and squeak at people. It’s adorable. But it’s also beneficial to me. It calms me down and makes it easier to function. Most people think that only dogs can really fill a support animal position, but if the bond is there, any animal can. (There is a lot of information out there if you need an emotional support animal. But, if it’s not necessary, don’t ruin it for other people. You can find information as well as how to register here.)
But sometimes the best way to help someone understand rats is to let them interact. My ten year old has had friends come over who freaked out when they heard we had pet rats. They did what little girls typically do with long, drawn out “eww” and comments of how gross rats are. We tried talking to them, but they weren’t having it. So, I got Lucy out. I let the girls gently pet her back, a few asked if they could touch her tail, and there were so many questions about whether or not she would bite or hurt them. After a few minutes of convincing, one girl actually asked if she could hold her. And Lucy wanted to be loved on. Under strict supervision, the girls all softly cradled Lucy and let her crawl all over their arms and shoulders. I never heard a peep about her being gross from them again. One even asked where I got her because she wanted one herself! If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.
Now, granted, not everyone will be swayed by education, heartfelt stories, or playing with a fluff ball. Some people can’t be reasoned with. You really can’t argue with stupid. So, for those people, I simply ignore them. If you want to talk smack about something that is clearly having a benefit in someone’s life, then that’s your prerogative. I can’t change that. But, all I can say is I’m sorry that you are so closed minded and you have had to guard your heart so strongly that you aren’t even willing to give it a chance. I’m sorry that you will never know the immense comfort that so many others and myself feel knowing we have a little rat baby to go home to. We have someone that almost always wants to play, wrestle around, cuddle, explore, and just be there with you in a time of need. I’m sorry that you will never feel that because you’re not even willing to give it a chance. Words are just words if you don’t give them power. Wear them as your armor and no one can use them against you. I’m the crazy rat lady, the plague carrier, and the evil witch with her wicked rat sidekick. This is something we should carry proudly because no one can touch what we have.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments and if there is anything you would like more information on, please feel free to speak up.
Any links included in post are not affiliated with my blog, they’re simply where I found my information and I prefer to cite my sources.