If you have been thinking of adopting a dog, but the smallest breed is still a bit big for you, look no further than the Maple Ridge branch of the BC SPCA.
Although they have a bad reputation – they are often viewed as disease-spreading and filthy – rats make great companions, said branch manager Krista Shaw.
And, there are currently eight rats waiting at the Maple Ridge branch to be adopted into a loving home.
“We refer to them as pocket dogs because they are super smart and loving and affectionate,” explained Shaw.
The rats came to Shaw from a very large intake by the SPCA.
“There is a house that had over 75 rats and they couldn’t care for them anymore,” Shaw recounted.
Out of the 75, Shaw received 12 of the rodents at the beginning of July, which were triaged by another Lower Mainland branch of the SPCA.
All of the rats have been checked and treated for lice.
Since then two have already been adopted, and four more are being transferred to the Richmond branch on Thursday, Aug. 20.
“They are super, super smart. You can train them to do tricks. They know their name. We can’t hear it, but rats do laugh when they get tickled which is really cute,” she said.
And, they can be trained to do pretty much anything a dog can do, added the branch manager.
Rats originated from Asia and their domestication began around 200 years ago, states an information page on the BC SPCA website.
Rats can weigh up to about 650 grams and measure between 23 and 28 centimeters in length, plus an additional 18 to 23 cm tail.
Their coats can come in a few styles from smooth to curly and there are many different colours.
Rats do require a lot of attention.
BC SPCA guidelines include spending time with your new pet so you know how they behave normally, so when something unusual takes place like breathing issues or loss of appetite, you can get them to a veterinarian right away.
Handling your rat gently and carefully with two hands – one under the rat’s hind and the other around its chest.
They also need daily exercise. A tall enclosure with multiple levels that they can climb is optimal for a rat.
And, male and female should never be kept together – even for a short period – unless they are neutered or spayed. According to the BC SPCA females can have up to 12 litters – with six to 12 young per litter – in one year.
The BC SPCA recommends getting at least two rats together providing they are the same sex and have a large habitat because they need the social interaction.
They also need chewing items like cardboard, wooden toys, and apple branches, to help wear down their ever-growing front teeth.
Rats can snack on unsweetened cereals, seeds, plain popcorn, nuts and dried pasta. Their staple diet should include rat pellets or blocks, which provide them with a balanced diet and a small amount of vegetables and fruits should be provided every day. They also need water available to them at all times.
The only negative thing about adopting a rat, said Shaw, is that they only live for about three years.
“Some people will only get a rat once in their life because they were so sad over the loss.”
For more information about adopting the rats call 604-463-9511.