American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2016 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Therapy Rats

By Karen Robbins

Elizabeth Klink, MI, Facebook
Q I really like the idea of having a rat due to their intelligence and ability to bond to their owners, not to mention their size and cuteness. I have PTSD, anxiety, and suffer from panic attacks, I am looking for a suitable companion, that would know me, unlike a hedgehog, Guinea pig, hamster, or something like that. Something I could carry with me, obviously bond to me, be cuddly (at least sometimes), be happy to see me, and want to play. I’ve done some research on rats but I’d prefer and expert’s opinion on whether or not a rat is right for me. I am a student so I’d be away from it for 8 hours a day, and I won’t be allowed to start the registration process to make the rat the therapy pet until it is at least 6 months old, but until then, after school and weekends I would definitely handle and play with it. I understand that it would need basically parrot toys in its cage for gnawing and playing with. Would the right toys and a spacious cage be enough to entertain it while I’m at school? My family had an African grey parrot for a long time so I feel like I know about and have dealt with intelligent animals escaping cages and play with toys and making their own games as well, but I’ve never had hands-on experience with a rat before.

Finally, the make or break question, am I able to have just one rat or is it significantly better to have a pair? I don’t think I could handle having more than one, and I’d fear they’d bond to each other more than me but I don’t want to get only one if it’s going to be very depressed and not have a good quality of life because it doesn’t have another rat. If I couldn’t have just one, would is be best to get two right at the same time or wait 6 months to a year and then get one. I have a lot of experience with dogs and I know that if you get two puppies from the same litter they end up bonding with each other and not you. I don’t know if rats are the same way.

A Rats have been good therapy animals for those with medical conditions ranging from them just being rats, to being able to alert their owners to upcoming medical episodes. Since they are small, they can hang out on the person’s shoulders, in a pocket, or a purse. Rats are like dogs in the regards they recognize their owner and want to be out with them. Personality-wise males are more mellow and calmer when grown where females are very active throughout their life so not as likely to be cuddly, though there are some females that are mellow and some males that are hyper. Rats are social animals and do need a same-sex ratty companion to meet their social needs (sleeping with each other, grooming each other, etc.). You would need to get two at the same timeā€”from the same litter or be the same age, as babies need a playmate. If you wait, you may have problems with introductions at a later date. They sleep during the day so wouldn’t use toys while they are sleeping but they do enjoy various toys, wood chew toys, hammocks, cardboard boxes, etc.

There was an article in the 2012 newsletter about a service mouse that would alert the owner of upcoming dizzy spells (Beginners’ Corner p. 49). *

November 28, 2018