Friday, February 18, 2011

(Some of) The myths and facts about rats

August 5, 2010. Choki started to knock things over
as soon as I brought him in to prepare their dinner

Did you know that rats have brought enormous joy to countless families for centuries? If you didn't know, then it's time to know some facts about them now! Please read this if:
  • You are planning to have pet rats for the very first time... 
  • You hate rats because you think they're disgusting... 
  • You think that you're gonna die by just touching a rat... 
  • You're using rats for dissection (which is not a very nice thing to do), you MUST read this!
Rats make great pets! So please spread the word and share this article to everyone that you know.

"Do rats carry disease?" 
All living creatures can carry disease, including us. There's only a slim chance of getting any disease from rats, especially the pet rats. Has any human being out there taken the effort to gather factual information about the diseases that he can get from another human? (Really, the human fear of getting diseases from rats is highly irrational!)

Rat Bite Fever [1]
According to scientific literature, there is only a 10% chance of pet rats spreading the fever, compared to 50%-100% probability from wild rats. It comes from contact with the saliva, urine or secretions from infected animals. The only infection that I have contracted from my pet rats so far is the ‘Rat Love Fever’.
December 25, 2011. Rattus Choki

The Black Plague
Wild rats do not carry the Black Plague; it is transmitted by fleas. Since rats are not resistant to the plague bacteria, they die quickly, causing the fleas to migrate to a different host (e.g. humans). Animals such as voles, bears, badgers, and skunks pose greater risk of transmitting the plague (through fleas) than wild rats do. [1]

During medieval times, people were very superstitiously paranoid and thought that cats and many other beasts, were associated with the Devil. Thus when they were eliminated on a massive level (believe me, animals were tried in courts during that crazy period!), this provided the opportunity for wild rats to more than tenfold their population. (More rats that died = more fleas that migrated to human hosts = the Black Death)

To further aggravate the situation, people had poor practices of hygiene and sanitation in those times. This provided a perfect opportunity for the outbreak of disease.

The Black Plague was an error made by man in the first place, don’t blame the rats!

Rabies [1]
As for rabies, they are unheard of in pet rats. There is a less than 1% chance of a wild rat becoming rabid because they die outright when they get bitten by larger animals that have rabies. Since the 1950’s, there were only a handful reports (some were false positives) of rat-related rabies infection throughout the world.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reassures the public that:
“Small mammals such as squirrels, RATS, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. Bites by these animals are usually not considered a risk of rabies unless the animal was sick or behaving in any unusual manner and rabies is widespread in your area.” [2] 

"Rats are filthy and unclean?"
Compared to other common household pets such as cats and dogs, rats take their grooming seriously. They make a lot of effort to keep clean at all times. For those who don’t already know, rats naturally have good toilet habits. They can be litter-trained. Touching a pet rat, kissing it, or hugging it alone won’t give you any disease. 
February 14, 2011. It was one hot afternoon!

It's easy to forget that humans are the filthiest creatures on earth! Is any other animal capable of corruption, vanity, pollution and environmental destruction? Look at the effects of our wastefulness... have we any right to judge others?

"Rats are full of laughter!"
According to Dr. Panksepp, a neurologist, they possess the child-like characteristics of play and laughter (they also sulk when depressed!).

"... it is likely to be heavily laced with slapstick... young rats have a marvelous sense of fun. We have already bred rats that exhibit playful chirping, and therby hope to track down some of the genes for joy. Perhaps we will even stumble on new molecules to alleviate depressin as well as some excessive-exubeance disorders."
January 13, 2011. Herbal Barley for dinner.

"Pet rats are not vicious creatures!" 
Believe me, rats are sensitive creatures, and they'd know when you are feeling hurt.  I had several experiences of catching wild rats by hand: I knew they nibbled my finger because of fear and survival instinct, but miraculously it was more like a gentle nibble ("Hey, let me go please!").

Pet rats love to nibble and lick as a form of affection and social acceptance.

June 6, 2010. Rattus Choki is
giving me a hair make-over

Wikipedia articles...
To further understand some of the terms, links to wikipedia are included below.
Rat bite fever
Black plague

[1] Wild rats and disease. Retrieved February 14, 2011 from 

[2]Center for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the risks for my pet? Retrieved February 15, 2011 from 
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