So this is another development of recent months - we are now the proud owners of 8 (!) fancy rats.
If you are squeamish about rats you may not want to read any further than this - even if I have always found them cute I know that rats are not everybody's favourite animal. :)
Of course it didn't quite start with 8 rats. Boy #1 had mentioned for a while that he would like a pet, and it was either a dog or rats. While I adore dogs, and actually had one growing up, I really can't envision how a dog would fit into our currently rather chaotic family life. Sure, it would fit right in with us as a family, but all the walking? Between work and ill children, and doctor's appointments I can't help but feel that it would be what ends up pushing us over the edge. We just don't need the extra stress and pressure right now.
So rats it was going to be.
I did a bit of research and we ordered a cage and on boy #1's birthday last autumn we went to Pets at Home and brought home 2 baby rats, both boys, both 9 weeks old. I've since learnt that pet shops are not the ideal place to get rats, as they usually come from rodent mills and often have health problems as a result, but hey, we were new to all this.
After some initial hick-ups (one was very shy, the other one so super-excited he chomped down on our fingers liberally), Larry (grey/mink) and Dave (roan) settled down happily and were a huge success with the boys.
Of course that was only the start. Going back to Pets at Home for some toys for the cage I spotted two older rats who had been left in the rescue section and I felt so bad for them that I brought them home with me. They were older gents, about 1 1/2 years old, called Algernon and Bucky (re-named by boy #1 as Snowball), and they had been left because their previous owner didn't have time for them anymore.
Algernon and Snowball were a little shy and scared, but again settled in just fine.
Of course that also wasn't quite the end of it. By this time I'd realised that rats are really best either rescued, which is always a good thing to do of course, or purchased from a responsible breeder who works on improving health and temperament issues, so when boy #2 and #3 voiced their concern over the 'unfairness of boy #1 having rats when they didn't' I started looking around for breeders.
We thought we'd found one quite locally and went to pick up 2 girl rats (boy #2 was set on girls). None of us were very impressed with the breeder and they were so terrified that it took months of taming for the two girls, Tam and Bluey, to really feel safe with us.
In the meantime a breeder a little further afield, for whose waiting list I had signed up, contacted us to say that she had two little girls that we could have so off we went to get more babies.
This is how our last two rats joined us. Sky and Parsnip moved in with us in March and completed the rat family (who are, for obvious reasons, not kept in the same cage - if we did that we'd probably have about 124 by now!!). They are tame and playful and affectionate, and did wonders to Tam and Bluey, who proudly took on the role of older sisters and started thriving as a result.
We are quite fond of our ratty family by now. They are smart and affectionate and have huge personalities. Who knew they could make such fabulous pets?