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Dubai: Rats may be widely rubbished as destructive pests, but believe it or not, they make for the most loving pets too. At least that is what a number of Dubai residents with rodents as pets claim.

Louisiane Egarnes, who owns, not one, but seven rats, said, “They are among the most intelligent animals in the world; they are great as pets and can be trained to do tricks just like a dog, may be even better.”

The Frenchwoman said she bought four of them, which were meant to be snake food, from a pet shop. “A few months later, someone contacted me to foster a little rat family. I ended up keeping three males and got the rest adopted.”

Small pets take up less space than cats or dogs. They also mean low maintenance; you don’t need to walk a rat or hamster."

 - Hollie Parker | Helping Hands for Small Paws


Bella, a student who adopted two male rats — Bonsai and Sir Squeaksalot, said: “They are my companions when I get home from school. They always want to play. They are so inquisitive, they climb on to everything, even my hair.”

There are many reasons why rats, like hamsters, are popular. Hollie Parker of Helping Hands for Small Paws, a Facebook group that supports the care of small animals, says: “Small pets (like rodents) take up less space than cats or dogs. They also mean low maintenance; you don’t need to walk a rat or hamster at regular times.

“For people who work late hours, they are ideal as they tend to be more active in the evening or at night. They also have a short lifespan of a few years, which might be appealing to a family who wants a pet without the long-term commitment. And, of course, you can’t overlook how cute they are.”

Showmaster

Maria MJ’s three children with LightningBob, a hamster she adopted from Helping Hands for Small Paws.

Maria MJ, who adopted LightningBob, a hamster, from Helping Hands for Small Paws, last November, said, “Bob is a showmaster. He has his wheel that he loves to go round at exactly 2am when everyone is supposed to be sound asleep. That’s when he’s cranking it up. Then he loves to do acrobatic climbing.”

She says she got Bob for her kids. “We are a special needs family. Our three youngest are in the spectrum, the girls have Aspergers — one with social anxiety, the other with swallowing issues and no social barriers, while our only boy Saud is non-verbal selective response autistic.

“We decided the girls needed more responsibility and exposure to engaging pets. Since we lived in a single room at that time, the hammie was voted as the most space- and cost-efficient family addition on top of our three red-eared turtles and fish.”

Egarnes calls her seven rats little balls of energy. “They are adorable and natural born entertainers. Normally they like wrestling with my hand. I tickle them and they start squeaking/squealing and jumping around, biting my hand softly. They are also mesmerised by threads and pieces of string. They also tend to boggle their eyes when they are relaxed, it’s crazy.”

Bella with her rats named Bonsai and Sir Squeaksalot.

She said the rats are extremely easy to take care of. All they need is clean water, a clean cage and wholesome food.

As Parker explained, rats and hamsters are omnivorous. “You can buy hamster food in most pet shops, but it’s important to supplement it with fresh vegetables, meat and eggs. Small pets tend not to need vaccinations here, but they should have regular vet check-ups.”

But above all, rats need attention. According to Bella, “They require a lot of love. The more you handle them, the more they get to know you and your smell. They will then be more relaxed around you.”