I am currently unable to own large pets (cats or dogs), so I have the next best thing - pet rats!

Rats are exceptionally intelligent and highly responsive animals, and have been shown to be capable of advanced emotions such as empathy. They make fantastic pets, having the friendliness and social nature of a dog, the independence of a cat, and the mischievousness and problem-solving skills of a monkey! If rats had opposable thumbs and a longer lifespan, the human race would be doomed.

Did you know?

- Rats make their own "laughing" noise when tickled (see http://www.wired.com/2013/09/tickling-rats-for-science).

- Most rat sounds are ultrasonic (i.e. beyond the range of human hearing), but they can be heard with a bat detector.

- Rats have been proven to show kindness to strangers of the same species (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8943567/Rats-display-human-like-empathy-and-will-help-rodents-in-distress.html).

- Rats do not carry the plague. The Black Death is thought to have been caused by fleas, and recent research suggests it may even have been airborne (see http://www.history.com/news/medieval-black-death-was-airborne-scientists-say).

- Rat tears and nasal mucus are red, due to a compound known as porphyrin (see http://www.ratbehavior.org/porphyrin.htm)

Rats do make great pets but they require specialist care and are not the right pet for everyone. If you are interested in rats as pets then please make sure to do your research (Google is a great resource!) and either rescue or purchase from a responsible breeder who can give advice on health and temperament. Rats can be expensive to keep and a poorly-bred rat is more likely to need costly vet treatment as well as being potentially nervous and/or aggressive.

Rats require lots of living space - the more the better. They must also always be kept in pairs or groups, as they are highly social and become depressed on their own. Shown to the left is my Furet Tower cage, which is almost as tall as I am and can be used either as two large cages or one huge one. This was originally bought to house just three rats. Male rats are lazier than female rats however, so my boys spend a lot of time hanging out in the hammocks!

I use hemp bedding and paper-based cat litter for my rats and would recommend it for all small animals. Rats should never be kept on woodshavings as they have very sensitive respiratory systems.

For more photos and videos of my rats, check out their pages on Facebook and Tumblr. Both blogs are public so you don't need a Facebook/Tumblr account to view them!

Lilliput Cyril Figgis, silvered black

Lilliput Sterling Archer, British blue agouti

Lilliput Doctor Krieger, quicksilver

Gallifrey Nikolai KGB, dumbo roan

Gallifrey Ray Gilette, dumbo roan