Designer rats from Seattle rat breeders make delightful pets
Seattle’s Jessica Noledner and her daughter, Juliet, wanted a pet. So they did their research and got on the waiting list of a breeder. But this family isn’t after a Labradoodle or French bulldog. They’re on a waiting list… for a rat.
“We signed up last February 2018 and it is now February 2019 and I don’t have a rat yet!” laughed Noledner. “But I am on their waiting list, I’m number 28. It’s…uh, delayed ratification is what we call it.”
Pet rats are nothing new, I had an albino rat named Rascal when I was a kid in the 1980s. But Noledner isn’t after a pet store rat. Seattle breeders are selling designer rats, bred full of the most ideal traits.
“A lot of the rat lineages you get from pet stores are the same ones they have in laboratories, and those rats are bred to develop tumors really quickly so scientists can test them,” said Noledner. “But it’s not great when you have a pet at home and it gets sick and dies quickly. Also, those rats aren’t really bred for favorable traits like being social or being loving or being highly trainable and having a lot of personality. They’re just bred for numbers, really.”
Lynn Rosskamp is a Seattle rat breeder, founder of Rodents of Unusual Sweetness.
“Right now we have about 45 rats of our own.”
Rosskamp says she, and other breeders, are creating the ideal pet.
“My favorite line of rats that I breed right now are the roans,” said Rosskamp. “They’re so friendly, I call them the Golden Retrievers of rats. Rarely do you get one that is high strung or isn’t interested in people or is more of a loner. Most of them just absolutely love people.”
Rosskamp also runs Ratapalooza, an 18-year-old annual event where rat lovers can get their fix.
“It’s basically a one day get-together for rat lovers,” Rosskamp explains. “They can watch a rat show, things like how to cut your rat’s nails, merchandise booths where you can buy things like hammocks, because rats love to sleep in little fleece hammocks. You can also adopt rescue rats and just generally get to hang out with other people who like rats. Basically you don’t have to explain when you get there. You’re like, ‘Rats, I like rats!’ And everyone else is like, ‘Yep, me too.'”
Rosskamp says the waiting lists can be long because most breeders do this as a side gig, a passion project. But people willing to wait it out have to make a serious commitment. Just ask Noledner.
“The application is really cumbersome,” Noledner said. “It’s several pages and you have to say how frequently you’re going to be home, what you do for work, when you’re going to be away, how often you’re going to socialize them. You have to know what you’re going to be feeding them, not just what, what brand. You have to know what cage you’re going to use, the brand of cage, the spaces between the wires. I mean, these are all important things, obviously. I think they just want to know that you’re serious. And you have to know and understand what it takes to be a rat parent.”
Despite all the waiting and the detailed application, the rats only cost $20. If you’re interested in being a rat parent, click here.
- Tune in to KIRO Radio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
- Rachel Belle hosts the James Beard Award nominated podcast Your Last Meal and she's an Edward R Murrow award winning feature reporter. Follow Rachel on Instagram.