I, like most of you, grew up hearing and saying expressions like "That dirty rat!" or "I smell a rat!" or "The room or his hair or the carpets were ratty!"

Then I had rats as pets.

WHAT?!?!

You...have...VERMIN...as PETS?!?!

No. I have RATS as pets. DOMESTICATED RATS. Rats bred by experienced breeders, not in the sewers of California or New York.

It never ceases to amaze me the level of repulsion to my handsome little critters from people who stereotype rats.

Domesticated rats are extremely intelligent creatures. They can problem solve, recognize your voice, respond to their names, and play games. They get excited when you come home from work just as your dog would.

Anyone who has owned rats will tell you--quite correctly--that their companionship is very much like that of dogs.

Only you don't have to walk your rat or take it to the park or ELSE. You won't come home to accidents the size of a softball. They cost so much less to care for and maintain. And I find them just as much fun.

I will often watch television with the rats on my lap, playing hide and seek under a towel. They even put their paws up on my chin and lick my face. It's true!!

Rats are arguably one of the best and fulfilling pets a person could own. Only sad part is they only live around 2 to 3 years on average. That makes me mad because there are animals like tortoises (our kids have two which will easily live to be over 100 years each!) which you can't really "cuddle" with or play games with or teach tricks to. And then you have these furry little, adorable, highly intelligent mammals that will only live a couple of years.

By the way, they make GREAT pets for children, too. They are sweet, docile, and fun to watch and interact with.

They ARE nocturnal, so you might want to keep them in a room where you won't be woken up or startled by the sounds of rats wrestling (entertaining all by itself) or running around their enclosure. Oh...and the only annoying part is if you use water bottles that make that clicking sound. HATE that noise, especially when I have campouts with our toddler in the family room where the rats' cage is.

People who refuse to differentiate sewer and diseased wild rats with their domesticated relatives ought to see if their comparison would hold true with any other animal.

A pet Ball Python is not the same as a wild snake slithering around your empty fields.

You might own a dog, but that doesn't mean you would own a coyote or a wolf, does it?

How about a cat? Even a feral cat is not the same as a tiger or a lion or a bobcat, right?

You might have a tank full of fish, but chances are you don't have any salmon or bass or tuna swimming around in there, right?

Yes, wild rats are GROSS, DISGUSTING, and often full of DISEASE and FILTH.

But pet rats are, like cats, constantly grooming themselves. They can be taught to play basketball in their cage, and will sleep on your lap while watching GHOST HUNTERS or your favorite television shows.

They will even gently groom your fingernails if you allow them to.

Pet rats rule.