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Hello everybody,

I'm doing my research paper on pet rat ownership. Specifically, do children react the same way about the idea of pet rats as adults do? So I plan on doing 4 sets of interviews: Adults, Children, and Adults in presence of a rat, children in presence of a rat. In those last two I'll have him out on our table, or in my lap, or on my shoulder (if he stays there lol).

So I need ideas for interview questions to ask. I have class later today and we're going over the interviewing process but I need ideas for what to ask other than "do you like rats? why not?" lol

So throw your ideas at me, anything you've got. Even just topics, like maybe media or ... something. I dunno.
 

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Prior to meeting the rat:
"What comes to mind when someone says "rat" - Good feelings, bad feelings?" Possbly also see if they know of any Stereotypes
"Can you think of any benefits to having a pet rat?"
"What are some downsides to a pet rat?"
"how are pet rats like other pets, cats, dogs, other pocket pets"
"Do you think a rat can be cuddley?"
"Do you think rats are smart?"
"Did you know rats can learn tricks?" - Perhaps show a youtube video of rats performing tricks after they answer this question, and before they meet your rat.

I would ask the same questions after the participants have met your rat, and maybe follow it up with:
"Has your opinion changed on rats, and if so how/why?"

Good luck on your paper!
 

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Media is a great direction to go in! It shows so many negative sides of rats (and some serious horror stories too!), that using it as a platform to go "See? They're not scary and mean" is a fabulous path to take, I think. Best of luck! Will you post it after it's done? I'd love to read it!
 

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There might also be people who DO like rats, but know nothing of proper care, such as "rats eat cheese (or that crappy rat food they sell with all the colorful seeds and corn and other bits of garbage)" "rats are totally ok to live alone" "rats just need a small cage and pine/cedar bedding is fine" or they don't know that rats need toys and stimulation, or maybe they try to have a rat with other pets like hamsters or mice. Or a big one about how expensive it is for medical bills to keep most rats healthy like getting antibiotics for snuffles, or having tumor removal surgery, or a spay or neuter and how they cost more money in their short lives than 3 years of keeping a cat or a dog generally. OR "Rats caused the bubonic plague" which has recently been discovered was actually an airborne disease which is why it spread so quickly, and was not caused by rats or their fleas.

Just a few more ideas there. Good luck on your paper!
 

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OR "Rats caused the bubonic plague" which has recently been discovered was actually an airborne disease which is why it spread so quickly, and was not caused by rats or their fleas.

Just a few more ideas there. Good luck on your paper!
I had no idea about this - very interesting!! Do you have a link to an article about this??
 

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So, I've done hundreds, possibly thousands of meet and greets... I don't ask people questions, rather they ask me questions... I can tell just about anything from the questions people ask me... Some questions relate to their fears or experiences or misunderstandings, others range to the generally curious, while others I'd group as intimate...

Fearful questions include, does it bite, don't rats carry disease, is that the same kind of rat that lives at the dump? Is that a rat- rat?

General questions include... what does it eat? does it live in a cage? This is the kind of question you might ask about any animal. If you met someone with an elephant you would ask curiosity questions.

Intimate questions go to how long have you had her? How old is she? Where does she sleep? How much does she cost, where do you get her? How much does rat food cost? This group of person is actually considering a rat as a pet of their own... When we had Fuzzy Rat out with us who was very charismatic... some of these people often actually commented... "Now I want a rat too!" One young lady we saw regularly got a hamster because her mom wouldn't let her get a rat... but her encounter with Fuzzy Rat did get her to the pet shop, cash in hand...

Honestly, I don't know how many people actually bought rats, but as they reached the point of posing intimate questions... they were not opposed to owning rats and possibly considering it..

If you study the questions people ask you about rats you will actually get a more accurate insight into their opinions.

Best luck.
 

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Honestly I think children would react in a more positive way than most adults. Children are more oblivious to the "fears" of rats (sewer rats mainly) while adults are fully aware of the diseases a wild rat could spread (And then they think domestic rats are the same). Plus children are usually more happy go lucky to begin with and love anything small and fuzzy.
 

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Children will cue off of another child's behavior as will parents to a lesser extent. If my daughter is holding our rat the other children will almost instantly see it as a "safe" and friendly animal. If I'm holding the rat, they are more likely to approach with curiosity and apprehension. As in adults can do things children shouldn't... Oddly parents are similar although inherently a tad more apprehensive. When adults saw my 5 year old running around with Fuzzy Rat they may have kept their distance but rarely objected to their children playing with our rat... Again, if I was holding the rat they would approach with their children and they would be less likely to let their children handle the rat.

Who presents the rat has a lot to do with how it's perceived... The rats demeanor also matters. Fuzzy Rat did the puppy thing... she would lower her head and look a lot like a friendly puppy when people approached, when they put their hands close enough she would give the person a little rattie kiss... some kids were surprised and thought they were bitten but when I explained it was a rattie kiss they were sold... Fuzzy Rat was big on kisses, kissing hands and faces and she generally moved slowly and calmly around strangers. It was part of her charm and charisma... Other rats I've worked with were just as friendly, but made sudden and jerky movements which would put people off. Quite a bit of how individuals perceive your rats depends on your rats...

When we had Amelia out with Fuzzy Rat everyone was initially attracted to Amelia... she was a gorgeous high white... but within a few minutes the crowd would center around Fuzzy Rat who was much more outgoing and friendly and wasn't about to be outdone by her understudy. Prettier rats will draw more attention, friendlier rats will get more playtime, fidgety rats will put people off from a distance.

There's a whole lot more to the equation than just introducing "a rat". Color matters too... Cloud is a blue split cap silky dumbo, and she's cute and doesn't look like a rat, Max was a much bigger and rounder and looked a lot more like a rat, but she was a soft rich walnut brown hooded rat... and people were often more attracted to her... because she looked friendlier... Somehow brown looks friendlier than grey-blue to people that see a rat for the first time. I assumed that Cloud would be more attractive because she was smaller and looked less like a rat, but 90% of people that had never met a rat were more drawn to Max. No clue why.

Again best luck.
 

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The divide between rats and hamsters could be interesting. I caught some show about veterinarian emergencies, and a woman came in with her rats (no emergency; they're just showing them getting inoculated). The vet handled the rats and discussed their sweet temperament. She said that more moms would choose rats over hamsters if they just spent a little time with rats. While hamsters are cute (yes, cuter than rats IMO), they aren't as personable in general. I'm sure there's an outstanding model hamster out there somewhere, but he/she would be the exception.

Some questions about rats vs. hamsters before and after could be interesting. Perhaps if you showed some statistics about hamster bites vs. rat bites (I imagine such numbers exist), you can measure the desirability of the animals. And you could compare rats to gerbils, guinea pigs, and ferrets.
 

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There is currently a recent school of thought that has the plague being two or more germs that hit Europe at the same time, that didn't necessarily rely on rat fleas as the common carriers.

Rats made it to Europe when the trade routs to the east opened up as did the plague... Keep in mind that when Europeans hit the new world, "European" diseases like small pocks wiped out entire native populations in North, Central and South America. By the 1500's disease vectors were better understood and the Europeans were more familiar with the diseases they were spreading... or rat fleas might have taken the blame for that mass human extermination too.

And yes, there are still cross over germs and possibly viruses that do afflict rats as well as humans. But in a global world where the center of any Ebola outbreak is only a 3 hour jet flight from a major metropolis, we really don't have to worry too much about rats being a major disease vector anymore. The next pandemic might be flying towards us in economy class as we speak. Migrating rats moving from city to city is about the least of our concerns.

But as there will always be someone writing a new thesis revising history to write an article or earn a degree, I doubt we've seen the last theory on the plague... So don't get too comfortable about the current plague model that doesn't have rat fleas at it's major vector. Tomorrow it might be overturned again... that's if we don't all get wiped out in the next pandemic... in which case there won't be anyone around to worry about it except our rats that will miss us.

The mind boggles.
 

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Something rat daddy said interests me though it's sort of a tangent. Even when I was a kid, there were more pest problems than I hear about now probably to improvements in construction and building codes. I wonder if, except for a select few, experiencing rats as vermin who destroy your house will phase out in a few generations. I grew up on a farm or in shoddy apartments which had tons of problems, but my nieces only know one person who has a rodent problem in their house (they actually asked about it, because they knew rats as adorable and clean and playful but their friend kills them...).
 

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Nanashi,

There are definitely urban vs suburban vs rural biases towards rats... There are also ethnic and racial ones. Educational level has some impact...

I have my theories, but there's no hard data which would indicate which factor is most critical or whether actual experience with wild rats comes into play.
 

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I had no idea about this - very interesting!! Do you have a link to an article about this??
I just googled "bubonic plague airborne" and this is the article that I think I read originally. Granted, it's not from a scientific research publication or anything, and I didn't reread this article so I don't know if they cited specific sources, but there were other articles on google that popped up when I typed in that search. I imagine if you do some digging you could find where they originally put out the information. But it does sound very likely because of how quickly and widely it spread, or at least a specific strain might have been airborne. And with the bubonic plague recently popping up again a little bit in Madagascar, I'm sure there will be even more research done with better information.

http://www.history.com/news/medieval-black-death-was-airborne-scientists-say
 
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