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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm sure this has probably been discussed to death in here, but since I'm a new rat owner, (3 mths) this is my first experience with it and it really kinda ticks me off. I'm talking about friend's reactions to you having rats and the general stereotypes surrounding these wonderful, intelligent, little creatures.

When I got my girls a few months ago, I was so excited and wanted to share the news and some photos with my best friend at work. She's also my best friend outside of work and we do a lot of stuff together. The look of disgust on her face when I told her that I'd gotten four baby dumbos really puzzled me. To me, they were precious, so I did not understand her reaction. I said, "Here, just look at the pictures! They are SO sweet!" She shook her head and said, "No! I can't. I hate rats. They are gross and it will give me nightmares if I even look at a picture of one."

Now she claims to be an animal lover like me. She'll feed the squirrels and thinks they're cute. She's been to my house numerous times and just loves my gerbils and always asks to hold them. But she can't look at a picture of my baby dumbo rats? In fact, since I've gotten the rats, I'm not allowed to talk about them to her or around her and it's really taken a toll on our friendship. I honestly do not understand because I see them as they are which is very sweet, affectionate, and loving little girls. They never bite and they do funny little things all the time that keep me laughing.

I don't understand this bad rap that rats get. My gerbils are more likely to bite than my rats are! I really wish that more time and money was spent on educating the public on what wonderful pets they are. Why can't there be a Discovery Channel program about them? Or Animal Channel? They've got programs on every other kind of pet. Why not rats?
 

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Not being able to even look at a picture without nightmares isn't just an ignorant dislike, that's phobia level fear. As such, you probably shouldn't hold it against her. She can't help it, and doesn't Impact her life enough to get therapy for it. My grandma is the same way. She saw a picture on facebook and had awful nightmares about them being big enough to open door handles. Just because someone has a phobia about something doesn't make them not an animal lover. It means they have an irrational fear. If you can learn to accept the fact that it's an actual mental issue, and not just being unwilling/uncaring to learn, maybe that can help?
 

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People like their fallacies. Most of the time they believe everything they see on tv. And the media (even news channels) always portray rats as being negative, disease ridden pests, they make them out to be some sort of monster. Even channels like animal planet and discovery portay rats as evil pests even though adorable thumper and sweet little bambi have just as much disease spreading potential. Once my friend and I collaborated and decided to bring her chinchilla and two of my rats to a local petshop to get their pictures taken with santa. This one man suddenly became very excited when he spotted my rats and screamed "Are those hamsters? How cute, I love hamsters!" All while reaching down to pet them. Before I had the chance to correct him it suddenly dawned on him that they were rats and not hamsters. His excited expression was soon replaced with one of absolute disgust and horror. He even jumped back so far that he almost pushed over an old lady. In a way i found it sort of amusing that he was fine with the idea of petting hamsters and chinchillas but not rats even though they're all rodents. In my opinion I think the reason people hate rats is because they're one of the only other mammalian species that has managed to out compete us for food, habitat and other important resources. They've taken over houses, towns, cities and even entire islands. Though try as we might we still can't kill them off.
 

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People are afraid of what they don't understand. I currently have relatives from Australia staying at our house, and my aunt has expressed her phobia of my rats multiple times. She's not nearly as bad as my grandma, who is rather rude sometimes and has a way of insulting anything that she even remotely dislikes. My aunt expressed her phobia calmly and asked if I could keep them away from her, and I respect that and she hasn't even seen a whisker of them. My grandma on the other hand demanded that they be taken out of the house when she comes over and kept in the barn. Thankfully my parents aren't nearly as ignorant and would never let her rule the house like that. She also hasn't been over since I got the rats (3ish years) but I think that's coincidence (she is, after all, in Australia). Yea, it pisses me off when my uncle tells stories of him shooting dumpster rats for fun, or when my guy friend feels the need to post on every instagram photo of them with a not-very-witty remark of how they're "just rats". But I take it all in good humor and if someone steps over the line, I let them know. They have their hobbies, I have mine. I respect their fears, the respect my passion. If there is a truly ignorant person (such as my grandmother), I just don't bring them up, ever. Many people can be changed over time, like my mom. She used to hate them, now when she comes into my room she puts on a baby voice and coos over them while giving them treats through the bars. She doesn't let them touch her, but I appreciate how far she's come. You just have to demand respect, and let people know in a calm and collect manner that if they want you to understand their phobia, then they must understand your love. I do NOT stand for people insulting any of my animals, but if it's just an ignorant person in general I change the subject or attempt to educate them.
 

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I agree with webspinnr, sounds like a phobia to me! I am severely arachnophobic and even a picture of a spider can really stress me out. I would love to see a program about them, too! It would be great to show people they aren't all just pests. I do try to share my new pets with people and it can be frustrating when they just don't want to hear it. Maybe just dropping the issue for now could help fix your friendship? Maybe after a while she will be more willing to listen :)
 

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I don't get the "rats are disgusting" reaction from my friends thankfully. They like my rats and think they're adorable, but no one understands why I put so much effort into them. They think it's a little nutty that I spend so much money and time and research on them, and how I'm super specific about what I allow my rats to have and do. They just can't appreciate these amazing little creatures the way you and I can, and that's their loss!
 

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It is a mindset people get from wild rats. Wild rats are rodents that lurk around in the dark, hoard things, and spread diseases. I know this really isn't a big deal and wild rats aren't THAT different than pet rats but people just overexaggerate because they have grown up thinking rats are gross. Once you have owned rats, it's so weird how people people could possibly think that rats are gross but I guess that's how it is.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
The thing is, a lot of domesticated pets have wild counterparts- dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits, rats, etc. And the majority of people don't own or will ever own these wild counterparts because they are different. They aren't meant to be pets. They aren't meant to be domesticated. For example, I love dogs, but I'd be scared to death to walk up to wild dog and try to pet it! That would just be stupid. Why can't people understand that there is also a domesticated version of the rat who does not dwell in sewers and can be just as tame and loving as any dog or cat or bunny?

I guess that's one of the things that gets me. People act as if I went down into the sewer with a trap and caught a few rats to bring home as pets. Obviously if I found some orphaned wild baby rats or an injured wild rat, I'm sure I'd do something to help. But I don't seek them out. I know the difference between wild and domesticated. I also know there are some people on this forum who've had wild rats or half wilds and they come with their own set of challenges. But what I'm talking about here is the domesticated rats that are born and raised to be pets.

I do understand phobias too. I've got an intense phobia of cockroaches. I grew up in Florida where they're the size of small airplanes and I literally have to cover my eyes if they show them on TV or I'll have nightmares. I'm a nurse so I can handle all the blood, guts, and gore you wanna throw at me, but show me a single cockroach and I'm outta there! LOL But I've never had my phobia interfere with a friendship. I suppose if my best friend lived in a roach infested house, I might have problems, but likely I'd just never go visit her.

Anyway, the way my friend reacted and has continued to act since I got the rats has just really hurt my feelings. I don't think she'll come around and I'm certainly not giving up my rats.
 

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Well some people keep roaches as pets! How would you feel if your friend got one, tried to show you pictures, wouldn't stop talking about it? I bet there'd be strain then too! I think best you can do is just minimize talking about them. I doubt you need to give them up, just treat their subject around her how you'd like the hypothetical cockroach pet to be handled.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well some people keep roaches as pets! How would you feel if your friend got one, tried to show you pictures, wouldn't stop talking about it? I bet there'd be strain then too! I think best you can do is just minimize talking about them. I doubt you need to give them up, just treat their subject around her how you'd like the hypothetical cockroach pet to be handled.
Yeah, I suppose you're right. As of now, I don't talk about my girls at all around her because I know she doesn't want to hear it. I just hate having to censor myself all the time, like the other day she wanted to take me out to lunch for my birthday but I had to decline because I had a vet appointment scheduled for the girls. It was really awkward. I didn't know whether to lie to her and make up an excuse for why I couldn't go or tell her the truth and risk her getting angry at me. I ended up going with a half truth by telling her that I had to take my cat to the vet. That, she could accept. I just think it's a shame that our friendship now has to be filled with lies and half truths because I'm not allowed to talk about something that is important to me.
 

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I get this a lot. Even from my own family. I have mostly experienced people being freaked out by 1) the fact someone could love a rat and 2) their tails. I've changed a few minds though by having people come meet them and handle them, they go home absolutely amazing that rats can be so lovely!! Some people you can have an effect on their opinion and some don't want to listen. I find that its that way for most things. I wouldn't censor what you say, if you want to say something, say it!! If she doesn't want to listen, she doesn't have to. But don't feel like you can't say what you want to say. Everyone has their right to an opinion and to love who/what they like, you included :)
 
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