When you hear the word "rat," does the image of a dirty, vicious, disease-bringing pest that invades homes and lives in city sewers, subways and alleys pop into your mind? Some rats aren't like that. A fancy rat is exactly the opposite.

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Fancy rats are a domesticated version of the common sewer rat. I have two, Thais and Sorcha. Rats can be taught tricks, like "come," or "stand up." Pet rats are clean and like to groom themselves often. Fancy rats also like a clean, dry cage. They are curious and like exploring their surroundings. Pet rats love being cuddled and wrestled with, and don't mind sitting on your shoulder. Fancy rats are good pets because of their low maintenance. When you have to clean the bedding, you can dump it all out and replace it. Rats don't really make a mess, so having one doesn't take too much work. Don't confuse low maintenance with no maintenance, however.

If you decide to get a pet rat, you should get two or more because if you have only one it might get depressed. Females are perky and adventurous, and males are calm and cool. If you are getting more than one, make sure they are the same gender because, if not, you will have a lot more rats than you started out with.