Chicago Woman Adopts Pet Rats and Gets Surprised by Their Behavior

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By: Riley Brown | Published: Mar 03, 2023

When most people think about adopting animals, they generally think about cats, dogs, or birds. Kimberly wasn’t like most people. Instead of the usual suspects, she decided to adopt two rats.

Source: silly_city_rats/Instagram

Shortly after bringing them home, however, Kimberly began to notice something a bit off about their behavior. The two tiny rats were acting strange. Was it something in their surroundings?

Meet Fergus and Edgar

In December 2020, two little rats were born. A few months later, in February 2021, the Chicago resident Kimberely decided to adopt both of them. Although it may seem odd, they turned out to be the perfect pets.

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Instead of common rat names like Finn and Bilbo, Kimberly decided to go for something more unique. She dubbed her two new additions to the family, Fergus and Edgar. As far as she could tell, the rats felt great with their new names.

Why Kimberly Got Rats

Since rats are an offbeat option for domestic pets, you may be wondering why Kimberly decided to adopt Fergus and Edgar. In an April 2022 YouTube video, she provided a simple answer: “I really liked having small pets. 

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Source: silly_city_rats/Instagram

She added that adopting a dog just didn’t make sense for her at the time. That’s fair. Dogs, even the smallest ones, require a lot of attention, space, and patience to properly take care of – at least a lot more space, attention, and patience than rats do!

Rat Stigma

Cats and dogs are generally seen in a positive light. Dogs are known (and loved) for their loyalty and affection, while cats are known (and loved) for their curiosity and independence. Rats, however, aren’t so lucky.

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Rats are mostly known for causing the Black Death in Europe during the 1300s. Considered the worst plague in human history, this outbreak led to the death of millions – anywhere from 30 to 60% of the total population! In short, rats have had a bad rap for a long time.

A New Understanding

As you can imagine, the fallout from the Black Death didn’t endear people to rats. Instead, they viewed them as disgusting rodents full of disease. However, recent research has brought into question just how central their role was in the bubonic plague or Black Death. 

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Although rats weren’t entirely blameless for the plague, they also weren’t the sole cause. According to new research published in a 2018 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, humans were a bigger spreader than rats.

Turning the Tide

So, this disease-carrying view of rats isn’t the whole picture. Unfortunately, it has led many people over multiple centuries to hold a pretty nasty view of these little rodents. That being said, the tide is turning as rats become house pets for more and more people. 

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Just like any house pet (or any animal, for that matter) rats have positives and negatives. Just like cat scratches and dog messes, rats are far from perfect. However, you may be surprised at some of the positives. 

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Low Maintenance Pets

For one, rats are incredibly low maintenance. Dogs require multiple daily walks, lots of love and attention, and enough space to roam around. If you work a lot or live in a small apartment in the city, this can be difficult to provide. 

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Rats, on the other hand, are pretty much content doing their own thing. If you have to work during the day or don’t have a huge living space, that’s not a huge problem – so long as they have enough food and some walking room, they’re golden.

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Clean and Trainable 

So, they’re low maintenance, but are they clean? Surprisingly, yes. Even though they have a reputation for being dirty animals who carry diseases, rats – much like cats – spend a lot of time grooming themselves. They want their fur spotless!

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For the pet owner, that means smells and other hygiene issues aren’t a problem. In addition to that, rats are ready, able, and willing to learn where it’s appropriate to go to the bathroom. In other words, you can potty-train your pet rats. 

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Furniture Nibblers

Low maintenance and great hygiene are two of the main positives to owning a rat. However, as noted above, there are some negatives as well. High up on that list is the fact that rats love to eat. 

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More specifically, they love to nibble, and that nibbling isn’t confined to food. Alongside veggies and grains, they love to nibble on furniture, cushions, and, of course, cables. The last one gives them a nasty shock, while the first two are highly irritating to pet owners.

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Medical Expenses

Alongside their tendency to nibble on electric cables and new furniture, another challenge to owning rats is the fact that they get sick a lot. Everything from cancerous tumors to uterine infections can plague these tiny creatures. 

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In addition to that, vets don’t decide how much they’re going to charge based on the size of the animal. In other words, all those infections and tumors can cost a lot to fix. So, when Kimberly decided to adopt Fergus and Edgar, she balanced these negatives with the positives. 

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Returning to Kimberly’s Rats

Although Kimberly had a lot to consider beforehand, ultimately, she went for it. In February 2021, she brought Fergus and Edgar home to Chicago, Illinois. Not long after, she noticed that they weren’t acting like normal rats. 

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Source: silly_city_rats/Instagram

What was going on? She thought. Was it something about their new home that made them unhappy? Did they prefer not to be adopted? Nope. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, their odd behavior highlighted the, well, highlight of owning rats.

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Friendly and Cute 

Just as cats are curious and dogs are loyal, rats are friendly. Incredibly friendly, it turns out. Rather than running away from humans – which is what you tend to see in the wild – pet rats run towards them in order to play.

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Immediately upon bringing Fergus and Edgar home, the two rats made themselves at home. Like dogs wagging their tails, they were excited to belong. In addition to being playful and comfortable, they were also incredibly cute, as you can see from the picture above.

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Instafamous Rats

The playfulness, comfort, and cuteness were all too much for one person to handle. So, Kimberly decided to capture Fergus and Edgar’s personalities on camera, and then share them with the world. She did this by starting an Instagram page.

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Known as the “silly_city_rats,” the antics of Fergus and Edgar have amassed quite the audience. Nearly 46,000 users tune in to see pictures and videos of the two rats eating veggies, looking curious, and just generally being cute and playful. 

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Edgar’s Alpha Personality

Although many people tend to think all rats are more or less the same, that is far from the truth. In reality, rats are just like cats or dogs in that each one has a different personality. Kimberly sees this in Edgar’s alpha personality – he’s “a ball of energy” she said.

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Yet that ball of energy is “always up to no good,” she added. His mischievous and energetic ways make him the alpha of the two. This leads him to walk around “like he owns the place.”

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Like Two Peas in a Pod

Although they have somewhat different personalities, both Edgar and Fergus are like two peas in a pod. Kimberly says Fergus is “just full of love” which he shows by intense eye-gazing that doesn’t end until you pick him up. 

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Not only does he gaze intently, but it looks like he has a small smirk while doing it. As you might expect, Fergus loves the cuddles as well. To be fair so does Edgar, but it just has to be on his terms. Regardless, they both get along perfectly.

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A New Brother

Just a few months after Fergus and Edgar moved into their Chicago home in February 2021, a new rat was added to the family. Bandit was a bit older than the other two and came with a tragic backstory. 

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Sadly, Bandit’s brother died not too long before. His owner noticed a huge shift in behavior, became concerned for Bandit’s well-being, and decided to give him up for adoption. Luckily, Kimberly was able to take Bandit in and introduced him to Fergus and Edgar.

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Bandit Fits In 

As you might imagine, Fergus’ and Edgar’s welcoming personalities made Bandit feel right at home right away. All four of them formed a tight-knit little family in their Chicago home. Then, tragedy struck yet again.

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Source: silly_city_rats/Instagram

During the summer and fall of 2021, everything was fine. However, as winter rolled around, Bandit’s health began to seriously decline. Further inspection discovered that he had a chest tumor as well as congestive heart failure. Although he managed to survive, his future wasn’t looking good.

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Tragedy Strikes

Despite the dire diagnosis, little Bandit managed to pull through the harsh winter and see another year. However, by March 2022, his health became terminal. With no hope for a pain-free life, Kimberly decided the most humane thing to do was to have him put down. 

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She let her Instagram followers know and they sent their condolences. A few months went by. Then, in the spring of 2022, Kimberly took in a new adoptee. This time it was a girl.

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A New Sister

Pepper was the name of the girl rat who would become Fergus and Edgar’s new sister. Although physically different from Bandit, they both shared a tragic past – Pepper also lived through the death of her beloved sibling. 

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Furthermore, just like Bandit, Pepper fit right in with Fergus and Edgar. To be honest, it was kind of expected considering how welcoming those two are. Regardless, their strong bond was moving to see, so Kimberly posted updates on her Instagram page to let everyone know.

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Dispelling Rat Myths

During an interview with the popular YouTube channel “GeoBeats Animal,” Kimberly spoke about the stigma that follows pet rats around. Although she’s well aware of it, she doesn’t believe a word of it. After taking care of rats for quite some time, she’s come to a whole new appreciation of them.

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Despite the fact that most people think rats are either gross, scary, or creepy, Kimberly says that rats are “just the sweetest little creatures.” In fact, they make her smile every single day.

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