Alice Jones – Kelp Social

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Author:  Alice Jones

The Year of the Rat

The Year of the Rat

Saturday the 25th of January 2020 marked the begin...

The Year of the Rat

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Saturday the 25th of January 2020 marked the beginning of the Year of the Rat according to the Chinese New Year. To celebrate this, here are some of the reasons why I believe rats to be one of the best companion animals you could ever wish for.

 

Now, rats have always suffered a bad rap, seen as unclean spreaders of disease and in some cultures they are even thought of to be the harbingers of death and disaster. If you have ever had the pleasure of owning a rat, you know too well the looks of disgust and concern when you let others know about your choice of pet.

 

Here are some reasons why you should consider these wonderful creatures to be the next addition to your family, and if you already have one, here are some handy pointers which you can use to defend your furry friends. 

 

1. Rats “laugh” when they are having fun. 

When rats are playing with one another or their humans they vocalise a rather sweet and happy sound which resembles a squeaky chuckle. Just try giving one a tickle!

 

2. They recognise when another rat in their group is injured or sick and care for them.

If a rat falls ill or injures themselves in the group the other rats will take it upon themselves to protect and care for the rat just like humans would do for one another. They are compassionate and social animals.

 

3. Rats are incredibly hygienic. 

The stigma rats have suffered after the Bubonic Plague has been a hard one to shake. However, contrary to popular belief they spend several hours every day grooming and cleaning themselves and each other. You can also tell your cat and dog loving friends that rats are far less likely to contract viruses and parasites than these more traditional pets.

 

4. The Chinese regard the rat to be cheerful, intelligent, honest, generous and creative.

It is believed that people who fall under the zodiac of the rat share certain characteristics with the small rodents. These are the most recent years which have fallen under the zodiac of the Rat: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020.

 

5. Rats are intelligent, resilient and resourceful. 

Rats actually have a higher IQ than cats. They are known for being able to survive against the odds, finding food incredibly quickly in difficult mazes and lasting longer without water than a camel.

 

6. They succumb to peer pressure.

Even rats ignore their better judgement and copy the behaviour of their group members in order to fit in. If this doesn’t help you to relate to them, then I don’t know what will!

 

7. Rats have incredible memories and recognise different humans.

They are fast learners and will remember specific shortcuts, tricks and even recognise their owner over other humans. This makes them very easy to train to do tricks, such as jumping over hurdles, scurrying through tunnels or even clearing their toys away into a basket.

 

8. Some species of rats are avid swimmers.

The domestic rat is capable of becoming a very strong swimmer, if introduced to it responsibly they can easily learn to love this form of exercise. This can be a lovely activity for you to do with your pet rat and keeps them fit and enriched. 

 

9. They each have their own unique personality.

Every rat differs from the other, some can be playful and cheeky, others are shy and some are caring and thoughtful. No two rats should be treated exactly the same, it is important to get to know your companions; what makes them happy and what makes them nervous. This is part of the magic that is owning rats.

 

10. They can be very easy to look after.

As long as you do your proper research before adopting a rat into your home, they can be very low maintenance. However they do deserve a responsible owner who devotes enough time to keep their minds stimulated and bodies healthy. They require enrichment, socialisation, a healthy diet, clean water and a suitable environment to live in. It is also important to point out that female rats can have a litter of up to 10 pups every 3 weeks so it is paramount that you neuter your pets if you are housing males and females together. 

 

I hope I have helped to change a few opinions of these beautiful critters. Remember to do your research before adopting or purchasing any animals and be a responsible and loving carer. Now, celebrate the Year of the Rat by sharing some of these facts with friends and family and maybe even giving a rat in need a loving home.

What is a catio and why should you consider getting one?

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Many of you have probably never heard the term “Catio”, it is a play on the words cat and patio… you see where this is going. It is essentially an enclosed outdoor space designed to allow domestic cats to enjoy the outside world in a controlled and safe environment. Now, you may be wondering “why would I ever need one of these? My cats venture out every day and return safe and sound.” Our feline friends are more than capable of looking after themselves but do you really know what they’re up to during their little expeditions?

 

The Mammal Society conducted a study which estimates that 275 million animals are killed annually by our domestic cats, 55 million of these are birds. These numbers are incredibly alarming, I know. Many cat owners decide to keep house cats who never get to experience the outside world to combat this issue. However, it is proven that cats who are housed solely indoors suffer from boredom and obesity, amongst other health and mental repercussions. A catio, usually attached to the outside of the house in the back garden, is a closed off area which can be utilised by cats to get fresh air, exercise and watch the wildlife without causing any detrimental impact to the surrounding ecosystems. Another benefit is that it eliminates the risk of your cats being involved in traffic accidents which happen far too often.

 

These can be purchased online or from pet shops across the UK and installed by professionals at your home. If you have a knack for DIY, they can be easily built using cheap materials such as wood and chicken wire. They resemble an aviary, although they are designed to keep the birds out rather than in. You can include different levels for the cat to climb, bridges, hanging baskets, living plants, trees to scratch, shaded areas as well as spots for sunbathing, all accessible through a cat flap into your home.

 

If this is out of your budget or if you don’t have the ability to take on such a project there is no need to despair. It has been proven that a large portion of the wildlife that are killed by cats are animals who are already injured or sick, meaning that they would likely perish regardless. The bird species that are suffering the most rapid population declines in the UK rarely come into contact with cats, some of these are: tree sparrows, skylarks and corn buntings. The blame for their numbers depleting fall on habitat loss. So any work you can contribute to saving and increasing habitats for our native birds will be just as important. Although it is crucial to point out that if you have cats in your area to avoid setting up habitats for these species nearby as they will likely encounter each other.

 

We must also appreciate that every cat is different and some breeds are better suited to catios than others, your number one concern should always be that of the welfare of your companion animal. By no means am I suggesting that every cat needs to be housed in this way, but if this is a viable option for you it can prove to be beneficial for our native wildlife. Speak to your vet and ask their opinion on catios for your particular animal before embarking on installing one. A lot of people who have taken on the project, through research and experience have become more knowledgeable of cat behavior and have improved the welfare of their feline friends by taking more time to provide suitable enrichment to their pets.

 

I hope I have sparked your interest into the world of catios and that you consider researching this as a possibility for your cats or any cats you may adopt in the future.

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