Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The case of the Fancy Rat

Just what would be your first reaction if you were to ring the doorbell of person to provide them with a service and they answered the door with a rat perched upon their shoulder? Upon entering the residence, you would note that there were several more rats skittering about the home. The homeowner goes about her business as if nothing is unusual?

Well, our poor service provider did his job and left as fast as his big feet could carry him. He told his manager that our customer had unusual pets and notes were made to "the system." This mention of rats, like a bad game of "telephone" evolved into a rat infestation and before you know it, unsanitary or unsafe working conditions.

Rats? Who keeps rats as pets? One would think they might be raised to feed the huge bald python living in the basement. Or perhaps they weren't rats, but hamsters? Nope. These are special rats, fancy rats. When this complaint rolled across my desk I asked myself, "What the hell is a fancy rat?" I opened up the Goggle machine and was amazed at just what I found.

From our dear friends at wikipedia:

"The fancy rat is a domesticated brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), which is the most common type of pet rat. The name fancy rat derives from the idea of animal fancy or the phrase, "to fancy" (to like, or appreciate)... 
"Fancy rats have their origins as the targets for blood sport in 18th and 19th century Europe. Specially bred as pets since then, fancy rats now come in a wide variety of colours and coat types and there exists several rat fancy groups worldwide. ..."
Really? Bloodsport?  I just had to dig deeper and found that there is an American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association homepage. I found rather a disturbing history article by Nichole Royer that states due to an "...excess in the rodent population led to a rather unusual sport. In Victorian England, great numbers of wild rats were captured for use in rat pits. This pastime was particularly popular in London and involved placing a large number of rats in an enclosure with a dog. The dog would then proceed to dispatch as many rats as possible, and the one who killed the largest number in the shortest time was declared the winner. Bets were placed on the dogs and large sums of money exchanged hands at these establishments."
Was our customer running a rat ring in her country home? Would we divulge the dirty secret and would our unsuspecting customer make the headlines?


Did this person keep rats as pets? Okay... ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, but rats, with the long hairless tails? Yep. My customer calmly told me it was her husband's rat. When asked if she had more than one rat, she wanted to know why that mattered. The good news is that domesticated rats "pose no more of a health risk than other common pets. For example, domesticated brown rats are not considered a plague threat, while exposure to wild rat populations could introduce diseases like Salmonella into the home. While fancy rats are subject to different health risks than their wild counterparts, they are consequently less likely to succumb to other illnesses prevalent in the wild." Thanks again to wikipedia. I could tell my company with reasonable certainty that no one would be exposed to the plague!

Because I couldn't leave well enough alone, I learned that these fancy rats are bred for the coloring of their coats and are companion pets. YES! Rats as pets! Would you believe there are siamese points, dalmations, and cinnamon rats to name just a few. You don't have to search for yourself, people dress them up and take pictures.
Okay, Okay, I knit and I found this to be kinda cool in a weird knitty way!

I had to convince our customer that "fancy rats" were not your typical pet and ask her to kindly have them and any "signs" of rats out of sight before any service provider would return. After hours, yes hours of telephone conversations with our customer who made outlandish allegations she was being discriminated against for her pets just like "those people" but she needed her appliance so she relented and agreed to put away her pets, just like we would ask the owners of dogs to do.

By the way, just who are "those people?" Ahhh, I feel another Tale from the Service... customer service that is..


  1. Great picture...made my heart smile!

  2. Oh rats, I thought it might have been a new designer dog. Like a radoodle mini, a pomat, or even a mini racollie! I love the way you write. Keep a "notebook" i.e.a folder on the computer with the best, the weird and the ugly. It will make a great book.

  3. Rats make excellent pets. They're really smart and very sweet. I have had them as pets, and when I lived in Huntsville, we raised them to feed to snakes and lizards that we had. But, too many are smelly and gross and a hot mess. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask someone to maybe put their rats away when someone is coming to their home for a service call. Some people are just complete jackasses.

  4. So, congratulations are in order! I hear the famous rat is a bride. As I alwys say - say cheese for the camera!