If it were up to me, our house would resemble something from My Family and Other Animals. But I would probably be a single parent at that point - and also I must realistically admit that there are only so many hours in a day, and it's time consuming to take care of the dog and two cats that we already share the house with.
But still, the girls have been clamoring for pets of their "very own" to take care of, and I was lucky enough as a child to be allowed to take care of little critters of my very own (hamsters, mice, parakeets, gerbils) - and it was very rewarding. I also learned a bit about responsibility, and putting another's needs before my own. So (to make a long story short) we caved.
Of course, as a librarian, what was I to do but conduct a bit of research about which small animal would best suit our needs? The more I read about rats, how sociable and intelligent they are, the more intrigued I became. I don't remember rats being an option when I was little (of course, I bought all my little critters at Woolworth's, so there wasn't a great selection!), but I sure would have enjoyed them. The little girls we have are called "dumbo rats" because of their large, low-set ears. They remind me very much of the Ratatouille rats!
They are so much more affectionate than any of the little rodents I had as a child. My hamsters and gerbils put up with me, tolerated my holding them - but these rats actually run up to the cage door when they see us come into the room. When we put out our hands, up our arms they run to our shoulders, and they love hanging out there and checking everything out! We keep a box of bedding nearby, and they are pretty much litter trained, as long as we remember to allow them to access the box every so often. They're inquisitive little explorers, and the kids have been having fun setting up playgrounds for them using boxes and Legos and tubes to connect them (the strawberry house above is part of the Lego set).
I had been very concerned about the cats, but they appear only mildly interested, as they obviously have far more important things on their minds. They'll sniff noses with them (more, it appears, to humor us than for any other reason), and then they go on their way. The dog, however, seems to harbor a suspicion that they are squirrels in disguise. And she really, really wants to get them! So we have to be very careful.
They sure love all kinds of food - broccoli, beans, crackers, sunflower seeds, grapes - you name it. I keep hoping one of them might turn out to be a gourmand like Remy. And maybe one day I'll come home from work to find a wonderful meal ready and waiting....