Rat Fan Club
New Rat Owner
About the Rat Lady
Debbie Ducommun, known as "The Rat Lady," is internationally recognized as an expert on domestic rats. She has worked in the animal care industry for over 18 years and has a background in animal training, nutrition, and animal health care. She graduated from California State University at Chico with honors and holds a bachelor of arts degree in animal behavior.
Ducommun has had numerous articles published in national animal magazines and currently writes a column for Pet Business magazine. She also writes, edits, and publishes a monthly newsletter, the Rat Report, for rat owners. Ducommun is author of the book Rats! A Fun and Care Book published by Bowtie Press in 1998.
Ducommun has appeared on television to promote the suitability and appeal of rats as pets, including a recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She has been selected to be included in the 1998/99 edition of Strathmore's Who's Who as recognition of her accomplishments. Ducommun lives in Chico, CA with her husband and 21 rats.
"How did you become The Rat Lady?"
I have always loved animals, and have always wanted to work with them. I have worked as a veterinary assistant, dog obedience instructor, and humane society manager. Then in 1985 I took a job caring for the laboratory rats in the psychology department at the California State University, Chico. I had pet rats when I was growing up and loved them dearly. Before I took the job in the lab I really had to do some soul-searching, since I would be involved with experimentation and euthanizing large numbers of rats. I finally decided since the rats were going to be there anyway, they deserved to have someone who loved rats caring for them. I'm very glad I did, since not only was I able to make some significant improvements in their care, it led me to become "The Rat Lady", a title I wear with pride.
In my job of caring for the rats in the lab, rat owners consulted me about the behavior and health of their rats. At the time, there was only one pet care book about rats, and it had limited information. I realized there was a need for more complete information about pet rats so I decided to write a rat care book. I sent queries to book publishers but none of them were interested, so I decided I would try publishing something myself. But instead of a book, I decided a newsletter would be more manageable.
In 1992 I founded The Rat Fan Club and our newsletter the Rat Report which I've been publishing for 6 years now. Finally, in 1996 I received an offer from Bowtie Press to publish a rat care book and my book, Rats! A Fun and Care Book, is now in stores. I'm actually glad I didn't write a book earlier because it would have been woefully inadequate. Only by sharing information with Rat Fan Club members and others over the last 13 years has my knowledge of rats increased to the point where I now feel competent to write a good rat care book.
As "The Rat Lady" I talk to hundreds of rat owners each month and continue to learn new things about rats every day. I don't know everything about rats yet, and I continue to gather more knowledge so I can help rats around the world!
"Why would anyone want a rat?"
Because they make great pets! Yes, it's true. Domesticated rats are as different from wild rats as dogs are from wolves. Like other domesticated animals, pet rats have been selectively bred to be friendly and gentle and they rarely bite. They are very clean and generally do not carry diseases that people can get. Some people tend to feel squeamish about their long naked-looking tails, but rat tails are actually covered with short hairs and have a smooth silky texture.
Like other pet rodents, rats are small, clean, quiet, and easy to care for, but they have two characteristics that set them apart. First, they're smart enough to learn their names and come when they're called. They can also learn many other words, such as "treat" and "ride", and are smart enough to learn a variety of tricks.
Second, rats are social butterflies who love to be with people and beg to come out of their cage to play or be petted. These affectionate pets love to have their heads rubbed, and many will lick your hand like a dog. Rats are both playful and smart enough to play games with their owners such as tag, hide-n-seek, tug-a-war, and peek-a-boo. Rats will also wrestle with your hand, much as a kitten will. In short, rats are like cats and dogs in many ways and are much more than just cage pets. They need time out of their cage everyday to explore, play, and interact with their owners. They are not recommended for people who want a pet just to observe. And because rats are so social, it's recommended that you get at least two to live together so they can play and sleep together. You'll want to get two of the same sex, or have one or both neutered to prevent unwanted babies (rats can breed at just 5 weeks of age!)
Pet rats are becoming more and more popular and an increasing number of adults, as well as kids, are choosing rats as companions. In fact, in California rats are more popular than hamsters. Many people say at first they thought having rats was crazy, but now they think rats are the best pets they've ever had. If you're looking for a pet that is friendly, affectionate, playful, smart and easy to care for, than rats may be the perfect pets for you!
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