But first, I'd like to tell you, how I came to buy rats. I was 14 and went into a pet store to buy food for my dog. There I saw it: it was tiny and had huge ears. It's fur was black and white and had a pink nose. Curious it came to the cage door and I felt it wanted to greet me. So I had to love it from the first sight. I asked the owner of the pet shop what kind of pet it was and he told me it was a little rat.
I went home counting my pocket money. It was almost enough. I could buy it (and a cage for it) if my parents only let me. We would be best friends and I could take it everywhere. But my parents refused. They told me I had a dog already and that would be more than most children could wish for. I was heartbroken. The little thing and me never would be best friends.
But I was still curious. I started to read several books about rats and informed myself. I learned that rats are highly social and intelligent pets who need company amongst several other things.
Years later: I did never forget about the little rat. I still dreamt about it. My biggest wish were rats.
Then I moved in my own appartment when I was 19. The kitchen was quite big and there was space left. I felt lonely sometimes. So I just bought 2 little rats and a cage. Few weeks later there were rats number 3,4 and 5. and a bigger cage. I couldn't get enough.
I never met so friendly, uncomplicated pets. They don't need you desperately (except for feeding and entertaining) but they love it if you come home and keep them busy. You can built little playgrounds for them (my rats have scratching post with hammocks and everything) or hide food.
Fancy rats are highly individual. While one of them sits on your lap and wants to be kissed and huged another one kids around by biting in your big toe and running away only to do the exact same thing two minutes later again. I swear I heared this one giggeling while running away, that little goblin. But some also groom your hair as if you were one of them. And all of them act just cute. Almost like little dogs. Playful and innocent.
On the other hand, unlike a dog they are never lonely or sad if you are not at home as long as you keep them in a group. They are very clever and can learn to listen to you. But they are not only clever they are also nice to look at. If you observe their behaviour in the evenings you'll never need a TV again.
Honestly, I'm always thinking of getting a dog. I would love it because my parents always had one or two and eventually I'd have a perfect running partner who's there every time. On the other hand, a dog would much more depend on me than rats do. A dog would need me often and for long intervals. My rats are completely satisfied with on or two hours per day including feeding and cleaning. And I could even leave them alone for a day or two if I had to.
In the end they are a kind of compromise. But a very, very good one.