RAT lovers are holding a rodent version of Crufts this weekend at which the widely feared and detested creatures will compete for prizes.
Organised by the Scottish Rat Club, the event some people would consider skin-crawling will feature categories such as best in breed, agility and the “most curious”.
The unlikely pets taking part in the event in Bathgate, West Lothian will have to meet the high standards set by the National Fancy Rat Society.
Rats that are entered in the pet classes will be judged on qualities such as friendliness, condition and health.
The most curious rat competition which will see the rodents investigate several items which are laid out including, flowers, toys and matchboxes.
The winner of this competition is the rat who investigates the item in the shortest time.
Each rodent will then be judged on their type, colour, markings and coat type.
Scottish Rat Club chairman Nick Mays said: “More and more people are keeping rats as pets.
“It’s not a new thing, people first began keeping them in Victorian times.
“They are low maintenance, reasonably inexpensive, and don’t need walking. They also have bags of personality to boot.”
Owners are apparently attracted to the animals “cuddleability” and “cuteness”.
One eager member of the club is mum-of-two Shelley Bruce, from Murrayfield, Edinburgh, who is the proud owner of four rats.
The community nurse travels all over the country showing her four prized pets – hooded dumbo Katie, British blue Skye and Berkshires Moses and Soloman.
She said: “They’re actually very affectionate and love kisses and cuddles. People would be so surprised by them. Rats are very intelligent and are actually quite shy, I’ve never had a bite from any of my rats.”
Shelley began keeping rats after her daughter, Jess, 19, persuaded her to buy one, seven years ago.
Shelley said: “At first I was not keen on bringing rats into the house but eventually the novelty wore off for Jess and so I began taking care of them, that’s when I fell in love with them.
“They’re very clever. I’ve taught them to respond to their names and come for kisses.”
On average rats can produce litters of up to eight “pups”, seven times a year, and prospective pet owners are advertised to purchase either same-sex pairings or keep them apart.
Shelley keeps her four pets apart with a twin chamber Royal Rat cage which she received as a valentines present from husband Stephen, 42.
She said: “Katie and Skye stay in the top chamber and the two boys on the bottom, if I didn’t keep them apart I could end up with quite a lot more rats.”
*The next show is on Saturday 27th April at St. Mary’s Church Hall, Bathgate – doors open at 11am.