WITH the exception of Mickey Mouse and the adorable Jerry from the Tom & Jerry cartoon, rodents - rats, particularly, - are a rare find on anyone’s favourite list.
From the days of old, these animals have been commonly and understandably viewed as pests, no thanks to the trail of domestic and health-related destruction they leave in their wake.
While in reality, the rat is looked upon with distaste, literature and the silver screen, ironically, paints a more endearing picture of these animals.
Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Tor Seidler’s A Rat’s Tale and Steven Spielberg’s animation direction of The American Tail are examples of works that more often than not stirred heart-warming feelings.
Despite the mixed responses of disgust and affection that they inspire, rodents have been kept as pets from as early as the late 19th century.
According to a number of pet storeowners and managers, there is a market out there for rodents, as the animals are sociable, intelligent and easy to keep.
“Rodents, particularly those more similar to the rat species, are actually quite well-received especially among teenagers and the younger ones,” Pets Wonderland Mid Valley branch manager Dr Wong Won Hong said.
These rodents include the various species of hamsters, guinea pigs and mice, as well as gerbils.
And, this being the Year of the Rat, an increased demand for rodents as domestic pets is expected.
To meet the expected demand, pet stores are also increasing the quantity and variety of rodents, and giving special discounts and promotions.
Pets Wonderland will be giving away a pair of mice with every purchase of a starter kit that comprises food, bedding and cage.
“Customers get either a pair of satin mice, Syrian long-haired hamster, dwarf hamster or Roborovskii hamster,” Wong said.
He said that the promotional package costs RM108.80 or RM138.80.
Petsmore.com will be giving away discounts from 10% to 20% on accessories to its members with every purchase of a rodent, in all its store branches.
“We are expecting an increase in the sale of rodents during the two weeks before and after Chinese New Year, because that’s when the youngsters have received their ang pow money,” Petsmore.com retail manager Sean Saw said.
This practice of having promotions to coincide with the zodiac year is not a new one.
“We always try to have some kind of promotion to mark the new zodiac year whenever possible,” Saw said.
According to Jusco Home Centre Pet House manager Daniel Lee, although the store will not be selling imported and more exotic species of rodents this year, there will be a special promotional discount on white mice and various types of hamsters.
“Hamsters are going at only RM15 each and white mice cost RM3 each,” Lee said.
Although pet stores expect a demand, a chat with a few pet store visitors revealed mixed responses.
“I’ve always wanted a winter pearl hamster, but my mother doesn’t agree. I’m giving it more thought this year,” Winnie Lim, 22, said.
While his girlfriend is not too keen, Ian Heng, 25, is quite interested in keeping rodents as pets.
“They’re quite cute, but I’m not too sure if I can keep them, what with work commitments and all,” he said.
David Tong, 29, will never keep a rodent as a pet, Year of the Rat or not.
“I don’t like rats, and because the Year of Rat does not really hold a significance for me, I’m not going to change my sentiments,” he said.