Meet Annalise, the pet rat who goes to lectures, Teviot and house parties
Who knows, she might one day become as famous as the Library Cat
Jo, a second year Chinese student, might seem like a normal Edinburgh gal, but a particular furry friend of her’s makes her unique. Not many students have pets, and even fewer have a pet rat.
She’s had her pet rat, Annalise, since Christmas in her first year in Pollock and Annalise has played a prominent role in her life ever since, making appearances at some of Jo’s lectures, pub trips, parties and even starred in one of her art projects. We sat down with Jo to ask her what it’s been like having a pet rat in halls and in her uni life in general.
Have you had a pet rat before?
No, Annalise is my first
What made you buy a pet rat?
I watching the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the kid in it has a pet rat and I was missing my dog. I thought goldfish and hamsters were boring too. Rats are called ‘the dogs of the rodent world’ so I thought it was the natural option.
When did you buy her?
I bought her at around Christmas of last year when I was still in halls, it was surprisingly easy to find – she was only £12.
Were you allowed to keep a pet rat in first year?
I was in Pollock Halls and you’re definitely not allowed to keep pets. We only had our rooms cleaned once a week so it was fairly easy to keep her secret. I’d just take her out whenever my room was about to be cleaned.
Were there any near escapes?
We got these semesterly checks on our rooms and so I gave Annalise to my friend Craig. His room got cleaned on Wednesdays normally but because he was asleep the cleaner came to his room on Thursday instead when he was looking after Annalise. Craig was in Turner House and the warden thought she was a hamster and pretty cute so she let her stay.
Do you ever take her out in public?
Yeh she’s been everywhere before really. She’s been to lectures, Teviot, the library and even parties. She’s very well behaved.
She’s been to parties?! How have hosts reacted?
Well most flats have rats or at least mice anyway so it’s not a huge deal. There’s a lot of social stigma around rats, people are quite harsh about her before they meet her. They’re actually really sweet, I’ve got my own hashtag that I like – #rightsforrats. One of my flatmates used to hate her, she once told me to drown it. She’s now taken it really well. They actually really enjoy looking after now if I’m ever not around in the flat.
How have you found having a pet rat so far?
Really really good. Rats are quite intelligent, you can teach them tricks, like Annalise can spin in circles sometimes. They form really strong social bonds and show empathy as well as interacting with you. Hamsters just sit on your hand and shit on it. Rats do that to, but also interacts with me a lot.
How much time do you spend looking after her?
Not nearly as much as I should. In Pollock I just let her run around my room, but she chewed up a bunch of the cabling behind my desk. I just put food in her cage and she’ll eat it. Although, she’s got this really weird thing for eating my make-up which can’t be healthy. She’s hard to love when she’s just eaten my urban decay eye primer
Do you trust leaving her in your room all day?
When I go to uni I leave her in a cage, but when I was in Pollock I just let her run around the bathroom – there was nothing she could do that was dangerous in there.
Any other cool stories about Annalise?
Last year I did a multimedia art course that was very conceptual, and I ended up handing her in for my final piece. Pretty sure she’s the only rat to ever be exhibited in the ECA. She was on show for six hours, so it was a long day for her.
How’s that a project? Isn’t that just showing off a pet?
I was looking at make-up and tattoo artists, basically people who have control over your body and that swegwayed into animals and pets who don’t have any control over their bodies. It was more looking into the way in which animals, especially pets, are the ultimate examples of creatures who have no control of their own bodies in the sense that everything about them down to their genetics and quality of life is determined by their owners in a really quite narcissistic and delusional form of love.
So, the next time you see a rodent running about somewhere on campus, don’t be so hasty to judge it. They could be as cute and harmless as Annalise.