You’ve probably heard about pet mice, but what about pet rats? Prince of Wales Hospital Occupational Therapist Jen Nicholls tells us about her “adorable” whiskered rodents, Pretzel, Pudding, and Pie.

“When I tell people we have three pet rats they often pull a face and say ‘Ooooh I don’t like rats, they’re disgusting!’ but what most people don’t realise is what adorable and affectionate little creatures they are. They get a bad rap all the time and it’s just not true.

My husband, Chris, who is a wheelchair user, and I have nine year old twins, a 12 year old and a 15 year old and all I can say is that Pretzel, Pudding and Pie provide the best family therapy you could ever imagine. They only cost $20 each from the pet shop which is probably the best sixty dollars I’ve spent in my life.

They’re really smart. They respond to their names and when I come home, they run to their cage door and put their little paws out through the bars to touch me. I’ve taught them to stand up on their hind legs and climb onto my lap when I signal. And they just adore sitting on my husband’s feet and lap when he wheels around the house.

And they seem to be in tune with our feelings. One of my sons has ADHD. When he gets upset, or overwhelmed, we give him Pudding to cuddle, and he calms down. Pretzel also likes to nestle inside my husband’s hoodie pocket when he’s working on a particularly difficult piece of work at the computer.

They’re so much fun. We bought them things to play with – swings, toys, tubes, and a lamb’s wool blanket for them to lay down on in their cage. They roll over to have their bellies scratched.

But what they love the most is when we let them out for a run in the afternoons. Pretzel will often scamper up to my shoulder and sometimes nibble my glasses. They all love to hang out in my apron when I’m ironing, cleaning up or cooking.

Buying them was not expensive, but I must admit when one of them had respiratory problems we took him to the Exotic Pet Vet in Surry Hills for treatment. $200 later, having rolled and squeezed him and given him medicine, he was better. I shuddered at the cost, but it was well worth it. Those three cute little creatures make us smile so much.”

Jen Nicholls with her husband Chris and their pet rats