Finding Inspiration For Rat Names

Will you go traditional, wild or wacky with your pet rat’s name?

Many rat owners have gotten inspiration for their rats' names from the animated film, "Ratatouille." Via ben.hannis/Flickr

By Laura Doering

Do you hear the sound of a squeaky wheel during the night or spy a rolled-up ball of fur that is sound asleep during the day? If so, you might very well share your home with the largest of the muroids. Not ringing a bell? How about Rattus norvegicus? Truncate Rattus and you have “rat” — one of the most intelligent critters on the planet. Muroid is reference to Muroidea, which is a large superfamily of rodents that, in addition to rats, includes hamsters, gerbils, and mice. Domesticated pet rats also go by the name “fancy rats.” Although the fancy moniker might bring to mind Roddy St. James, the dapper pet rat (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who makes his home in an affluent Kensington flat in the movie Flushed Away (2006), it’s actually a reference to liking something, as in “I fancy that.” So if you fancy a pet rat, you’ve probably spent time trying to come up with the perfect name.

A quick look at the names on the critter species profile pages we researched shows that, contrary to their negative image as pests, rats endear themselves to their people just as cats and dogs do theirs. With names like Lily, Angel, Alice, Bella and Rosie, you can’t help but think these companion critters are beloved members of a human household. Although their natural color is brown, companion rats also come in a variety of colors and patterns, which can also be name inspiring. Those who have black and white rats seemingly can’t resist the name Oreo.

Rats On Film

Professional animal trainers who train rats for movies and commercials are said to love rats because of their intelligence and focus, which makes them one of the easiest animal actors to train. Perhaps that is one reason why there is an abundance of rat characters on the big and small screens — all of which can inspire pet rat names. You can’t mention the movies Willard (1971 and 2003) or Ben (1972) without thinking of rats. These two names might seem innocuous, but before you decide on these monikers be forewarned that the rats depicted in the aforementioned films play villainous roles. One family-friendly movie that features a trove of rat character names is Ratatouille (2007), which features Remy the rat who proves to be a top-notch Parisian chef, which, given a rat’s fondness for food, might just be the perfect, gender-neutral name for a rat companion.

So Many Rats Needing Names

If you are looking for a rat companion, consider adopting a pet rat from a rat-rescue organization. A little Googling can likely pinpoint a rescue group near you. Unfortunately, a good number of pet-worthy rats find themselves in need of a Forever Home. So how do adoption and rescue groups come up with names of their rats, which can be quite large in number? “In 2013 we did 331 adoptions.” shared Tahna Myers of Rattie Ratz. “That’s a lot of rats to name!”

three black and white rats
© Courtesy Rattie Ratz
At Rattie Ratz, groups of rescued rats that come in could be named after a person, a place or a situation.

Myers said that, while there is no specific method for how her organization names the rats in its care, it does have some techniques to try to keep everyone organized or to make the adoptable rats stand out. “Singles or pairs that come in from owner surrenders will often already have names. If they are well taken care of, adult rats who might know their names, we keep the names,” Myers said. “If they are young or neglected rats, we like to give them a symbolic fresh start with a new name.”

Myers also said that larger groups of rats are often given a group name. “The group name can be the name of the person who gave them up — Sarah’s Crew — or the city or area they came from — Palo Alto Boys — or the situation in which they came from — trail rats. Often they will start with a group name and if they stay in the rescue long enough, a foster home will give them an individual name. Naming foster rats is always left up to the individual foster home. Most foster parents love naming their foster rats, others may find they get too attached and it makes letting go when they get adopted more difficult.”

Myers also suggested that prospective rat owners look to pop culture sources, such as characters from the latest movie releases. “They make great sources of inspiration for rat names that stand out and grab the attention of potential adopters.”

© Courtesy Wee Companions Small Animal Rescue Inc.
Roberta was named after Robert, the person who found her abandoned and brought her to Wee Companions.

Antonella Piazza, lead rat volunteer/HR director/hospice home coordinator for Wee Companions Small Animal Adoption Inc., said that because there can be a large volume of animals, the group has to be a bit resourceful. “We try to be creative with names but, sometimes we just run out of ideas, so we name some after the person who helped them find their way into our rescue,” she said. “For instance, we have a Roberta who was named after a maintenance staff member. Roberto found Roberta wandering around an apartment complex where someone tried to discard her in the trash chute. We also have an Alisa named after a county animal shelter employee who contacted us and asked for our help.”

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And check out:
One Rat Health Issue You Can’t Ignore, click here
10 Common Rat Behaviors, click here
Life WIth Your First Pet Rat, click here
See all rat health questions and answers, click here
See all rat behavior questions and answers, click here

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Article Categories:
Critters · Mice and Rats