Rat Rescuer: Friendly Rodents Misunderstood 

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Maeghan Glass is an animal lover. The 24-year-old Henrico County resident has two dogs, a cat, a rabbit, a turtle, a frog, a hamster, a mouse, a parrot and two fish. But the jewels of Glass' extended furry family? Rats.

“The rats really just have my heart,” says Glass, who cares for 16 of them. They live in a compound of cages in the second-floor foyer of her parents' house, and their expanding presence — Glass is thinking of adopting two more — is part of Glass' mission to educate the public about these much-maligned rodents.

Sure, they swarm city sewers, scamper around bushes at dusk and lurk among crumb-strewn office-building kitchens at night. They crawl up through toilet drains, ambushing unsuspecting humans. None of which is to mention their role in spreading the bubonic plague that decimated the medieval population of Europe.

“The rats didn't carry the plague,” Glass retorts. “The flea carried the plague.”

Glass arms herself with helpful factoids — rats clean themselves frequently and can get depressed if isolated — and takes a rat with her out in public two or three times a week. She recently started a rat rescue-and-foster-care operation, taking in unwanted rats from as far away as Charlottesville. And naturally, she blogs about rats at http://ratmonsters.blogspot.com.

“They're nowhere near as messy as ferrets,” she says, while her rats nap and climb in their cages on a recent Friday afternoon. She takes them out in groups to roam daily, letting them dive for frozen peas in her bathtub, steal her jewelry and chew tubes of lip gloss.

Safe in their cages, surrounded by spiral slides, bright pink and green plastic igloos and cardboard houses, the rats — with such names as Isolde, Demeter, Giselle, Jinx and Flit — seem friendly. They greet Glass when she opens their doors and scale her arms and shoulders when she picks them up.

Jinx accompanies Glass on a mid-afternoon jaunt to Fin and Feather Pet Center on West Broad Street. The rat perches on Glass' left shoulder, his eyes half-closed while his body sways to the rhythm of the car and his long, hairless tail drapes down Glass' back.

Correction: Due to an editing mistake, Style listed the wrong address for the pet store that Maeghan Glass visited, the Fin and Feather Pet Center on West Broad Street.

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