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A "fancy rat" is a brown rat.

Quoth Wikipedia :
"The fancy rat or pet rat is a domesticated breed of the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). The name "fancy rat" has nothing to do with the "fanciness" of their appearance but derives from the meaning of "to fancy". Thus, one who keeps pet rats is said to be involved in "rat fancy." There are some rat fanciers who domesticate black rats (Rattus Rattus), and Gambian pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus), but these are not generally referred to as fancy rats as the hobby does not formally center around them."

Posted by AnonymousCoward | October 27, 2008 9:53 AM

Makes a lot more sense than fancy ketchup!

Posted by jrrrl | October 27, 2008 9:56 AM

The difference between a fancy rat and a rat you find randomly on the water front is that one is kept in a cage and the other is not. It is like the difference between a prize winning dog in a dog show and a mixed breed dog form the pound--that is zero dfference.

Posted by Heather | October 27, 2008 10:01 AM

I always thought of the "fancy" as designating the difference between pet rats and lab rats, I had no idea it was so specific! Also, I love rats, they make great pets.

Posted by Aislinn | October 27, 2008 10:02 AM

I've kept rats for five years. The difference between a domestic rat and a wild rat is the difference between a dog and a wolf.

The term "fancy", however, is annoying and many rat owners reject it. It is the difference between a standard white pink eyed rat and one with pretty colors, and often used to justify feeding some rats to snakes while keeping others as pets.

Posted by Sandy | October 27, 2008 10:03 AM

@1: Wikkipedia is wrong in that that is not the way "fancy" is used in the pet industry.

Posted by Sandy | October 27, 2008 10:05 AM

Rudy Giuliani? Sanity? Are you kidding? Giuliani was a huge prick to the ferret guy. It's just typical the way Republicans talk up a big spiel about getting government out of your life then then want to kick in your door and take away your ferrets and fancy rats. And why? For what?

Rudy's obsession with the ferret hippies was a sign of how sick that man really is. Sanity, Mr. Schmader? Listen to his voice, and tell me that is a sane man.

(Rudy's ferret freak out would sound great voiced over the bunker scene in that Downfall movie, btw. Somebody get on that...)

Posted by elenchos | October 27, 2008 10:12 AM

I cant stand my My Filthy Hippie Owner

Posted by Thunder The Ferret | October 27, 2008 10:13 AM

My only experience with pet rats is the one a good friend and roommate of mine had. It was extremely ornery -- if your hand came within 6 inches of the cage it would try to bite it... In other words, it was totally worthless as a pet.

One day my friends said, "Julie do you notice anything... different about the apartment". I was stumped. Apparently, the rat had been dead for a week, and I hadn't noticed it was gone.

I'm sure rats can be nice pets and all... but, I think I'll pass.

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 27, 2008 10:13 AM

Is the difference between a wild rat and a domestic rat like the difference between a dog and a wolf, or like the difference between a house cat and a feral cat? In other words, is it a difference of genetics (you raise a wolf around people, and it is still a wolf) or one of nurture (you raise a feral kitten around people and it can be socialized to be a house cat)?

Posted by stacy | October 27, 2008 10:19 AM

My sisters have both had pet rats. One, Walter, thought he was people. He'd sit with you, try to steal your pizza, and generally be mellow. One my older sister inherited was mean and hated everybody. So it varies. They make nice pets tho.

I thought NYC had a rat problem, so you would suspect ferrets would be WANTED in the city?

Posted by Fe Man | October 27, 2008 10:22 AM

@10: It's the difference between a dog and a wolf. They've been domesticated for hundreds of years. If you were to raise a wild rat, it would be like raising a wolf. Eventually, it would turn on you and you'd get some pretty bad bites. If a wild rat mates with a domesticated female rat, the offspring usually have to be put down. They are like half wolf dogs and can be dangerous.

Posted by Sandy | October 27, 2008 10:25 AM

I assumed the term "fancy" referred to how they're prepared.

Posted by flamingbanjo | October 27, 2008 10:42 AM

I had a pet rat (former lab rat) that had an attitude, pooped everywhere, and bit everyone except me. A friend of mine had a pet rat that didn't even have a cage -- it wandered around the house, used a litter box, and was friends with the pet cat! I guess it's like the difference between pit bulls and... well, every other dog.

Posted by jrrrl | October 27, 2008 10:52 AM

I don't see the appeal of pets that have to be kept in cages, but I agree with elenchos on the Giuliani/ferret issue. That man is unstable.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 27, 2008 10:54 AM

"Fancy" or not, all rats constantly leak a small dribble of urine wherever they go, and whatever the crawl on. The scent allows them to find their way home, find other rats, mark territory, and re-locate food.

You just let a fancy rat crawl on your shoulder and your favorite sweater? Yummy yummy rat piss, a little trail of rat piss, everywhere.

Posted by treacle | October 27, 2008 1:10 PM

That's not true, treacle. What, do their bladders take up half of their bodies? They do pee on people sometimes, though, and it is gross.

Posted by Sandy | October 27, 2008 2:24 PM

@16 They stop doing that once they trust you. They know they won't get lost on your shoulder so they don't need to mark.

Cats pee everywhere as well, but owners usualy don't notice until they move furniture.

Posted by Sirkowski | October 27, 2008 5:43 PM

They stop peeing on you "Once they trust you".
I may never get that far with a rat. Nope.

Posted by treacle | October 27, 2008 8:50 PM

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