A Rat’s Tale, Auckland, NZ

Belinda Clarke is on a mission to show everyone what great pets rats make, and her passion for her furry friends is infectious.

As a keen member of the Registered Rat Breeders of New Zealand, Belinda is focused on breeding rats for health and temperament, and diet is a key part of that.

“Rats are very sensitive to certain foods, they’re lactose intolerant and you really have to watch their diet as they will get chubby very quickly,” she explains.

There are 13 registered breeders in New Zealand, and the majority are feeding Sharpes pellets to their rats. Belinda says it’s a double whammy of nutritional benefits and an affordable price point.

“The nutritional values it has, it’s a lot better than the feed sold in pet stores, which can have a high protein value and lead to chunky rats. Since feeding Sharpes the rats are so much healthier, they maintain their weight, and they’re not being picky, which can be an issue with many rats. I’ve noticed their coats are a lot healthier, their general health is better, and the feed is affordable.”

When a member of the group first suggested investigating Sharpes, Belinda put her hand up. Since then, she has acted as the point of contact, placing bulk orders and then dispatching it to the other ratteries.

Now 10 of the registered breeders, including the largest rattery in New Zealand, use Sharpes.

“When I got in contact the customer service and responsiveness, the amount of information I could get, was fantastic. It’s been really great, I’m so glad I found Sharpes, it’s made a huge difference to myself and other breeders as well. I really really like the product and I’ve never had any second thoughts about it.

“Even in lockdown, the supply and communication has been absolutely amazing. I know Sharpes sends out tonnes and tonnes of feed, but I feel like I’m as important as everyone else. I feel important even though I’m small.”

Rats are a hobby for Belinda, though she’d love to find a way to make it a fulltime job. “I breed pets to be adopted out. I’ve expanded a bit and make homemade rat treats and feed mixes. I’m working on enrichment items and treats that don’t break the bank.”

It all started when she went searching for a rental friendly pet. She decided on a rat, and it was love at first sight. “I’m allergic to most animals and I was thinking about what animal I could keep in a cage, but still cuddle and form a deeper relationship with. Eventually it came down to rats, but it’s really hard to get pet rats in New Zealand – I have a wait list of about 100 people.”

Belinda explains that your pet rat is very different to the wild rats most of us would consider pests.

“When I got pet rats I soon discovered they had very special little personalities and markings. You can teach them tricks, they know their names, and they don’t smell – they’re very clean animals if you look after them correctly.

“They’re good for my mental health and they love building relationships with you. They’re like tiny little dogs. I really love them and wish this was something I could do fulltime. I’m all about sharing the love because, unfortunately, rats do have quite a bad name.”