Here's a really cute video of some rats that also explains why it's important to have at least two rats.
I told someone today that I'm getting pet rats, and at first she thought she must have misheard me. Once she figured out that she had heard me correctly she became a little concerned, and eventually told me to be careful to not get bitten.
I guess rats do have some negative stereotypes attached to them.
I definitely would not want to handle a wild rat. They probably would not be very sweet. They'd probably bite me and perhaps give me rabies. But domestic rats that are bred to be pets and who are handled by humans from a young age? They are sweethearts.
That's not to say that they don't ever bite. I can remember being bitten a few times when I had rats, years ago. It was mostly friendly bites that didn't hurt at all, much like when my cat Socks bites our ankles. (Ok, so it can hurt when Socks bites our ankles...)
I can only remember one time when a rat bit me hard enough that it hurt, and that was when Rosie was in pain -- and she didn't even break the skin, despite being hurt and frightened. As for why Rosie was in pain? Her foot was caught between the wires in a 3 level wire cage, she was scared, and she struggling to escape. If that's not a reason to blindly bite a helping hand, I don't know what is.
I'm no more worried about getting bitten by a domestic rat than I am about being bitten by a domestic cat. That's to say that it does happen, but it's nothing to get excited about.
Also when I mentioned to the afore mentioned woman that rats are very social critters and that it's important to get at least two of them she said "Well, I can't imagine any other creature wanting to keep them company." *sigh* More stereotypes...
That's not to say that I'll be trying this at home, since they generally only get along if they are raised together. My cats would probably decide to make a meal of the rats.