My daughter is eight years old, and really loves animals. That's not unusual for little girls, but what sets her apart is that she likes the odd animals that most girls her age run away from. She loves our bearded dragon, thinks creepy-crawly critters are cool, and for the past year has wanted a pet rat. Her interests are a bit of a challenge in our family, as my wife doesn't have a soft-spot for such animals, and has been reluctant to have them in our home.
Elena gets her passion for exotic pets honestly...I also love them and have encouraged her interest. I have long known rats to be very good pets who are intelligent, generally friendly, and easy to care for. They are my favorite rodent pet, and I find them to be far better than hamsters or gerbils. Unfortunately many people can't get away from the stigmas of rats: they carried the plague-ridden fleas into homes that lead to the Black Death in europe; they are found in sewers, trash dumps, and other unseemly places; they get into grain stores and contaminate them; etc. There is also something about that long, naked tail that people find repulsive. All of this "bad press" makes it hard for people to really look at them and see them for the great pets they can be. Additionally, pet rats are a different species from the rats most people think of as causing disease and problems.
Finally my wife relented, and agreed to allow our daughter to have her own pet rat. However, we required her to save her own money to buy the rat and the accessories necessary. It took some time, but she did finally save her allowance and gift money to the point of being able to get her first rat. A couple of weeks ago we went to the store, picked her out and brought her home.
Adara (named after the main character in the book The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin, which my daughter loves) is a real sweetheart. She is everything I could want in a pet rat, being very friendly and handleable. Elena is being a great pet owner, keeping up with food and water, handling her gently every day, and helping to clean out her tank. She is very proud of her little rat, and understands the responsibilities that go with the fun of having a pet.
My beautiful, wonderful wife has been working on overcoming her dislike of these pets, allowing both me and our daughter to fulfill our dreams and have these non-traditional pets. However, she refuses to have anything to do with them and set the stipulation that Adara is never to leave my daughter's bedroom.
And yes, my daughter's room is VERY pink! Just how she likes it.