To celebrate 2020 being the Year of the Rat, Guinness World Records (GWR) is delighted to introduce Frankie and Freddie, two of the latest inductees to the menagerie of record-breaking animals.
The rats’ owners, Luke Roberts and Jess Timmis (both UK), are no strangers to the record books themselves, having set their mind to breaking a record as a new year’s resolution in 2018. They achieved their goal on 4 Aug 2018 with the most party poppers popped in 30 seconds (by a pair) – firing off 51 party poppers.
The light-hearted, noisy record (apparently they were not the most popular with their neighbours during training…!) stands in stark contrast to their day jobs. Jess is a GP and Luke also works for the NHS as part of a team to improve efficiency.
Not satisfied with party-popping their way into the record books, in 2019, Luke and Jess decided they wanted to make record-breakers of Frankie and Freddie (or “the boys”, as they call them).
Not letting them down, the rats showed off their intelligence, agility and dedication to a much-loved treat (more on that later) to each set a GWR title:
Most alternating paw tricks by a rat in 30 seconds
Frankie (a golden Siamese) made it into the record books first with a lightning-quick 28 “high-fives” in half a minute on 5 Oct 2019 – though given the diminutive size of his paws, he was permitted to hit a single finger rather than his owner’s entire palm.
Most jumps through a hoop by a rat in 30 seconds
Hot on Frankie’s tail, and not wanting to be the only member of the household without a record, Freddie (a wheaten rex) – who was almost called “Curly Wurly” – hopped into action on 5 Jan 2020. He cleared a hoop eight times in the allotted time.
A team including GWR's Animals Editor, Adam Millward, caught up with the rats and their smitten owners at the Bradford Premier Small Animal Show on 18 Jan 2020. Awarded their official GWR certificates at the event, Frankie and Freddie were a huge hit with attendees.
Even though Frankie and Freddie are Luke and Jess’s first ever rats, they can’t sing their praises enough. “They love human companionship,” Jess told us.
“Most evenings, they come and have a cuddle on the couch [and] they do the washing up with [Luke], sitting on [his] shoulder.
“They’re highly intelligent and they’re really clean – you can toilet train them as well.”
That said, they do recognize that rats are still the Marmite of the pet world, as Luke revealed: “If we were going to split our friends and family, half of them [think] they’re the best thing ever and half [think] they’re so gross.
“But once they interact with them and they see they’re really friendly, [and] once they see the tricks they can do and how intelligent they are, I think you can win people over.”
“I think we’re going to be a couple who have rats forever now. We’re the rat people!”
It turns out that the old adage that pets are like their owners doesn’t just apply to dogs, with the pair confessing that the rats are almost their “mirror images” in terms of personality.
Luke said: “Frankie is very docile but also very excitable, so as soon as you produce any food, he’s going to bolt for it…”
…whereas, according to Jess, “Freddie’s the opposite! Freddie is stubborn, really clumsy and sometimes during training will just stand there and be like ‘No, just feed me”. So he’s a bit more like me, really!”
So what’s the secret to the rats’ success? “We train rats in the same way you’d train dogs, with clickers and food rewards,” Luke revealed.
“You introduce a new behaviour… then click and feed and, over time, build that up and up and up until they’re doing a high five [or any trick] regularly.”
In terms of treats, Frankie and Freddie are very particular. “It’s just sweetcorn… they love eating sweetcorn,” Jess explained. “But they’re so fussy now. Two-day-old sweetcorn is just not good enough, so Luke has to open up a new can!”
Luke and Jess were recently engaged to be married. With both their rats and record-breaking having featured as key milestones in their relationship, Luke felt it only fitting that both things should form part of his proposal in Dec 2019.
And so it was that Jess first heard about Frankie’s successful record at sunrise on the top of a mountain in Thailand.
If that exciting news weren’t enough, this was accompanied by a photo book of the rats dressed to impress in top hats and bow ties, and posing with a bouquet, with the very last page of the book popping the “big question”.
It was clearly an overwhelming moment, though Luke admits he didn’t know if Jess was crying because of the record or because he’d just proposed to her!
Suffice it to say, the winning combo was impossible for Jess to resist, and the loved-up pair are planning to wed in summer 2021.
Despite their family now all being able to claim they are record holders, that isn’t the end of this story.
The couple are already talking about finding a record that they can attempt as a team of four (Luke, Jess, Frankie and Freddie) as well as potentially taking on a record on their wedding day.
Luke, in particular, has set his sights high. In fact – he quite fancies being the UK’s most prolific record holder.
But don’t rule anything out, because every record-breaking journey has to start somewhere, and with it being the Year of the Rat, this fun-loving family have destiny on their side.