Meet the rat with a passion for painting – who has used his paws to create masterpieces which have been sold worldwide for more than £1,000.
Jess Indseth, 19, first noticed her pet rat, Gus, had an artistic flare when she let him play with her arts and crafts set.
To nurture his talent, she bought non-toxic children’s paints – allowing him to use his paws to paint on mini canvases – and she was thrilled at the colourful abstract results.
Jess – who also has rats Boo, Dot and Eve – posted Gus’ artwork for sale on Etsy – for £20 a pop – and was inundated with orders. She has shipped Gus’ creations across the world – as far as South Korea and New Zealand.
The rodent has made an impressive £1,200 profit and plans to keep Gus’ weekly painting sessions as she says he ‘enjoys expressing himself’.
Jess, a swimming instructor, from Droylsden, Manchester, said: “Gus loves painting and he’s so talented.
“I love his artwork and lots of people across the world too. I was shocked to find there was a market for rat paintings – but it’s amazing.
“Gus is like a mini Matisse.”
Jess bought Gus from a breeder in Stockport in December 2018 and ‘fell in love with him’ straight away.
After introducing him to her other pet rats, Boo and Dot, after he was neutered, she realised that he was much calmer than the other two – and decided to see if he’d enjoy painting.
Training him with some Cheerios cereal, she placed him on some paper with paint on his paws, and watched as he created some unique artwork.
“I posted Gus’ art on my Instagram, and people said they wanted to buy one – I couldn’t believe it!” Jess said.
“I set up an Etsy shop on a whim, and soon loads of people had bought one – as far as Australia and New Zealand.”
Not knowing what to charge for Gus’ miniature canvases, a buyer offered to pay £20 – and Jess has since sold over 60.
“Gus loves doing them,” Jess said.
“They all love time out of their cage and with me, and they’re really intelligent so it’s good to challenge them.”
Jess hopes to change the stigma attached to her favourite animal.
She said: “They’re the best pets I’ve ever had.
“Rats are so misunderstood – but they’re just like little pocket puppies, I love them.”
Jess, who lives with her dad Nick, 53, and sister Olivia, 14, in Manchester, has wanted rats since she was a little girl.
Nick had rats and mice as a child, and always spoke about how much he loved them, which is where Jess’ love for the unusual pets began.
But it wasn’t until her 18th birthday in December 2018 that her dreams finally came true – after she put a deposit down for Flo, Boo and Dot.
The three sisters were Jess’ present to herself – and the ‘best thing she’s ever bought’.
Flo sadly passed away in October 2019 following two surgeries and an infection which took over her body, leaving Jess distraught.
Her passing also took a toll on poor Dot, now 18-months-old, who grieved for her sister.
“It was really sad after Flo died,” Jess said.
“People think they’re just small pets so it’s not the same as losing a dog or a cat – but I love them the same.
“Dot went off her food and stayed in her cage for a couple of weeks. It was obvious she was grieving for Flo.”
After sadly losing Flo following a series of health issues, Jess fell in love with little Gus, who she bought in December 2019 – followed by Eve just three weeks ago.
Creative Jess also loves to make little outfits for the rodents to play dress up – including the Easter bunny, a leprechaun and a pirate costume – much to the enjoyment of her social media followers.
She has ‘rat-proofed’ her room so they can roam about for a couple of hours a day as they please, instead of spending all of their time in a cage.
Jess said: “They all have little characters and love spending time with me in their own way.
“Gus loves his time painting – I tried it with Eve as well but she wasn’t as good bless her!”
Jess’ most recent addition, Eve, two-months, is a ‘live wire’ and brings a lot of energy to their little family.
“They’re very affectionate,” Jess said.
“They love being around people and will snuggle up to us on the sofa – my dad and sister love it.
“I’m their favourite though – they’re the best pets I’ve ever had.
“They’re just misunderstood.
“When people meet my rats, they understand immediately why I love them so much.
“They each have their own little characters and their own personality. Gus is definitely the most artistic and talented. He’s a star.”