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    Rats! Photographer turns pet rodents cuddly

    Jessica Florence started photographing rats when she was 17, and they've since become her go-to models.

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    Cuddle up -

    Jessica Florence, 23, of Portsmouth, England, started taking pictures of rats at the age of 17. "I was mainly interested in photographing humans, but with a lack of willing models at the time, I quickly turned my lens to my then-pet rat, Bug," Florence said. Florence continued to photograph Bug until she passed away from old age, but continued to photograph her subsequent pet rats.
    Jessica Florence
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    Two best friends -

    Albino rats Duck and Warm cozy up during a photo shoot. "The process behind the images was a long and tedious one at first," says the photographer. "Rats are not normally the ideal model. They usually quite hyper and playful animals."
    Jessica Florence
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    Cozy with a bear -

    "The first rat with a teddy shot came about because Bug snuggled up to one of my own bears, that I kept on my bed, and fell asleep," she said. "I took the photo and then thought how much cuter it would be to give her "rat sized" teddies to snuggle with."
    Jessica Florence
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    Hop hop -

    The process to capture the cute furry little animals is quite lengthy. First Florence must spend time calming the active rodents by massaging them. Eventually they fall asleep and then she tries to shoot as quickly as possible before they wake up.
    Jessica Florence
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    Cuddle buddies -

    Florence has received a variety of good and bad feedback about her pictures of the rodents, and says there is still a stigma that surround rats. "The stigma, I think, dates back to the bubonic plague, even though it wasn't the rat that caused it, but the fleas that they carried," she said.
    Jessica Florence
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    A fuzzy friend -

    On the flip side, many people have also decided to adopt rats after seeing Florence's photos. She has received countless emails from people around the world letting her know they were getting pet rats or thinking about it after seeing her project.
    Jessica Florence
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    Where's the rat? -

    One of the many rats photographed cuddles with a pile of stuffed rats. People sometimes ask Florence if she drugs the rats or if uses taxidermy rats, but they are always alive -- aside from their stuffed friends.
    Jessica Florence
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    Where am I? -

    One of the main reasons Florence started to photograph rats at such a young age was to learn how to use a camera. She then posted the photos on Flickr where they gained popularity and continue to spread around the web.
    Jessica Florence
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    Giant bear -

    Duck and Worm find a friend in an oversized bear.
    Jessica Florence
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    Nap time -

    Duck and Worm fall asleep with a tiny teddy.
    Jessica Florence
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    Peekaboo -

    Bug peeps out of a box. "Not many people who haven't had rats themselves are aware of how intelligent they are, how clean they keep themselves and how sociable with humans they can be when well kept," she said.
    Jessica Florence
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    Sleeping siblings -

    Duck's offspring nap while modeling for Florence.
    Jessica Florence
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    A little present -

    Florence doesn't have any rats currently, since she welcomed her son, Noah. "I am looking forward to adopting some more in the future when my son is older, as I believe they make the perfect first pet for a child," she said. "When that happens, I plan to start photographing them again."
    Jessica Florence