By TIM GORTA
MIDTOWN — Call 'em rat-tastic. The rat's meow. Or simply rodent du jour.
Turns out, the most hated animal in New York (OK, they've got competition from pigeons and roaches), has a big fan club.
Dozens of rat-lovers sang the rodent's praises Sunday at the first-ever Fancy Rat Convention, featuring presentations by breeders and even a rats-only fashion show.
"Once people see how beautiful they are, they'll get turned on to them," said organizer Tara Delahoz, 29, of Ridgewood, Queens.
Rats are the perfect household pet, she insisted, boasting they are easier to care for than dogs or cats and smarter and cleaner than guinea pigs.
Ashten Anthony, 24, a self-styled rat breeder from Pottsville, Pa., says folks just have to get over their petty prejudices against rats.
"There's a negative stereotype people have about rats," Anthony said. "Rats are wonderful, great pets."
Dolled up in little rodent-sized vests and even a mousy-looking bridal gown, rats sashayed with their handers up and down a makeshift runway at the convention.
Scenes from the flick "Ratatouille" — considered a breakthrough sympathetic artistic depiction of the rodents —played on a wall. Paintings and sculptures of rat were on display.
There were exhibits for "rat rescue groups" and medicines for all that ails your pet rodent, since most veterinarians will not treat rats.
A face-painter was trying to sell children on getting rats' whiskers painted on their faces, without much success.
Ada Nieves, a pet fashion designer from the Lower East Side, said the biggest misconception about pet rats is that they are the same as the dirty creatures New Yorkers see scuttling around in the subway tracks or tearing through the trash.
Nieves said the rats are actually specially bred and trained, much like purebred dogs.
"These are not sewer rats," said Nieves, 48.
Graduate student Kristina Hosoe said she was seriously thinking about getting a rat as a pet. She admitted being a bit wary about taking the plunge.
"It's better to see the rats in person," said Hosoe, 25, of Stamford, Conn. "And I wanted to see the rat fashion show."