When our middle daughter asked for a pet rat I said, “no way”. Never would I let a rat live in my house on purpose. 6 months later she was still begging for a pet rat so I told her that she could get one for her birthday if she researched rats, wrote a paper on if rats are a good pet for kids and presented us with a plan for her to care for her rats.
Our middle daughter is the queen of shortcuts. She’s the one that we find hiding laundry behind the couch cushions instead of putting it up. I gave her a long list of to-do items fully believing that they would never be done. A week later, she had done all the research about keeping a rat as a pet, told me all the details about why rats are good pets with a paper to back up everything she was saying and she also gave me plan to care for the rat.
It didn’t stop at that point. She became obsessed in planning for her pet rats. Every time we went to the library I would see her march up to the librarians desk to ask for help in finding any more books that even mention a rat. She was hooked and there was no escaping the pet rats that were about to make their home in my house.
At that time it was one singular rat in the plan. But her research showed that rats need community so we finally agreed for her birthday she could get two rats.
We’re about to approach one year of pet rat ownership so I thought that today I would share with you my thoughts on keeping rats as a pet for kids.
Pet rats are amazing but require a lot of attention.
Yes, you read that right. Pet rats are amazing.
Their personalities are evident almost immediately. We have one who is shy but bossy while the other one is an adventurer and who lives for human contact.
The first few weeks the rats weren’t sure of us and it took time to get them used to being handled. Once they were used to being held then we had to find safe places to put them down to run where the dogs couldn’t get them and they couldn’t escape.
We started letting them run on the back of the couch for a few minutes at a time. They were too small and timid to jump down but they loved the freedom.
Fast forward a year and they will jump down and run around on the ground but they never stray too far. They’ll run across the room and then back to you, climbing up your leg and back into your lap. They love to be held and taken out of their cage as much as possible.
They crave attention and activity and if you don’t give it to them, they will make mischief.
Sometimes that mischief might involved them chewing through the cage and kissing your nose at 4am when you’re fast asleep in bed. Other times they’ll pull whatever they can reach into their cage and chew it in half, such as your hot glue gun cord.
They’re amazing pets but they do require attention, which is one of the reason I think they’re good pets for kids that want to have a pet that they can hold and baby.
Pet rats have great bathroom habits
Believe it or not you can litter train rats. They are so smart that you can train them to do a lot of things but the bathroom training is the best part. Our rats are not litter box trained. However after they chewed through their plastic bottom cage we moved them to a metal wire cage that is lined with fleece. They simply move the fleece to the side and always potty in one area.
Plus we can safely let them run free (but under supervision) in the house for a longer period of time because they have been trained not to use the bathroom outside of their cage. That’s a huge win for kids that want to play with the rats and let their friends see them.
If you want to train them to only use the bathroom in the cage, anytime they use it outside of the cage immediately return the rat to the cage. Eventually they’ll learn that if they want to stay out, they can’t just do their business anywhere.
They are gentle and curious.
Pet rats are gentle creatures. Our rats have never bitten us. Yes one did mistake my finger for a treat one time and would not let it go but even then, there wasn’t any actual injuries.
They want to spend time with you, exploring your hair and sniffing your face.
Sometimes our youngest child, at 6, can be a little rough with the rats and they will squeak to show their displeasure but they’ve never acted out against her. Our older children at 10 and 9 are the perfect age to handle them and understand the care that their cage takes.
Rat cages, food and care.
Rats chew a lot and they are very active creatures.
So what does that mean? First of all, make sure that any cage you buy is metal. If you buy a plastic cage then you will wake up with a rat in your bed or find them somewhere else in your house.
To save money on bedding and other fillers, we simply line the bottom of the cage with fleece. It’s very cheap, easy to wash and can be changed out quicker and with less mess than traditional bedding.
Also in a rat cage, you have to give them items to chew on and keep them busy while you’re away. That can range from bird perches for them to run on to toilet paper rolls for them to destroy. One of our rats favorite toys is simply an unopened box of Klennex. Put a box in their cage before you go to bed and in the morning they will have made a giant mess with the tissue but made themselves a cozy little home inside the box.
It’s fun and challenging to constantly be changing up their cage and making new toys but it’s one of the things that my kids, and myself, really love about the rats.
Most importantly, rats love treats and snacks. Everything from store bought treats, chocolate chips, vegetables, crackers and so much more can cause a hilarious reaction from the rats. They love to eat and love to experience a lot of new foods including spaghetti and yogurt.
Rats are great pets that would be a wonderful choice for any child that is willing to spend time with them. Their personalities and curiosity will win over even the most freaked out person within minutes. They will make your entire family laugh and smile.
However keep in mind that they really do need daily contact in some way. They need to spend time outside of their cage and want you to create new toys and challenges for them.
We’ve had many pets including fish, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, and a turtle but without a doubt, the rats have been the biggest surprise and a type of pet that we can see keeping in the family for many years.
Most importantly, make sure your child knows to say the word “pet” before she tells everyone to come over and see all the rats at her house. You think this is a joke but you don’t want everyone at your church or that you come across in public hearing about all the rats that you have at your house without first explaining that they are pet rats that we have on purpose.
So are rats a good pet for kids? Yes, and for adults alike.
If you’re sold on a pet rat after reading this post, here are some supplies that I recommend
metal rat cage – all metal cage with many levels for climbing. Rats love to climb the cage walls.
treats – Our rats fight over who will get these treats first they love them so much.
hanging hammock – They love this bed and it’s where you can usually find them hanging out during the day.
bird perches – These cloth covered perches are great to link to different levels of the cage. They run along them which is great for exercise.
lava ledge – Anything that you can give a rat to climb on or stand on will make them happy. Plus our rats love to chew on these lava ledges.
Do you have a pet rat? What’s their favorite items?
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