Many years ago in college, I had a pet rat. It was such a sweet animal, and I remember how I went away on a day trip and the rat got out, ate some bread and went back to its cage! I have such fond memories of having a rat as a pet, and have always wanted to get another rat.
Many, many years later, my kids were trying to decide on a pet, and we discussed rats. We finally made the decision to let them get rats of their own.
We have had about 6 rats now. The first thing to keep in mind, is that unfortunately, they do not live particularly long – about two years. This can be tough for kids to deal with, and my kids take the loss of their pets very hard. Another unfortunate reality is that despite getting our rats from several different sources (pet store, breeder, etc), several of our rats have had either cancer or pneumonia.
Rats do make great pets! They are a great size to hold and play with, and they are very friendly and smart. My daughter got her first rat around age 7, when we determined that she would be responsible enough. The rats were always so happy to see her too!
Here are some things we have learned about rats as pets!
Finding a rat:
The first time we bought a pair of rats, we got them from a pet store, and unfortunately it was not a good situation. The rats were very aggressive towards each other and it was clear that they had not been handled. They were not friendly and in fact bit my husband quite hard. Since then, we have always gotten rats from doing research online. We have been able to find people who breed rats carefully and love their rats dearly.
We originally started with a huge ferret cage for our rats, but once one passed away, we opted for a smaller (yet roomy cage) that my daughter could keep in her room, and both were good options. Just remember that rats like to have space, and climb, and it is good to offer things to keep them busy like perches and things to explore. We also chose what we felt was a good quality rat food, and offered the rats plenty of fresh foods in their diet.
Rats for kids:
My daughter was mature enough at 7 to get her own rat, but every child is different. My kids are animal lovers and very much into their pets. Along with being able to handle a rat carefully, there are other factors like feeding and cage cleaning. The kids did have to adjust to the tiny nails on the rats, which can be sharp when they try to climb (a small factor to remember if your child might be skittish about holding a rat).
Our rats were wonderful! Not once were any of us bitten (aside from the aggressive rat at the pet store), and the kids loved them. Even I would take the rats out in my free time to play with them and hold them, and I have fond memories of them falling asleep on my shoulder.
There was such an interesting array of reactions from people when they found out we had pet rats. Some were intrigued, others thought it was fun, and there were people who were scared or even thought rats were disgusting. Yet once any of those people met our rats, they said that their opinion had changed. My daughter brought her rat to school for the day, and the kids thought Oreo was the cutest thing! So many had told her that they thought rats were disgusting, but they had a change of heart once they met her rat in person. We always used our experience as a learning tool for kids, as they sometimes had to deal with negative opinions, and were happy to see even one person have a change of heart once meeting the rats.
Do you have pet rats? Or a question about pet rats? Leave a comment 🙂