Rats are active, sociable, and intelligent, making them versatile pets—even for children. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Cuckoo, who’s that looking out of his sleeve? The sweet rat seems to feel good there! Shutterstock / Anna Jurkovska
Not everyone finds these little rodents cute: rats. Some underestimate their pet potential. The fact is: If you own rats as pets, you won’t get bored that quickly. The funny little fellows are also well suited for children, as long as a few rules are observed.
Which speaks for the rat as a pet for children
Rats often serve as villains in stories and children’s films, such as The Nutcracker. But the small rodents can also be an enrichment and are just as suitable as pets as hamsters, guinea pigs and the like:
- ● The care and supervision of rats can easily be integrated into everyday life. Even if you work and your child goes to school: if the rodent’s cage is well equipped, it will not be a problem for them to occupy themselves throughout the day. Ideally, several animals are purchased, then there is no boredom in the cage anyway.
- ● The small rodents are also active in the morning and evening hours. So your child has time before school and after homework to take care of the cute fur boys.
- ● Rats are usually wonderfully sociable fellows. Once they have been gently accustomed to human hands, they are more likely to be touched and petted than guinea pigs or rabbits. Most of the time, the rodents even like to be pampered like here in this video:
- ● Rats as pets are definitely varied: they are very lively, curious and clever! Rats can be great playmates for young and old under certain circumstances. With a little patience and skill, even tricks can be practiced!
- ● With a pet of their own, your child develops a sense of responsibility. It learns to deal with the needs of another living being and to take on tasks assigned to it independently. What more could mom or dad want?
Rats as pets for children: from what age?
Remember that even as pets, rats like to be kept busy and cared for. Children are not always motivated to take care of a pet at certain stages in their lives. It is important that you, as a parent, can identify with this animal. Ultimately, deciding at what age a rat will fit into your home is up to you: how much work can or do you want to do in this regard? If your child is not yet 8 years old, expect that you will have to take on almost all to-dos and your child will only assist.
Smaller children could get away from the rodent or fall down and injure themselves. Cleaning the cage is also too much of a challenge for the youngest. If your child is older than 8 but has no experience with a pet, it may also be too soon. Rats are best for children aged 12 and over. At that age, most kids can take on chores independently. Here and there, however, the help of an adult may be needed. Good preparation is therefore the be-all and end-all. Before you buy, find out about species-appropriate rat husbandry and the right food.
In any case, it is advisable to choose the rats together with your child, set up the cage and get rid of any reservations right from the start. Enlighten your offspring beforehand that a rat is not a cuddly toy. The rodent brings with it other advantages. Also, prepare your child for the fact that rats live no more than 2-3 years. If the animal is 2 years old, this should be pointed out again, otherwise the death of a beloved pet may be an unexpected blow to your child.
Rats in the group: It is important to note this
Since rats are pack animals and feel most comfortable in a group, you should get at least 2-3 animals – the more companions, the better. In the case of a mixture of male and female animals, the “rooster in the coop” should be castrated as soon as possible, because rats reproduce extremely quickly! If there are several males, they should ideally be from one litter. Males who are strangers to each other are optimally kept in separate cages, because power struggles can result when they are brought together due to their territorial behavior – which often even ends fatally for one of the animals. Females tend to be more peaceful with newcomers to the group.
Be careful when running around in the apartment
Your child is sure to be looking forward to sending the rats on a discovery tour in the apartment. However, it is important to remember that the animals are rodents. Rats don’t know that power cords are dangerous and can just chew through them. Caution is also required in a room with large closets: rats like to walk through narrow alleys. Once a little rascal has disappeared behind the closet, it is difficult to lure it out again. The fur boys should always be supervised anyway when they are hanging from your wooden furniture and other items. Because rats regard many materials as quite appetizing.
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