Sociable, awake during the day, highly intelligent, just some of the traits that make rats the perfect children’s pet. I’m not talking here about dogs and cats, but comparing the classic pets of childhood; rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils and …. Rats!

The Problem with Rabbits

When rabbits are kept as house rabbits they can be lovely children’s pets. But unfortunately this tends to be the exception especially children’s pets. Far too often, they are left in their hutch in the garden forgotten and ignored. When it’s cold or raining, spending a long time outside playing with a rabbit in its hutch is just not fun for most children… The result, a cold, ignored and slightly neglected rabbit. The elephant in the room here as well is that rabbits live for a LONG time; life expectancy can be up to 12 years (or longer)!

Ask any vet and they will have a sad collection of stories about poorly cared for rabbits that were loved in the first summer they were brought… But gradually other interests have replaced them. Rabbits can get a lot of complex health problems, especially teeth related. And they can require a lot of expensive care long term care long after the child has grown up.

The Issues with Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs have the same problem as rabbits, in that they tend to be kept outdoors and as a result can end up forgotten – especially in the winter. Again, like rabbits, they also require a good sized outdoor run. However they do tend to get fewer health problems than rabbits. And they are usually very happy to be cuddled and played with by children. They are intelligent and engaging pets… but do require a special diet and some specialist care.

The Trouble with Hamsters and Gerbils

Hamsters and gerbils can be entertaining pets and generally they are kept indoors so get more attention. They are also shorter lived – which with a rapidly growing up child isn’t necessarily a disadvantage! For me there’s two problems with hamsters and gerbils as children’s pets; firstly they are naturally nocturnal so will be most active when the children are in bed, secondly they are naturally solitary creatures in the wild. Obviously this means that most hamsters (and pretty much all gerbils) can’t live with another gerbil or hamster. But their solitary nature also means whilst you can ‘tame’ them to a state when they are not scared of you. Sadly, most of them aren’t that interested in being friends with humans, it’s not in their nature.

Enter the rat, the intelligent, friendly perfect children’s pet

Rats are social, they’re intelligent, they love to play, and they’re small enough to live comfortably indoors. They’re also more adaptable than most other pets, and by and large cope better with people than any other small pet. 

In fact, rats are so friendly and clever you can teach them complex tricks. Including to come when they are called! As a result, many rat owners get to the stage where the rats can be allowed out to run around the room at playtime (closely supervised to avoid wire chewing). To the childs’ delight they will crawl all over their shoulders, arms and legs using the child like a climbing frame and can be trained to a high level with clicker training

They live in the house so are always on your kids’ radar and will get plenty of regular care due to their attention seeking ways of getting you to play with them as you pass their cage. They are naturally awake during the day and asleep at night so totally in sync with your family. 

At the end of the day, rats have evolved around humans. They therefore love eating the same food as us so they can share the same healthy treats your children enjoy (taking care to wash hands etc). And because they are social creatures they can live with friends and they love the company of children. 

So what’s better than a rat?!