Rats make perfect first pets for kids, and for many reasons. Look past the “gross” factor, and get rid of the images in your head of giant rats in sewers carrying diseases. It is not true. Rats have many attributes that make them perfect first pets for kids. They are better than a cat or dog, and ten times better than a mouse, hamster, or gerbil.
1) Rats are gentle and friendly. Rats are as tamed as cats or dogs. Most children know they can pet a dog or cat, unless it is acting scared. The same goes with a rat. Rats make great first pets for kids because the children can handle them without fear of being bitten. Rats can nip, but that only happens when they are mishandled. The same goes for dogs, cats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters.
2) Rats are larger than mice. Mice are common first pets for kids, but those parents probably tell many stories of the mouse that got lost under the couch. Gerbils and hamsters are also good escapees. That isn’t an issue with rats. They are larger in size, making them much easier to see, catch, and keep from escaping. With rats there will be no pillow tossing, furniture moving, and bawling children.
3) Rats bond with their owners. Cats ignore their owners and do their own thing. Mice, gerbils and hamsters will tolerate being held but really could care less about who is holding them. Rats, on the other hand, bond with their owners in the same way that a dog will. Rats are able to tell the difference between their caretaker and strangers. Rats make great first pets for kids because rats love to stick with their owners to play, and even cuddle. Kids will love having their rat love them as much as they love their pet.
4) Rats are fun to play with. Guinea pigs, another common first pet for kids, will just sit there and squeak when taken out of the cage. Mice and hamsters will run around in those balls, and that is mildly amusing. Rats are by far the most entertaining small pet. You can teach them tricks, just like a dog. Rats will fetch(and return the item), and will perform tricks on tightropes. You child can even take their pet rat for walks on a leash.
5) Rats are amusing to watch. Just set the rat outside of its cage and be prepared for smiles and laughs from your child. Rats will climb over everything, but not get lost. They will play in those exercise balls. Build your pet rat an obstacle course and watch him go. The smiles will really come when the rat sticks near its owner. Your child will giggle uncontrollably when her pet rat climbs up her shirtsleeve. Your son will laugh when his pet rat climbs down his shirt, and stick its head out of the neck. Some rats even love belly rubs.
6) Rats can live 3-5 years. That’s longer than most gerbils, mice, and hamsters, which also get ill quickly and die. It is also a short enough life span for the child who gets bored quickly. While that might sound cruel, there is nothing worse than a neglected pet.
7) Rats are low cost. Dogs and cats tend to build up high vet bills. They need check-ups, rabies shots, and to be spayed or neutered. While rats can, and should be, spayed or neutered to prevent overpopulation of babies, if you get two of the same sex that won’t be a problem. Rats are also easy to feed. Their food is low cost, and they don’t need tons of accessories in their cage. Most of their toys can be made from scratch. Making the toys with your kid is something fun to do together, and that is another reason why rats are the perfect first pet for kids.
8) Vets can care for rats. Despite needing little vet care, rats can get sick at times. They are prone to cancer. Mice, hamsters, and gerbils can also become ill fast, but vets will not, and often cannot, treat these small animals. Rats, on the other hand, can be taken to vets that treat exotic pets. Vets can remove tumors from cancer.
9) Rats are easy to care for. Rats need their cage to be kept cleaned. They need fresh food and water. These tasks are great for teaching children to care for animals. Rats are low maintenance, so they are perfect beginner pets before getting something high maintenance like a lizard or dog. With rats there is no litter box training, paper training, grooming, or daily walks(unless you want to, of course).
10) Rats are nocturnal. This doesn’t mean they will keep your child up all night while playing in their cage. Rats can easily be trained to sleep in the early morning to late morning. They will sleep while your kid is at school, and be ready for playtime when its owner returns.
Rat Assistance & Teaching Society: Why Rats?, petrats.org