We are often asked what type of animal makes a good first pet for children. Many families are looking for something that’s fairly small and that a child can take most of the responsibility of caring for. Although it’s true that, as a parent, we need to step in and make sure any pet is getting the care it needs and assure the child is providing it.
One type of pet that is often overlooked is a rat. Rats could use a good public relations company to help them out. There are many stigmas and myths associated with them. As with any animal, there are some diseases that can be transmitted to humans, but rats are no more likely to make you ill than any other small domesticated species.
Why are rats a good starter pet as compared to other animals? They’re larger than many of the other small rodents, such as mice and hamsters, that are commonly kept as pets. And so are easier for a child to handle while being sturdier and less likely to be accidentally injured. Hamsters are nocturnal by nature and often don’t appreciate being handled during the day when they’re trying to sleep. Mice are small and can easily escape or be accidentally injured. Guinea Pigs are cute, but as a rule, don’t like being held. Rabbits are also very cute, but they also don’t like being held and can be seriously injured if held incorrectly. They also take a lot more time and space than most people think.
Rats that are handled from a young age enjoy being held and interacting with people. They are quite intelligent and can even learn tricks. Given a large enough cage, with things to climb on, they can be a lot of fun to watch and are quiet too. They come in a wide variety of colors, markings and fur types, even hairless, (rat breeds and colors). They don’t require an expensive diet and caging costs are reasonable.
If your child is asking for a pet of their own to care for, you may wish to consider the domestic rat. An internet search can turn up rat breeders in the area and they are available from most pet stores.
Here at Troy Animal Hospital we work hard to provide the highest quality veterinary care for your beloved pets. You can reach us at