Pet Rats, Rats and Children

Rats are small and quiet. They take up very little space and cost much to feed. They eat just about anything you do and are pleased when you share. You never have to take them out for a walk in the rain. Rats don't howl during thunderstorms. Rats don't need vaccinations or a town license. You can take them with you on vacation or ask a friend to look after them. Most landlords accept "small animals in cages" as tenants. Rats are even found as pets in college dormitories.

Rats are good companions for people who don't have much time to devote to their care, socialization, and training although they live happier and healthier when stimulated. The elderly and shut-ins may enjoy looking after one or two and interacting with them: holding, stroking, feeding and supervising its exploration.

As a rule, you should adopt or buy young rats that are approximately 4 to 5 weeks old. A young rat is much easier to socialize and tame than a mature one. You should bear this in mind especially if your are purchasing rats at a pet store. While it is isn't mandatory to keep more than one, it is a more natural way of life and a significantly better quality of life for the animal.

Pet Rat
Photo credit: Le Monde des Rats

Pet Rats and Children

If you have small children, be sure that they only have the rats out under supervision. It is important they understand how delicate rats can be. Rats are so small and cuddly that tight grips and firm hugs are often a bit too much for them. Talk to your children about how small the rat is and how gentle they must be. Even very young children can understand this.

  • Children must ask Mom or Dad before taking the rat out. This ensures that a parent knows the rat is coming out and can supervise the playtime.
  • Children must be sitting on the couch, chair or other specific place with the rat. This limits the area the rat has to run around. When there is a larger area and the rat moves fast, the child can get excited and try to grab the rat to keep her in view. Remember that the rats can get up and down from furniture; your "confined space" will depend on your rat's wandering characteristics.
  • Children cannot walk around with the rat. This rule will prevent falls and drops. Rats can be wiggly, and when children are startled by something they're holding, they let go.

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  • Do not take the rat outside. This rule speaks for itself. There are a lot of predators outside, and it is easy for your rat to get lost if let out.
  • Do not allow children to take the rat to their bedrooms. This keeps your children from making poor decisions about the types of games they can play with the rat. Keeping them in the main part of the house enables you to keep an eye on them.
  • Do not allow children to put the rat inside anything and close the lid. You would be amazed at how many kids don't understand the concept of oxygen. From toy boxes to lunch boxes, any type of closed area should be pointed out as a no-no.
  • Do not allow children to make the rat hide. Hiding can be just as dangerous as being put in a box.
  • Make sure that children don't sit on a rat. It's amazing how sitting on things seems to make sense when you're small. Children often sit on their stuffed animals, and rats seem to be in this same category for some.
  • Do not let the dog or cat play with the rat. Although some dogs and cats won't bother your rat, there are others who would be happy to sample the rat as a treat. Unfortunately, your dog or cat may act perfectly well-behaved in front of you and be quite different in front of your child. Explain to them that this rule applies to all dogs and cats, so they don't try out the neighbor's dog instead.
  • Make sure that children do not put the rat on the floor. This is just an all-around good idea. It will help keep the rat from getting lost, stepped on, injured and accidentally let outside.

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