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Guest writer: Daisy Clay
Rats and Hamsters have been popular pets for children for a long time, with many who own Rats swearing that they make better pets for kids.
In this article we will look at the pros and the cons for both to help you decide are rats really better for kids than hamsters? And if so, whether your next family pet should be a rat instead of the more widely adopted hamster.
Fancy Rat PROS
More Sturdy For Handling: It’s no secret that kids can be a little rough when handling pets, for this reason rats are a great choice. They are thicker built and on average weigh up to 4x more than hamsters.
Less Likely To Bite: Contrary to popular belief, Rats are very gentle creatures and tend only to bite when very scared. Occasional nips are common with all rodents, but bites that draw blood are incredibly rare when it comes to rats.
Up More During The Day: Rats, like most rodents, are technically nocturnal, however domesticated rats tend to easily adapt to their owners wake/sleep schedule compared to hamsters that don’t adapt as easily.
More Sociable: Rats are incredibly sociable creatures who need a lot of attention. It is suggested that they be kept in pairs and they will often play with cage mates making for entertaining watching. They are also very affectionate with their owners enjoying cuddles and shoulder rides.
Highly Intelligent: Rats are the most intelligent rodent and are commonly used in psychological studies. For pet owners, this means they are easy to train (litter train, and tricks) and also allows for stronger bonds with humans.
Image credit: "Marty" from Buzzfeed
Fancy Rat CONS
Prone To Certain Health Problems: One disadvantage of Rats is that they are prone to various health problems such as respiratory infections and tumours. This means they can need more vet trips, which can be costly.
More Expensive: Rats need more specialist equipment such as larger cages, dust-free bedding and good quality food, not to mention plenty of toys to keep them from getting bored. This can add up in the money department.
Need More Time And Knowledge: Rats are more of a specialist pet than hamsters and owning them involves a learning curve. As a Rat owner you will need to spend more out of cage time with them due to their sociable nature and do a little bit of research, thankfully there are sites such as RatCentral.com that help keep you informed on a variety of rat topics.
Need to be kept in pairs at least: Rats are very social and do not do well on their own. Keeping at least two rats (of the same sex) is widely recommended as they will get lonely if kept alone.
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Easy To Take Care Of: Hamsters are relatively easy to keep, requiring a base level of cage accessories and food. They don’t tend to need such frequent cleaning as rats and don’t need quite as much affection and handling.
Cheap To Keep: Hamsters tend to have a lower upfront cost than Rats, as they are smaller and don’t need such large cages. They also don’t need such specialist bedding as Rats and their food is more widely available and lower in cost.
Don’t Require As Much Time: Hamsters are generally lower maintenance than Rats. Being that Hamsters are less intelligent than Rats, they don’t need quite as much constant attention. In addition to this, their smaller size means they don’t need as much exercise as Rats and therefore don’t need as much out of cage time.
Can Be Kept Alone: Some species of Hamster can be very social, however the more common Syrian Hamster in particular is a solitary creature, preferring their own company. This can be good for first time pet owners and can keep cleaning time down.
Don’t Require As Much Space: Rats require 2 cubic feet of space at least, whereas Hamsters can live happily in far smaller cages (with regular out of cage time) than a Rat would need. Hamsters aren’t as avid climbers as Rats and therefore their cages tend to be shorter too.
Image source: petMD
Less Intelligent: Hamsters aren’t as intelligent as Rats and as a result tend to be a slightly less affectionate and interactive pet. They are also harder to train than their Ratty counterparts.
Sleep A Lot: Like Rats, Hamsters are nocturnal and therefore sleep throughout much of the day. However, Hamsters are harder to train into their owners’ schedule and can get grumpy and bite when woken up.
Noisiest At Night: Due to them being nocturnal, Hamsters can be extremely noisy at night, running on wheels and such. This can be a problem for owners, especially children, who wish to keep their pet in a bedroom.
Not As Affectionate: While all pets form a bond with their owners over time, Hamsters lack the equivalent intelligence of Rats and therefore tend to be less affectionate and loving.
Rats are certainly more high maintenance than Hamsters, but they also have the potential to be a more rewarding pet. Deciding on what pet is best for you comes down to some of the things pointed out in the pros and cons, such as monetary investment, time investment and of course what you really want to get out of your pet. If you want to teach your child more responsibility then a Rat is certainly a bigger challenge than a Hamster, but if you simply want your kid to have something cute and fluffy to play with on the weekends then a Hamster might be the better choice.
Which do you think is the better pet for kids? Please us know in the comments.
About the Author: Daisy Clay runs RatCentral.com, a growing blog for rat owners, where she writes about a variety of rat care topics from nutrition to training. The blog focuses on providing information that's friendly for the younger generation and has already grown to be one of the largest resources for rat advice online.