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Are Rats Really Better For Kids Than Hamsters?

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Image credit: Howcast


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.

Marty rat

 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.



Image source: Ritva on YouTube


Hamster PROS

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


Hamster CONS

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.

The Verdict:

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. 





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Squirrel Manning

Check out 'Shadow The Rat' on YouTube and you will see the wide variety of things you can train rats to do, such as bowling, painting, skateboarding, basketball, pushing a trolley, selecting items by scent, spinning around, walking upright, getting money out of a bag and bringing it to you, hoisting a flag etc etc. Also, because they are kept in pairs or groups, they interact with each other, which is cute to watch.

Amber Kerr

I've never had a hamster (only hung out with my friend's hamster when I was a kid), so I can't do a direct comparison, but I can vouch that my kids (age 8 and 5) absolutely ADORE our pet rats.

We have three boy rats who are gentle, funny, affectionate, playful, and athletic. They play and roughhouse together, then kiss and groom each other afterwards. They lick our hands to greet us. They like to play hide and seek in the blankets. They come when they are called, and they enjoy exploring the mazes and obstacle courses the kids make for them. We usually spend several hours each weekend morning playing with our rats. (And when the kids are at school during the week, lucky me - I work from home and can let the rats keep me company in my office!)

Rats have a ton of personality, and they are each unique. Among our three boys, Mercury is the most adventurous and naughty, Neowise is the kindest and most caring, and Milky Way is the most relaxed and the best climber. They are all gorgeous creatures, neat black-and-white markings, and soft clean fur and long whiskers. The only problem with rats, in my opinion, is that their lifespan is only 2-3 years. 20 years wouldn't be long enough to spend with these sweet souls!

lillia loves blizzard

I am very confused about why you think that rats may be better than hamsters, because I am a very proud hamster owner. I understand that rats are owned by lots of people now but hopefully by the end of this you will know that hamsters are better than rats.

One reason why hamsters are better than rats is because hamsters are cuter than rats because rats have very long tails which are not cute. rats are also much skinnier than hamsters which makes them look like they have not eaten much. Hamsters hardly have tails and they are much fluffier than rats.Many people may or may not think that hamsters are better than rats, but I am writing this because i want you to know that hamsters are better than rats. And i am a VERY proud hamster owner, which means that I know hamsters are amazing pets.

The other reason I think hamsters are better is that they are more agile and run on wheels and go through tunnels. Rats are also very agile because their tails give them good balance, but hamsters can make themselves make this so escape from small spaces. According to PBS Pet Travel, “rats are bigger-bodied than hamsters.” it is a good thing to be small because it can hide from predators. Also it small size makes it cuter, and in my opinion being cute is good. The final reason why hamsters are definitely better than rats is because most people think you can not do anything about the fact that hamsters are nocturnal but according to ‘’wikiHOW’’ you can train them to wake up at the time you want! When I wake up my hamster blizzard by softly speaking to her or gently stroking her she will go down from her tunnel and come greet me. She is not cranky like most people think.

In conclusion, hamsters are better than rats for many reasons. It is important for hamsters to gain many fans because if they don’t then they might end up in a lab and get killed. Scientists do not use many dogs in their experiments because they have more fans, and if hamsters gain many fans then lots of people might protest when hamsters are used as lab animals.


I believe that rodents are not suitable pets for children younger than 10. They are delicate and many children do not have the ability to understand the needs of a rodent.
I personally have enjoyed having hamsters as pets more than rats. The most recent rats I had were bred irresponsibly and were terrible pets. They did not bond to me and nipped hard enough to make me bleed. Mind you, I did tons of research on how to properly bond with rats and care for them. They were skittish, wild, destructive and extremely messy.
On the other hand, I have owned 2 hamsters and they have both been wonderful pets. I do not wake them up during the day and neither one of them has bitten me. They are social and come to the door of their cage when the see me. They are clean and do not smell if properly cared for. They can be quite expensive if you do a lot of research and find out how to care for them properly, although rats are typically more expensive because they eat a ton more since you have to keep 2.
I have loved my hamsters very much and I have found them to be much better pets!!

Saurav Nayak

Hi Daisy,

I liked the comparison of both the rodents in your post. It will really help any individual who is slightly confused to choose between rat and hamster.
This post will solve all the queries related to it !

The choice in choosing the right pet for your house will depend on your situation.

If you have much of time, you want an intelligent pet, easily hand-able, less animal bites and want to sleep at night then surely Rat is your right choice.

On the contrary if you want a cute, less maintenance, cheaper pet and you don't have much space then you may go for Hamster.

Both of the pets are equally attractive, curious and active to me.

What do you daisy?

With Regards

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