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Rat G.Pig Hamster/Gerbil?

December 1st, 2006, 10:28 PM
Okay here are the questions, my daughter will be turning 5 in June, she has started taking an huge interest in rodents(family friends own several different types and she has no fear unlike her mom :o . I will be honest I am not really thrilled on the idea, but she is very respectful and caring. Hubby is trying to push her towards a Hamster/Gerbil so it can have those cool tunnels etc... I am okay with a G.Pig(actually like them~alot) but no she wants a rat or a skinny rat. How hard are they to handle, what kind of up-keep do they require etc... I am :pray: ing that this will pass. I am not stupid to go out and get her one just because she wants one, I'd like to wait till she's 8 maybe 9 or 22 what are your thoughts and what would you let her get and at what age do you think she could handle this type of pet?

December 1st, 2006, 11:23 PM
Honestly I would get a rat (or 2 preferably, they're very social) for a child rather than a hampster. Rats are extremely friendly, and when socialized almost NEVER bite. They're also less easy to injure than a hampster or gerbil, and like to be held a lot unlike many guinea pigs. Guinea pigs when socialized will allow you to hold them but most don't love it like rats do. Rats also love to climb all over you and sit on your shoulder, some will even try to groom you and talk to you (this is more common in females who are more active and social than males).

Hampsters and gerbils seem a lot more social with other friends of the same species than with humans. Rats, if kept with another rat preferrably, will still be extremely social with people, seeking out attention. They also easily learn their name and will come when called, they can learn tricks, and can even easily be walked on leash much like a guinea pig.
I do agree that hampsters are interesting to watch in their tubes and while they make their burrows, etc., but if your daughter would like a more hands on pet then a rat would be a better choice.

Though hampsters, gerbils and guinea pigs are VERY popular pets for kids, I think rats are a lot easier to keep properly and a much better starter pet for a small child. I do have a bias towards them though since I've kept several rodents and those were my favorite. They just seem a lot more intelligent and social than the more common rodents such as gerbils,hampsters, etc.

If you do indeed decide on a rat I would be happy to give you any info you need on diet, cage, etc..

Keep in mind though that most rodents prefer the company of their own kind ESPECIALLY if you're not going to have them out of their cage on a constant basis. I don't suggest keeping a solitary rodent since they require a lot of attention from you in that case, and you seem to be a bit weary of handling them.
Also keep in mind that a rodent who isn't being handled much should have a fairly large cage.

December 2nd, 2006, 08:31 AM
I have the perfect candidate for you ! Meet Houdini:

:D Houdini is a degu (Octodon) and he LOVES people. He's used to being handled, he knows cats and dogs, and he'd LOVE to be finally adopted !

And yes, I can work out the transport for you ! :)

December 2nd, 2006, 11:05 AM
I have the perfect candidate for you ! Meet Houdini:
:D Houdini is a degu (Octodon) and he LOVES people. He's used to being handled, he knows cats and dogs, and he'd LOVE to be finally adopted !
And yes, I can work out the transport for you ! :)

Thanks for the information MBIE. Inverness ~ thanks Houdini is cute but we are just sending out feelers and gathering info(not ready to adopt) and it would not be fair to 'hold' until we/she is ready for adding a new pocket pet(we still have 19yrs to go ;) I will be sure to put a post in when we are ready :thumbs up

December 5th, 2006, 04:01 PM
Hi Libby,
for both my neices, at about age 5-6, their first pets were actually
fish. I bought my younger neice a fish last christmas, and she is actually
doing the water changes and maintenance and everything!
My older neice, who is about 8 now, has had a hamster now for
about 1 year. Hamsters are very cute.
1 thing to keep in mind, those tube n tunnel systems only work
for dwarf hamsters, so if you did go that way go with a dwarf like
a teddy bear or black bear hamster. Russian dwarfs I hear
are more aggressive and harder to tame.
The reason why the tube n tunnel systems work for only dwarf
hamsters is because regular hamsters grow quite large, up to 8
inches in length! I have found her hammy to be quite social with
people, but not as much as a rat would be.

When I was a child, I had a Guinea Pig. The major issue with them is
that they are nocturnal, and unlike hamsters, are much harder to train
to sleep at night. Guinea pigs get very large, up to 2-3 kilos depending
on the actual type. They are cute and fluffy and nice, but need
a lot of handling. Mine bit and it took nearly a year to tame the biting
out of it.

Rats - great little critters. I have never kept one but I have known
many many rattys over my life. They are highly intelligent compared
to most rodents. They are very social, and will pass that socialness to a
human if no other rats are present. They are totally easily tamed,
very gentle, and very quiet. I would love to have a rat, but my boyfriend
is very anti-rodents at this time, im working on him though!

Degus - these are great little pets too. They do have some special needs,
like needing chinchilla sand to bath in, and a very specific diet, but are
very interesting little creatures. I love the little weep weep sounds they
Here is a great website on Degus:

Chinchilla - perhaps another option? These are soooo soft, and can become
very tame. Again, not so much as social as a rat would be, more like
a guinea pig or hammy, but very neat pets. They bathe in sand,
and like big open enclosures. A little bigger than the others except the
guinea pig, chinchillas are also super cool.

Gerbils - hmmm, dont know much about them. I would assume they
are much like a hamster, but with a tail.

Good luck choosing, and let us know what she gets/picks!

Oh, and if you get a hamster, dont buy a wire cage - they often
chew the wires and this can actually dislodge their brain inside
their skull and cause all kinds of serious health issues.

December 5th, 2006, 04:04 PM
I agree with MBIE. I had rats as a teen and I LOVED them. They're so smart and you can even cage train them, so they go back to their cage to do their dooties.:) Rats are closer to tiny dogs than the rest of them, I guess.:)

December 5th, 2006, 05:16 PM
when i was a kid i went through a bunch of hamsters. They all died of natural causes but it all depends on the kid. I saw many of my friends mishandle them and back in the cage they went. Some kids are just so cruel to little animals. If you hold a hamster too tight it tries to squeeze through and the eyes look all bulgy and stupid kids thought that was funny:frustrated:

I also had a guinea pig who was very close to me, the second one is very attention demanding. Guinea pigs DO sleep through the night. they are NOT nocturnal. Previous information is wrong;) Hamsters don't sleep through the night and run on their little wheels ALL NIGHT LONG!! lol and if they get bored they will...i repeat...they WILL attempt escapes in search of fun. hehe

Guinea pigs require a lot of people contact, and while they're bigger they are still fragile. Mine never bit me. They make cute noises and you can train them to squeak on commant and they know to recognize certain sounds. Mine squeaks when she hears plastic bags ruffling because she knows there's carrots and lettuce in those:evil:

December 5th, 2006, 05:23 PM
Most of all my good points have been already been expressed so Im just gonna add my vote for rat... ALthough their tails can be un nerving for some they make wonderful pets, and are extremely social! I think she is almost ready for a pet of her own, but you do have to be comfortable with it of course...
If this were a poll, id be voting rat hands down...

Now off to learn what the hey a degu is....:(

December 5th, 2006, 05:26 PM
When I was a child, I had a Guinea Pig. The major issue with them is
that they are nocturnal, and unlike hamsters, are much harder to train
to sleep at night. Guinea pigs get very large, up to 2-3 kilos depending
on the actual type. They are cute and fluffy and nice, but need
a lot of handling. Mine bit and it took nearly a year to tame the biting
out of it.

I had 4 Guinea pigs as a child an all of which were excellent pets as well. Not nocturnal though, they were always up and about during the day. I also had a very small one ( well small 4) they didnt add up to near 2-3 kilo's, they all were litter trained much like a bunny and were harness trained to go outside ( when i was there of course) They are good pets as well. But I still think a rat is much more fun

December 5th, 2006, 07:01 PM
I have almost 4 and 5 year old daughters. So far our best fosters have been Degus! They play all day, sleep all night. Interact amazingly well with the girls and love their company.

My 5 year old has also been exposed to about 30 some odd Rats. They were great with her as well and she really liked them as they like to sniff and smell you which she got a giggle out of..

Hamsters and Gerbils are two thumbs down in my books... hard to keep healthy from what I've seen of all the friends who got them as pets.. longevity not great either on them.

Just my experience.

December 6th, 2006, 04:06 PM
As a child, I got rid of my guinea pig. After it kept me awake
all night for 6 months straight I couldnt handle it. It slept all
day and ran the wheel and ruffled and snuffled and squeaked
all night. If you dont call that nocturnal, I dont know what is!

Guinea pigs can range in size from about 1/4 of a pound,
to about 9-10 pounds, depending on species. Wild ancestors
of our domestic guinea pig in South America tip the scales almost
always at 7-10 pounds, and are raised for meat.

December 7th, 2006, 06:18 AM
Wow this is awesome info, if I knew how to do a poll this is what I would poll:

what type of critter?
Rat, G. Pig, Hamster, Gerbil, Degus, Chinchilla

what age?
5-7yrs, 8-11yrs, when she moves out(heeheehee;)

Keep the info coming, its great for me to read but also VERY helpful for hubby.

December 7th, 2006, 06:35 PM
Chinchillas are much more specialized than the others. They're sensitive and can only eat a certain diet (food should NEVER be switched if possible), treats sparingly (as in MAYBE one raisin every couple days), and must be kept at temperatures below about 75 or else they become stressed and can die. They're also not that sturdy, meaning they can be injured easily.
They need a dust bath to maintain good health, and are also avid jumpers so precaution must be taken so they won't escape while out of their cage.
Like other rodents they chew A LOT. Anything chewable near their cage will be destroyed and plastic water bottles end up with holes in no time.

However, they are fun to watch and they're neat little animals. They'll hop around and sit on you, but need plenty of socializing or else they shun human contact. Also, their poop doesn't have a smell, which I'm sure is a plus, lol.
For a more responsible older child, who can be trusted not to give too many treats or mishandle them, they make good pets, but for many children under about 10 years old, I think it may be a bad idea.

December 7th, 2006, 07:50 PM
Okay Chinchilla - OUT of the running for now

December 8th, 2006, 12:32 AM
No experience here with rats. Although the reviews here sound great, they have a certain ew factor with me, just cause I`m not fond of rodents in general. We`ve had hamsters, they are cute, but too mouse-like for me to be comfortable handling. Ours did bite & only lived about 2 years.

We had guinea pigs for about 4 years. I`ve recommended them to people as first pets a few times. We researched quite a bit *after* we got them- I`d assumed they were as low maintainance as the hamsters, but their pens need cleaning often- and you don`t want to get a pet store cage, they are usually too small. I built a pen from an old bookshelf turned on its side to give them plenty of room. They are really social & eat a variety of fruits & veggies, plus pellets. Ours were definately not nocturnal & were up for as much day play as we could give them. Generally they aren`t biters, although some are. We had a lot of fun with them & I would love to have some again one day.

December 8th, 2006, 09:00 AM
Inverness...could you ship Houdini down here to Georgia? :pray:
I Love him!!!! :cloud9:

December 11th, 2006, 12:55 AM
I hope I can give you a bit of info, and it is meant only in the best intent.:)
Only you know how mature your child is. Will she stay interrested in what she chooses or will she lose interest after a few months.
I had 2 rats and they are truely great. I also agree with one of the previous posts that they are like little dogs. However they should never be picked up by their tails or scruff. They also need better bedding/litter. They are prone to repiratory disease. (humans are not at risk) so the bedding should not be the cheaper wood shavings. Any wood isn't good for their lungs. (advised from my vet - who specializes in exotics, and owns rats himself.) They also need complete darkness at night or they can develop health problems. Remember though, any small animal even though they are little still deserves proper vet care and attention.( alot of vet bills are the same as dogs and cats) You should start by going online and checking out some sites about the type you are interrested in. It will greatly help in your descision. That way you will know what is involved. I am NOT trying to turn you off getting her a pet, I just want you to know that there is more then cleaning the cage and feeding them. I have spent so much money on medications for my rats. When my one died I had to make the desicion on whether or not to get more. The one that is still with me now has a brain tumor that keeps her on medication that costs me $40 per month, and I have her out of the cage for about 4 hrs a day(on and off potty breaks) I have a ferret cage for 2 rats. That way they had enough room. Thoroughly cleaned the entire cage every 5 days and "picked up" everyday.
You need to know that rats are VERY social. If one passes away and the other isn't getting more then a few hours a day outside of the cage they can become depressed and ill. I hope this helps.
I'm sure your daughter will make a great "mommy" to whatever furbaby you decide on.
Best wishes and I hope you find the perfect pet for both of you.

December 11th, 2006, 01:07 AM
I forgot I wanted to mention that my cousins had 2 skinny pigs years ago and they had a lot of health issues. Although this is when they weren't well known.
They didn't last that long, even though they were well taken care of.
Maybe you should start with the fish idea first, like that previous post.
Good Luck.

December 11th, 2006, 04:30 PM
I too think fish are a great first pet.
If a kid can get used to caring for a fish, and the fish can
survive and do well, then a larger more complex animal to care
for will be an easy step.
I myself started on fish as a kid, both my neices started on fish, and they have now moved to hamsters (younger one will be getting a hamster after they move).

On a side note - I wonder why my guinea pig as a child was
nocturnal while most people and info says they are diurnal.
Perhaps because I was in school all day and didnt get around to
the pig till after dusk? Maybe it learned day was boring and
night was fun?
They are pretty smart little critters.

December 12th, 2006, 11:42 AM
They are FANTASTIC pets!!!!! Ive NEVER been bitten, such awesome personalities. Ive always had them. They love to chase little balls, and mine were all litterbox trained. The loves toys, hammocks, balance beams, etc
ALWAYS get at least 2 together though. They are so so social and NEED to be with another rat.
So many diff breeds of them too. My personal favorite are Dumbo Rex Rats
Now, keep in mind their life span is rather short. 2-3 yrs on average. (3 yrs being VERY good)
Unspayed females usually develop tumors eventually. That is prob the only downside.
They are an absolute riot. I HATE little cages though....they love to play and run so I suggest a large rabbit cage or ? I actually used a chinchilla cage with ramps and stairs in it. The LOVED racing up and down. I eventually (I know this may sound nuts!) but we made the a small room of their own. I live in a large house and figured.....why not? I put turf on the floor and painted /stenciled long blades of grass with critters peering thru on the walls. Then took this clear hard plastic tubing(large round tubes) and affixed them running up and down the walls leading to shelves and ladders,etc. It was like a huge maze. At the end was a tiny basketball hoop aith their rubber balls they played with. They were so tame (this takes some work until they get used to you and your voice as all animal though) When the kids or myself would walk into the room Id call them and it was hilarious watching the scamper thru the maze trying to get out to us. When they did, they would stand on 2 legs trying to get us to pick them up.
Keep in mind, we spent every waking moment with them.
Something to try with your rats should u get them.......they love to bob for frozen peas! Put a small amout of water in a dish with frozen peas and watch them bob for them! Mine loved honeydew and canteloupe and peeled grapes. One of their favorite treats (small amounts remember or they'll get the runs) is yogurt off a spoon!
Yes, as you can tell Im a huge fan of rats. I never used to be. When I worked as a vet assisstant Id disappear as soon as a rat came in. Ive changed!
When we'd go for short walks or drives......they'd come along with us.
Just remember dont leave a small child unsupervised with them as rats love to climb and a child will tend to squeeze them in attempts to keep the rat still in one spot.
Oh and get this.......our 2 cats were great with them and we didnt have to worry about them at all. Now DO NOT do that yourself unless you're cats are very confused like mine. hahaha.........sounds unbelievable I know. But they grew up with them so I guess that explains it.
Good wont be sorry.

December 12th, 2006, 12:31 PM
Oh and get this.......our 2 cats were great with them and we didnt have to worry about them at all. Now DO NOT do that yourself unless you're cats are very confused like mine. hahaha.........sounds unbelievable I know.
:o My last rat used to chase my kitty. I'll have to get my parents to find the pics, since they're on their computer, but I have a pic of Fred suspended in the air, his feet look like they're spinning, like on a cartoon, and the cat is running away in fear. Actually neither of my rats liked cats, but Fred is the only one that actively tried to torment her. Luckily it was an every once in awhile thing and he just ignored her most of the time.

December 14th, 2006, 12:06 PM
All such good information guys.
I worked in a pet store, so here's what I learned:

Hamsters I don't think would be a wise choice for a small child.
They are very fragile and hard to hold for small kids (without squishing them)
plus they get very smelly cages very quickly, and they run in their blasted wheel ALL night long and keep you awake. I had one lol. She was cute but a lot of work. And gerbils are basically the same.

Guinea Pigs are awesome, we had one for awhile but gave him away due to the fact I felt we didn't give him enough attention. He lived with our dwarf rabbit in a huge cage in our office and they LOVED each other. Piggys are very smart little critters, they make adorable noises and are relatively cheap to own.
Bad side is they smell, they don't always like to be held, and they can be biters. (which can be unlearnt) And they should be housed in pairs so they don't feel lonely and they require a fair amount of space.

Chinchillas are soooo cute and lots of people buy them because of that fact without learning about them, and then don't want them anymore.
They have special diet needs, need plenty of space to run and play, dust baths can be messy and result in a large area around the cage becoming covered in it. Plus for a small child you would want something social and that would want to be cuddled and chins are definitley not all that cuddly, plus they squirm a lot and tend to jump.

I have NO experience with rats, so I'm out on that one.

Maybe a bunny? But then again they can be smelly...require lots of space and attention. Very smart and social though, can also be litter trained and my aunt and uncles lop LuLu used to "fetch" their slippers for them lol, so that was pretty cool.
Why can't she be like all other little girls and want a kitty or a puppy? Lol just kidding.

May I also add for everyone reading this:

Guinea Pigs and Ferrets should not be allowed to run in those oversized hamster balls.
I researched them for my own guinea pig and found out that because of the lengths of their spines those balls can actually cause them to hyper extend the discs in their backs and lead to SEVERE complications.
I mentioned this to my vet and she agreed that they were not a wise decision for pigs and ferrets.
Same thing with giant wheels for their cages...DON'T DO IT!!

December 14th, 2006, 04:12 PM
Why can't she be like all other little girls and want a kitty or a puppy? Lol just kidding.

I Don't Know !!!!
LoL Just kidding :D might have something to do with us already having 2 of each?

On a side note, a BIG THANK YOU to everyone, this is awesome info. I think we are leaning towards... nothing till she's 8ish, old enough to handle more responsibility with caring for the critter(I understand I'll still be helping ~ ALOT) but maybe by then I won't find them so creepy :o

She has asked for her little fish tank to go back in her room and we might give that a try for now.... but then her little brother is going to want a fish as well.... it's a never ending circle..... :shrug: