Are Rats Suitable Pets for Children?

Thinking about whether or not to get our kids a pet can sometimes be a difficult decision. A pet rat might not be the first choice we think of adopting for our children, but it turns out that rats can be an enjoyable companion for children. 

Rats are excellent pets for children and can make a fun addition to a family. They are intelligent and require daily attention because of their social personalities. However, their long history of being domesticated makes them generally calm and easy to handle. 

Now I know what you’re thinking. A rat as a pet? I’ve never thought about getting a pet rat either, but I found that they can make excellent pets for kids. In this article, I’ll discuss why I believe rats can be the best pet choice for your family. 

Rats Make Great Pets for Children

Not only are rats low maintenance, but kids who own them as pets are commonly satisfied with their new furry friend. 

A study done by RightPet, an online pet product and services review site, reported that pet rats are more enjoyable for kids than cats or dogs. Based on the 150 reviews from 2,867 members from 74 countries, kids ages 10-17 claimed more satisfaction owning a rat than any other pet.

Though pet rats are not thought of as the most popular pet choice, they make excellent companions for children and adults. 

Why Do Rats Make Good Pets?

I know adopting a pet for your children can be an overwhelming decision, but I think it helps to know that rats are overall easy to take care of and don’t require much maintenance.

Here are a few reasons why I found that rats can make excellent pets. 

Rats Take Care of Themselves

You won’t ever have to worry about taking it out for a walk. On top of that, rats are surprisingly super clean, and they take better care of themselves than cats! Their cages do have to be cleaned one to two times per week, but other than that, they usually keep their space nice and organized. 

Rats Have An Easy Diet to Follow

The great thing about rats is you don’t have to worry too much about children accidentally feeding them the wrong food and making them sick. They generally have strong stomachs and are not sensitive to many different kinds of foods, in moderation. However, you do have to keep in mind not to over-feed them so they don’t gain weight. Rats can quickly become obese. 

Rats Need Constant Fresh Water and Dry Food

Rats should get constant fresh water and dry food. You can also give them some fruit and vegetables such as: 

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (not red cabbage)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Melons

Avoid feeding them food high in fats and sugars to keep them from gaining too much weight, such as:

  • Mangos
  • Avocados
  • Raw Sweet Potato
  • Orange Juice
  • Blue Cheese
  • Licorice
  • Peanut Butter
  • Green Beans

Overall, rats have an easy diet but should be given treats like seeds, grains, pieces of bread, and sweets sparingly. 

Make Sure They Have Regular Exercise

Rats need to get enough daily exercise to prevent themselves from becoming obese. Exercise wheels, exercise balls, or a safe space in your house for them to run around for about an hour a day will ensure that they get enough movement. 

Rats Are Social  

Rats keep kids entertained since they love socializing, and they don’t ordinarily bite or get aggressive. Children under ten generally should be supervised when handling them. 

They Need Another Companion 

Since rats are super social, it’s a good idea to get at least two rats simultaneously. They will want to have a companion while the kids are away at school. Same-sex pairs are ideal, so you don’t end up with a bunch of little fur balls running around. 

Rats Are Smart

Rats are intelligent creatures, which is why they are used in many scientific research studies. Training a rat is easy because of their high emotional intelligence. 

You can train them to:

  • Respond to their name
  • Play fetch
  • Stand on their back legs
  • Rollover
  • Jump through hoops

Once the rat gets the hang of training, it can be great fun to teach them new tricks. 

They Need Toys to Play With

Rats are interactive and playful creatures. They love anything they can climb and are intelligent enough to solve puzzles. 

Here are some examples of toys you can buy your pet rat:

  • Chew toys
  • Balls
  • Wheels
  • Ladders
  • Homemade Cardboard Boxes

Toys are a great way to keep them moving and make fun activities to keep the whole family amused. 

Rats are Budget Friendly 

The only items a rat needs are:

  • Large cage
  • Food
  • Toys
  • Accessories

Rats are not expensive to keep. They rarely get sick and don’t typically need to be taken to the vet. Keeping their cages clean and changing their water and food often helps ensure that they stay healthy. 

Rats Need a Large Wire Cage

A wired cage is the best type of cage to purchase for your pet rat. This makes ventilation easier and gives them plenty of space to climb and interact with their surroundings. The larger and taller the cage, the more space your rat will have to stay active and move around. 

The floor should have a solid tray to avoid getting their feet or limbs injured. They also require a little box to sleep in, filled with shredded paper. 

Their cage should be cleaned one to two times per week to keep them from getting sick from high ammonia levels. 

Sensitive to Temperature Extremes

When you buy your cage, make sure to put it in an area that doesn’t get too cold or hot inside your house. Rats need to be kept in a suitable environment to keep them safe from extreme cold or direct sunlight. 

Rats Bond With Their Owners

Like dogs, rats can bond deeply with their owners. They can recognize faces, voices and will even try to groom their humans as they would another rat. They also make a purring sound called bruxing when they’re being pet or played with. They need love and care to keep them happy and satisfied. 

Rats Have Their Own Personalities 

A cool thing about rats is that they each have different personalities. If you decide to get more than one rat, you will easily tell the difference between each personality. Some rats are shy, some are super social, and others are pretty laid back. 

Rats Come In Many Varieties

When buying a rat, there are many varieties to choose from, varying mainly in color. They come in white, cinnamon, blue and multi-colored coats with dark or pink eyes. 

Although rats are relatively easy pets to take care of, they still require constant love, care, and attention. Understanding some basic needs for rats will help you know what to expect if you decide to bring them home for your children. 


Rats are happy little creatures and you and your family can count on forming a strong bond with them. Kids love them because they are friendly, interactive, and smart. Their easy-going and fun personalities can make the perfect first pet for children. 

Keep these tips in mind, and as long as you give your pet rat a comfortable home and a companion, you can be sure that owning a rat is one of the best pet choices you can make for your family. If you’re ready to bring home a rat for your kids, check out groups that offer adoption in your local area and give a rat a loving and permanent home.

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