About half a million families own a rat or mouse in the U.S., with rats in particular known for their astuteness and interest in being close to their owners. When you think about it, rats come in a dazzling array of colors—including blue, lilac and mink. There are rodents with curly, long hair, satinny locks that would put any hair model to shame. Rodents are great for families with children as well, as they are light, gentle, and relatively easy and cheap to take care of. If your kids are ready to take on the responsibility of caring for their very own Ratatouille, hamster, or guinea pig, make sure to share the following tips with them.
Choosing the Right Cage
When selecting a cage for your pet rodent, opt for a sturdy enclosure made in stainless steel or hard plastic. Allow your kids to help you choose the color and style of the cage, but make sure the cage is large enough for your chosen pet. For instance, for a typically sized hamster, the Humane Society recommends that you choose a two square feet wire cage or or a 24″x12″ aquarium. For rats, meanwhile, you should have a cage of at least 1.5 to 2.5 cubic feet. If you have a second rat, opt for a 4 cubic foot cage and if you bring home a third rat, take it up to 8 cubic feet. Height also matters. For instance, for rats, the cage should be tall enough for your pet to stand up to his full size without reaching the top of the cage. In general, the enclosure should be no lower than around 1.6 feet in height. To make sure you are making the right choice, consult with an expert and ensure you buy a top quality enclosure your rodent won’t escape from.
Engage Your Child in Research
Your kids should join you on a fun journey to discover more about the peculiarities of your rodent. Each has its own cute mannerisms and habits, some of which may be a little confusing. If your child ever asks, “Why is my hamster crying?,” for instance, they should know that their pet can sometimes make this type of noise when they are adapting to a new environment, when they’re scared, or when they are in pain. Some hamsters even cry in their sleep, as though they were having a nightmare. The important thing to do in this case is to observe if the cry is consistent and/or frequent. A visit to the veterinarian is vital if there is a chance your rodent is in pain. In general, your pet should visit the vet every 6 to 12 months for a wellness check.
Let Your Kids Feet Your Rodent
Most rodents consume high-quality pellets, which are thankfully easy and clean, and which kids can feed to their pets. Rodents have specific dietary needs (for instance, hamsters, mice, and gerbils mainly consume grain products, while rats enjoy both meat and vegetable products). Choose well-reputed food that is recommended by your vet. Remember that pellets lose their nutritional value starting at about three months, so don’t bulk buy. Your kids will also have fun enticing their rodents with chew sticks and pieces of bark. Show your children how to place these items safely into the cage.
Rodents make great pets for households with kids, because they are light, loving, and easy to care for. Enlist the help of your children for every step of the process—including buying a cage and feeding them. Emphasize the importance of research and look up any odd, funny, or interesting behaviors to ensure they are normal for your rodent species.