Are Rats Safe Pets? Are They Safe for Children?

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

A lot of people advised me against keeping rats as pets.

I was ridiculed and laughed at.

Yet, the little creatures had my heart, and I was set on getting one of them as a companion.

However, there is one thing I was worried about. What if they were unsafe for children?

I would not want kids to be in the line of harm because of me. I decided to dig deeper.

Let me share what I found.

So are rats safe pets? Yes. As long as you keep a domesticated rat as a pet, there is no reason for you to worry. It is the wild rats that can harm children by biting them or infecting them with diseases. Therefore, if you want to ensure the safety of your kids, make sure that you get a domesticated rat.

Be prepared for a lot of backlashes if you decide to keep a rat as a pet.

If you want to fight your case vigorously, you need to have sufficient information.

Therefore, endeavor to find out as much as you can about rats as pets.

The behavior of pet rats

First of all, you need to understand the difference between wild and domesticated rats.

While domesticated rats make for adorable pets, it is best to stay clear of the wild ones.

The difference between wild and domesticated rats

Attributes Wild rats Domesticated rats
Size Peak growth is 9 to 10 inchesPeak growth is 11 or 12 inches
Color Mostly brown and blackVariable colors of coat including brown, beige, gray and black
Social behaviorUnsocial, run away from humansFriendly and social

Wild rats usually die prematurely and have a shorter life span compared to domesticated rats.

Thus, they do not reach full growth potential.

Furthermore, since domesticated rats are cross-bred, they have coats of variable color.

This makes them quite adorable.

Wild rats are not accustomed to being in the presence of humans.

They tend to run away from people and do not even seem to enjoy the company of other rats.

On the other hand, domesticated rats are quite friendly and gentle who love to be around their owners.

Pet rats and children

I’ve been asked this question a lot, “are pet rats safe around babies and children?”

Pet rats are quite gentle.

It is quite rare for these creatures to bite their owners.

Thus, older children who are aware of how animals should be treated do not have any reason to fear them.

These little rats enjoy spending time with their owners.

You will often find them seeking you out to sniff your face or explore your face.

Young children might behave with animals a bit roughly.

Usually, the domesticated pet rats do not react violently and merely squeak to express their displeasure.

However, there is a chance that the behavior of young children aggravates the gentle ones to such an extent that their violent side comes out.

The rats might bite or scratch in such a case.

Thus, it is advisable to ensure that you only keep a pet rat if your children are old enough to handle them.

Pet rats and cleanliness

It is widely believed that rats are carriers of the disease.

Are pet rats clean?

Honestly, if you own a pet rat, you’d know the answer very well.

The poor things have to bear the punishment of something they are not guilty of.

It is the wild rats which are dangerous as far as diseases are concerned.

Domesticated rats are highly particular about cleaning and even self-groom.

Therefore, one does not have to stress over their safety being compromised with these little things.

Some risks of pet rats

While it is true that pet rats are safe and lovable, there are some things you need to be cautious about.

1. Biting

Rats attack or bite when they feel danger. They might be feeling threatened.

Since their jaws are quite powerful, their bit can break the skin, causing a great deal of pain.

Furthermore, if the rat had picked some sort of infection, you might be in more trouble than you could have anticipated.

2. Scratching

Rats scratch when they are annoyed or excited.

Their claws can lead to bleeding as they scratch your skin.

3. Diseases

The thing is, not every pet store is honest with you.

You might have gotten the rat thinking it is clean and free of diseases, but perhaps that is not the reality.

It is not uncommon for pet stores to sell diseased rats.

An infected rat can be quite dangerous.

Therefore, it might be a good idea to get your rat examined medically before taking it home. Otherwise, the spreading of diseases from pet rats to humans is possible.

Are pet rats demanding?

As unbelievable as it might sound, it can be quite amazing to have pet rats.

Pet rats have variable personalities.

While some are shy, others have a bossy attitude.

Some rats enjoy adventures while others would just like to be close to you.

Rats do not take long to show their personality so you would know early on what you are dealing with.

The rat might take some time to get used to you.

Once it feels safe around you and gets accustomed to being held, they are at ease.

If you do not have other threatening pets in the house like cats or dogs, you can let them loose in the house.

They seem to love it.

However, simply because they enjoy freedom does not mean that they do not expect anything from you.

Rats love to get attention.

They get cranky if you fail to fulfill their expectations.

They might try to make you take notice of them by some mischievous actions.

Therefore, if you want to have pet rats, keep in mind that you would have to give them adequate attention.

Do pet rats litter the house?

If you train them properly, this is not something that you will have to worry about.

Few people are aware of how smart these little creatures are.

You can train them a lot of tricks.

The best thing is, it is possible to do bathroom training of rats. If you do so, you won’t have to deal with pet rat poop all the time.

Rats often select one area for littering.

Proper training ensures that even if you let them loose in the house, they would not litter anywhere else and will also head to their selected area for the purpose.

Thus, kids can play with rats without having to worry about getting dirty.

If you are concerned about how to train them, let us provide you with a little trick.

If your rat litters outside the cage, return him to the cage promptly.

The intelligent creature will eventually realize that it cannot litter everywhere if it wants to stay outside.

What kind of care do rats need?

Rats love to chew on stuff. They also love their freedom and like to jump and run about.

Therefore, it is advisable to get them a metal cage.

This will ensure that the rat does not find its way out of the cage by chewing on it.

Lining the bottom of the cage with fleece is a convenient option.

You will then be able to clean the cage easily and change the bedding frequently.

Rats need to be kept occupied.

Therefore, make sure that you give them some chew toys when you are away.

It can be anything, as long as they can chew on it, they are happy.

Rats love to get new toys.

They get bored, and thus you might have to rotate their toys frequently.

The most important point; rats love snacks and little treats.

You will find them jumping with joy every time you get them a little treat from the store.

They like being introduced to new food items.

Just make sure that their diet is well balanced and nutritious, and you do not have to worry about anything.

Related questions

Can rats recognize their owners? Indeed they can. You might be surprised to know that it does not take rats long to recognize their owners.

Before you know it, they will seek you out to spend some time with you.

They like being petted. You can stroke them behind the ears gently and give them a gentle rub on the belly.

They are quite fun companions.

Are rats good first pets? Yes. If you have never had a pet before, you are in for a great time.

Rats are easy to take care of.

They do not require extensive measures for care and more often than not can take care of themselves.

Rats are excellent pets for kids as well since they rarely bite and are easy to train.

How long do rats live as pets? Domesticated pet rats have a lifespan of about two to three years provided that they get the best possible care.

This lifespan is significantly shorter than other pets like cats and dogs.

Thus, if you are looking for a long-term companion in your pet, rats might not be the best option for you.

Are pet rats aggressive? No. Pet rats rarely get aggressive.

Even when they bite, it is not aggravation that makes them do so.

It is usually fear or threat that makes them react in such a manner.

If you make sure that your rat feels safe, you would not have to worry about its aggressive behavior.

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