Help me choose a pet rodent

D. Scott MacDonald

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Long story short, I promised my five year old girl that I would buy her a pet mouse, hamster, or rat. She is heavily leaning towards the mouse, but may still be swayed.

Do any of you know the pros/cons for each type of rodent? Also, do you have any cage recomendations or any other advice?

For example, I was told that mice smell a lot, rats smell a little, and that hamsters don't smell at all (refering to the actual rodent and not their dirty cage).

As far as cages go, I've always like the plastic ones with all of the tubes, but I'm not sure if rats are too big for them or if mice are too small.

Also, is one type of rodent more prone to biting than another?

Thanks for all of your input in advance!
 

Julie K

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Rats are very nice. They are the friendliest of the rodents and are quite intelligent and sweet tempered. I never noticed any smell.
 

John Garcia

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For example, I was told that mice smell a lot, rats smell a little, and that hamsters don't smell at all
No, that is not correct. ALL rodents smell, period. It is the urine. There is little that can be done to avoid this beyond keeping the cage clean. As far as the animals themselves, they all seem to keep themselves pretty clean. I've owned each of them at one time or another.

If mistreated, all of them are likely to bite. This is a tough one to answer, as it depends both on the child and the animal. A particular pet may be more prone to biting than another.

Mice do not make good pets, IMO. Too skittish for a 5yr old, and often tiny and easy to lose. Quick also, and not entirely intelligent.

In general, rats seemed to make the best pets as they are less fragile, often more social and a bit more intelligent, they just don't look as "cute".

Note that these animals are all NOCTURNAL.
 

Craig F

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No contest, a rat would be best. I've had rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils. Rats are the only ones that are tame without extensive training. I've been bitten by all of the above except rats. They are very docile and can be handled without fear of them running away or biting.
 

D. Scott MacDonald

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Thanks for the great advice so far - keep it coming!

I am aware that they are all nocturnal, but my daughter is a VERY heavy sleeper so that shouldn't be much of an issue. My daughter is also very gentle and will likely be too afraid to handle the rodents much, so I suspect that they will be very well treated.

Does anybody have any good advice about what cages to get? I assume that rats get too big to crawl through the plastic tubes.
 

John Garcia

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You'd be surprised what most rodents can force themselves through. Basically, if they can get their head through, they can usually squeeze the rest through...
I used a glass (or plastic, I forget) aquarium style cage with a mesh top for my rats.
 

BrianW

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I, too, favor the rat, for all the reasons listed. They're more social and more intelligent. I believe they actually grow to like their captors, whereas mice, hamsters, and gerbils merely tolerate their captors. Indeed, I don't know if hamsters and gerbils are intelligent enough to fathom that their captors even exist, much less that they can be a source of food and socialization.
 

D. Scott MacDonald

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I asked a few people at lunch this same question and they also all responded that a rat was best. That makes it unanimous. Now I have to try to convince my 5 year old that she doesn't want a mouse after all.

Thanks for the help so far!
 

Bill Catherall

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I'll just add my voice for choice of a rat.
I had hamsters when I was young and they were not very sociable and always bit me...no matter how I handled them. They'd just start smelling the fingers...then licking...then out of now where take a big bite! Currently we have 2 rats (they're sisters and get along great together). We love them! They're very intelligent, very sociable, and are very easy to handle.
We keep ours in a glass terrarium with an aluminum screen cover. The lid slides on and is about 14 inches above their heads, but they still figured out how to open it and get out.
We have to clip it shut so they can't get it open. I don't notice any bad smell from them (we change the wood chips regularly). They do play more at night then during the day, but when we wake them up to play they don't put up a fuss.

If you get the rats when they are babies they'll have little hooks on their nails that will need to be snipped off when they get older. If not then when you hold them your arms will get scratch up. You don't have to clip their nails often...just this once. And it's just the very tip (where the hook is) that needs to come off. Our kids' arms looked like they'd been attacked by a cat until we figured this out.
And no matter what kind of rodent you get, remember that their teeth never stop growing so they'll need wooden chew sticks to chew on.
 

Michael St. Clair

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I've always wanted a rat. I've known people to have them and swear by them.

I'd still like one, but I know my dog would kill it first chance it got.
 

Jay H

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...and when she gets bored of that mouse, you can get her an adult Theraposa blondi Tarantula (can grow to the size of a dinner plate) and feed the mouse to the Tarantula..

Jay
 

D. Scott MacDonald

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feed the mouse to the Tarantula..
You guys are too funny.
It's no wonder I immediately thought of my friends on the HTF when pondering my rodent dilemma.

Thanks for the advice so far! My wife is at home right now trying to play-up the Scabbers angle, but my daughter immediately reminded her that Scabbers bit Ron. My wife is not having a very good day.
 

John Berggren

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Regarding Scabbers:

Doesn't he end up being revealed as evil in book 3 or 4?


I'm personally preferential to rabbits, though they are not technically rodents. Everyone I know who keeps rodents loves rats though. I would never have thought it, but they do.
 

D. Scott MacDonald

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John, you are correct about Scabbers, but she seems much more fixated on the biting than the whole evil
thing.

It also doesn't help that in her favorite HBO cartoon (Country Mouse/City Mouse), the mice are always the overly intelligent good guys and the rat is the bungling bad guy.

At least she won't be hung up on the "cute" factor. She actually thought that the ROUSes (Princess Bride) were "cute" and "sweet". She also thinks that an ugly possum that rummages through our garbage every now and then is very "cute".
 

Pamela

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I have a friend who has rats and hamsters. I love the long-hair hamster. It's so cute. But the rats do seem more friendly and sociable. Believe it or not, she has hairless rats and they're pretty cool. They're soft and pink and nekkid! I'd probably go with the rats.
 

Charles J P

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I know you didnt list it as a choice, but I cast my vote for a guinea pig. They are a little skittish when young but no worse than rats and mice I have seen that have been pets for many years. Once they get to maturity though, I have found that they are much more gentle and make a good lap pet (ie they wont be constantly trying to crawl away like a rat or mouse). We have one now and clean the aquarium about every 1.5 weeks and there really is no smell.
 

D. Scott MacDonald

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My daughter LOVES racoons. When staying at our aunt's place, a racoon would come around evey night and we would go out and feed it (it was very tame). I'm not sure it would be a great idea to get her a badger to cuddle, however.
 

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