Best Pet Rodents for Your Child

Need help choosing the best pet rodents for your child? The thought of pet rodents is an unpleasant one for many parents. After all, if mice or rats suddenly showed up in your home, you wouldn't think of them as friendly and cute; they'd be a pest to get rid of as quickly as possible.

Drawing the line between wild rodents and pets can be tricky, but if your child is asking for a pet and a dog or cat is out of the question, a good choice is a small pet rodent.

Age-Appropriate Pets
Choose a pet rodent based on your child's age. For smaller children, a larger pet rodent, such as a rat or guinea pig, may be better. Guinea pigs and rats are a bit larger than gerbils and mice, and not so easily squished by little hands. Guinea pigs are particularly good for young children; they love human contact and they're less likely to bite than rats. As your child gets older, other pet rodents, such as mice or gerbils can make good pets.

Teaching Responsibility
Giving your child a pet rodent teaches how to have responsibility for pets. Pet rodents are easy to care for, and a small child can easily be taught the basics of cleaning up the cage, feeding and caring for the pet rodent.

Giving your child a pet rodent is also a learning experience for the child-not only in cleaning and feeding the pet, but in making its habitat more interactive. Rodents like to chew on cardboard, so you can teach your child how to make cardboard houses and tunnels for the pet.

Playful Pets
With proper training, pet rodents can be carried around while the child is playing inside. It is not recommended for the child to take the rodent outside, unless the rodent is trained to stay with the child. The child can also work on training techniques for a pet rodent. Rodents work for food as a reward, rather than affection, so kids will need a supply of treats or food and a little patience to teach tricks.

Mice and rats at pet stores are specifically bred to be pets. They're tamer than their wild cousins, although they will bite if they're hurt or frightened. It's important to teach your child the proper way to handle pet rodents. They need to be tamed at first, which means picking them up and holding them for a short time, then putting them back in their cages. After a while, rodents will bond with kids who feed and play with them regularly.

Don't Rodents Smell?
Many people are reluctant to get their children pet rodents because they worry about smell. If the cages are kept clean, you will not have a problem with odor. Use the proper bedding for the type of rodent you have, and clean the bottom of the cage at least every other day.

Give your child a schedule for feeding, watering and cleaning the cage. Post the schedule near the pet's cage, and make sure your child sticks to the schedule. If you decide to let your child get a bigger pet later, he or she will know that feeding, cleaning and otherwise caring for the larger pet will be his responsibility, and the child will already understand the need to stick to a strict schedule.

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