If you are looking for a pet for your child, you might be interested in a rat. Their incredibly docile, friendly, curious, and energetic attitudes definitely match the needs of a younger child. As long as the child has learned to be careful with pets and knows how to responsibly handle them, a rat is by FAR the best first pet option. They also only live for 2 years; meaning that if the parent gets stuck caring for the pet rat, it’s not a 15 year commitment as opposed to a puppy. Rats will also take much less time to care for than a puppy, which requires hours of walking, training, and cleaning up after. They cost much less to feed and maintain as well. For the cost of 1 months worth of dog food, you could probably feed a rat for 6 months to 1 year! Kids quickly take to rats, and can be trained very well. If you keep your kid interested in his or her pet, they will quickly learn just how much a rat can understand, feel, and do; this will lead to a lifelong respect of and interest in pet rats. There are tons of out there that will probably fascinate your children!
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When choosing your pet, the most important things to look for are health and personality. Some signs that indicate ill health are sneezing, wheezing, rattling, thin condition, ruffled stand-up coat, hunched posture, listlessness, discharge from the eyes or nose, diarrhea, bloated belly (not from being pregnant), and cuts or open wounds. A healthy rat or mouse will be curious, active, have a sleek, glossy coat, and be in good body weight. Pick out an animal that is curious and inquisitive when you put your hand in the cage and seems friendly towards you. They should be calm and friendly when you pick them up. Any prospective pet should never bite. Baby rats will nibble on your fingers and this should not be confused with biting. If you find a rat that “kisses” (licks), you have found yourself a very special friend. Try to buy from a reputable pet shop or breeder that knows their animals, has healthy stock, and plays with the youngsters from birth to socialize them to people. The best age to obtain your future pet is at the age of 5–8 weeks (mice), 6–9 weeks (rats)(females older then 6 weeks may be pregnant if housed in community cages) so they grow up with you.
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Perhaps one of the cheapest ways to house your pet rats is to build your own cages. There are many websites online that you can find blueprints for pet rat homes on. If you have been slightly discouraged by the current prices on premade rat homes and cages, this could be the best option for you. Generally, homemade cages are made out of items such as chicken wire or specifically cut shelving and closet racks for the upper part of the cage, with the base being made out of a variety of liquid resistant and stain resistant materials such as plastic storage containers. These can be very effective rat cages, and can be custom made to fit in a certain area in your home. If you have a large rat colony, you could even transform large wooden furniture into a rat cage, such as an old dresser. These pieces of furniture are usually obtained at yard sales, to lessen the cost.
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