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Why Rats and Mice Make Better Pets Than Hamsters or Gerbils

Updated on November 28, 2012

The Rodent Family

Rats, mice, hamsters and gerbils all belong to the rodent family which means they have a lot of similarities, but there are also subtle personality differences that set them apart as far as being a good pet. These personality differences have a lot do with the environment the animal was raised in and whether or not there is genetic diversity in the rodent's bloodline so it is possible to get a nice pet from any of these breeds of rodent.


Hamsters and Gerbils

Hamsters and gerbils are the most popular small rodents chosen as pets. I'm not exactly sure why other than they look deceptively cuddly, but in my experience underneath their cute exterior lurks pure evil. I've never touched one without getting bit. I think the photo of the hamster holding an assault rifle is a perfect example of their adorable appearance with an element of danger if provoked.


Rats and Mice

Rats and mice are virtually the same animal (rats are basically just big mice). I discovered how sweet and pleasant these creatures were when I worked for a brief time at a research laboratory. The only time I ever got bit was cleaning the cages of the "stud rats". Testosterone changes any animal though, which is why if you get a male rodent you should either have them isolated, especially if there are females around. Mating is a constant occurrence and males will fight and sometimes even kill each other over mating.

Baby mice, also called "pinkies"
Baby mice, also called "pinkies" | Source


Like I said before, mating is a constant occurrence among rodents so be sure you want babies before putting males and females together. The average litter is 6-12 pups (sometimes even more) and the age of sexual maturity is just four to six weeks of age. If you don't take the daddy out at this point, he will most likely eat his young. The reason rodents do this is because as soon as a female mouse stops nursing she is ready to mate again. The above picture will help you differentiate what a male and female look like. It's pretty much the same structure with all rodents. Also be ware of a rare thing that happened to me when I was breeding mice. I'm pretty good at determining gender but there was one mouse I just couldn't figure out. I decided it was female and put her in with the other girls. A few weeks later, there were tons of babies. I looked at the strange mouse again and realized it had both sex organs (it was a hermaphrodite). This doesn't happen very often though.



Believe it or not, rats and mice are highly intelligent and can be trained to do all sorts of things. In laboratories, scientists study the effects of positive reinforcement, having rats and mice run through elaborate mazes or learn how to push buttons for a desired outcome such as food dissension. You can use similar methods to teach your pet how to play tiny pianos, ride a tiny skateboard and other fun activities.


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    • GalaxyRat profile image

      GalaxyRat 4 months ago from The Crazy Rat Lady's House

      Exactly... I have 2 wonderful male rats. Intact, but they are brothers. I don't have any females, but may once my current rats pass away. Don't want to think about that, though.

      Hamsters are vicious. My mother had 2 as a child, Smoky and Brownie. Mind you, not at the same time. They were cute and OK, but my mum got so many bites during that time.

      My sister has gerbils currently. Both kind, but very bitey when they want to. Both she and I have gotten deep bites from them.

      I have 2 rats, as does my brother. Cutest and sweetest things ever! Very smart. I let my 2 run around the house for an hour a day, and they go downstairs (really steep stairs) and go to their cages when they are done. Templeton, one of my rats, takes popcorn and stuff from places and hauls them back to his cage. Scabbers isn't as hoard-y.

      Rats (and mice) are pretty good pets. I do feel betrayed when I see a book focusing on mice, and none in rats, because mice are "defenseless and cuter" then those "dirty sewer animals"...

      Rats are my pick.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Interesting review. I have never had rodents as pets, so I have always assumed Hamsters were cute and cuddly. Great hub.

    • profile image

      Ettina 2 years ago

      I've never been bit by a gerbil, and I've found mice can be pretty nippy. But I agree with you about hamsters and rats.

    • red mermaid profile image

      red mermaid 4 years ago

      This hub brings memories of my first pet...a small light brown mouse, they definitely make good children's pets. They are easily housed and cheap to feed, entertaining you for hours.

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 4 years ago from Mason City

      The mice are kind of cute. I've never had any mice or rats as pets, but they sound like they'd make good pets, though. The pictures are really cute! Very interesting and enjoyable to read about mice and rats.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      I'm not a big fan of any of these lovely creatures but somehow, your title drew my curiosity. Having sad that, I'd say you're a good writer because you managed to call my attention and gave me that icky feeling, which is a good sign as a writer--to be able to take your readers' imagination.

      Good job!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      I had small animal pets when I was a child, and I also found the mice and rat were my favorite pets. I had black gerbils, which never bit, but I also have been bitten by hamsters many times. I know rats are very intelligent which contributes toward their usefulness as pets. Thank you for your interesting insights!

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 4 years ago from South of France

      As a child I had a mouse, hamster, gerbil and lastly a rat (called Percy). The mouse was fine, hamster spent most of its life asleep (but looked very cute) and the gerbil was aggressive and went a bit mad. I still feel guilty about that one, but have no idea what I could have done! By far the best pet was the rat, who was infinitely more engaging and fun. Great hub, thanks for reminding me!

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      Hi dcollins. You are right about Hamsters. My daughter had some Russian ones and they were really viscious little B´s when they reached adulthood, and that didn´t take long at all. No one could put their hand in the cage without being savaged.

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

      The gerbils of my childhood were real sweeties . . . never bit, somewhat affectionate.

      I've heard rats are smarter and more fun though.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Oh how I loved this hub ;I have owned many of these over the years but don't at this moment in time.

      I now look forward to so many more by you.


    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Oh, my. I don't think I want a rat or mouse. I have had hamsters and gerbils and they were just fine though somewhat tricky....always wanting to escape.

      However this is an interesting read and maybe others will adopt a mouse or rat because they stopped by.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have never owned any of them, but found this interesting nonetheless.