Why Rats and Mice Make Better Pets Than Hamsters or Gerbils
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.
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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