Best Pet Rodents For Small Children

When seeking a pet for the family, there are far more options than just the standard cat and dog. Like rodents, other such pets are inexpensive, easier to care for, and have shorter life spans (so are slightly less commitment.) However, the type of rodent you get with young kids in the family is important.

To help you decide which small fur-ball is most ideal for you and your family, this article is chock full of all the information on all kinds of pet rodents. You might be surprised to learn just how different rodents like hamsters and guinea pigs are for being a part of the same rodent family.

Deciding Which Pet Rodent is Right for You and Your Family

When picking out the pet that’s right for your family, be sure to keep in mind your home environment, your child’s temperament, and the amount of time and energy you and your family can devote to your new rodent friend.

Various Pet Rodents

Keep in mind all rodents are not alike. They each pose unique temperaments and needs for optimal survival and happiness, not unlike human beings. The most important thing to consider is how a new pet will fit into your family’s lifestyle, and being sure you and your child can take the time necessary to care for a pet (even a small one like a rodent.)

Some rodents have been domesticated longer than others (hamsters and guinea pigs, for example), some rodents are nocturnal while others are active during the day, and some rodents thrive better in solidary habitats while others thrive in pairs or larger groups.

All of this is crucial to understand before investing in a pet rodent to ensure they thrive in your family environment.

Why do Rodents Make Good Pets?

Rodents make good pets, especially for young children, because they are typically easier to care for than larger animals like cats and dogs, requiring ample attention and maintenance.

Rodents generally live in cages or habitats, sometimes referred to as pens or hutches. Ideally, though, your pet rodent will spend less time in its cage and more time spent outside their little habitat with their human family!

Choosing and having a rodent as a pet is a far less expensive endeavor than a larger animal, and though they require less time and attention than that of a dog, they still do require love and attention all the same. Because rodents are social, they make excellent companions for their human family members.

Things to Be Aware of When it Comes to Rodents in General

Mice Food

Rodents typically live shorter lives than larger animals, though some (like guinea pigs) have been known to live up to 10 years old. Educating yourself on your potential new rodent pet’s life span is important, especially when you have young children, as the death of a pet is a tricky event to tackle with kids.

Also, providing the correct form of habitat for your pet rodent is critical to their happiness and overall survival. Do not purchase a mouse cage for a guinea pig, for example, as they will not thrive and will likely act out in protest of their inadequate habitat.

Another thing you should know about rodents is many of them love to chew things. Be sure to provide chew toys in their habitats so that they are less likely to munch on your valuables. You should also always supervise your pet rodents when they are roaming free throughout your house so that you don’t find your shoes have holes in them.

Rodents have varying dietary requirements. Some only require grain feeds. Others require actual vegetables and other such forms of vitamins. Be sure to note the differences in dietary needs to consider whether a rodent is a too high maintenance for your child.

Likewise, consider the unique special care involved for hairless rodents, as some are prone to skin rashes and require additional care.

The Best Pet Rodents for Small Children

The best pet rodents for small children are ones with gentle temperaments, are generally low maintenance, and have a long enough life span for your child to create a bond with, but not so long as to outlive a dog. Guinea pigs and mice are some of the top-ranking pet rodents for small children, alongside the following list of other small pet rodents.


Hamster Eating

One of the more common rodents that make excellent pets for children is the hamster. Hamsters are easily trainable and adorable to look at. Their fluffy round bodies and their squishy little cheeks draw children, not to mention their miniature circular treadmills!

Hamsters are usually about six inches in length. You would think they’d enjoy being coupled up; however, hamsters are solitary animals that prefer to be housed by themselves. If you do a couple of hamsters, they may fight one another.


There are a few important things to know about hamsters’ temperaments. Some hamsters can be aggressive and nip. Smaller breed female hamsters tend to show more antagonistic tendencies. To avoid this problem, it is best to buy a larger breed of male hamsters. Syrian hamsters, for example, adapt more easily to being held and handled.

Since there is the potential that a hamster may bite, it can be a difficult rodent to handle for a smaller child. However, if your child has their heart set on one of these little fluff balls, be sure to supervise their interactions with the hamsters. Young children themselves can be accidentally aggressive toward animals, unaware of how firm their touch is, etc.

Deciding if a Hamster is Right for your Child

To make sure your hamster is the happiest it can be (and less likely to nip at your child), be sure to provide them with a roomy habitat with lots of tunnels and nesting spots for sleep. At a minimum, their cage should be 12” by 18”. However, the larger, the better for a content hamster. Their cage should also be regularly cleaned, so the pet and its safe heaven are hygienic.

If your child is not gentle by nature and is more rambunctious and wiley, a hamster may not be the right choice, as this kind of energy may further exacerbate any aggressive tendencies this type of rodent may have.

Likewise, if you think your child may lose interest rather quickly, a hamster may not be the right pet. They need attention, stimulation, and need their space cleaned often. If it is an agonizing process trying to get your child to clean and feed the hamster every day, it may be better to hold off.

Life Span

Hamsters only live to 1-3 years. This is good news if you think keeping your child’s interest in caring for a living being will be difficult to hold. This is bad news if the death of a beloved pet will ultimately be quite traumatizing.

The death of pets, however, can be a good opportunity to learn about life. While the loss is painful, and if your child has never lost a family member or friend, the first death they experience will be confusing and painful. Yet, it is a very real part of life. When you bring home a pet with a short life expectancy, it is inevitable that you’ll have to teach them everything eventually passes on, and that is okay.

Guinea Pigs

When most adults think of guinea pigs, they often think fondly of their class pet or mascot, which would take turns being cared for by fellow classmates. Why were guinea pigs such a common choice of classroom mascot? That’s because guinea pigs are slightly larger, thus easier to handle and have a gentle temperament.


Pair of guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are from the same rodent family as hamsters. However, their temperaments are near night and day. Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs are typically gentle and amiable. They love social interaction, which is why they can be housed in a classroom full of little humans and not be traumatized, and they are unlikely to nip. Also, unlike hamsters, guinea pigs thrive in pairs or groups.

Guinea pigs can sometimes be vocal, more so than most rodents. Their distinctive chatter can be cute but can also be somewhat annoying if they begin chittering incessantly while your child is sleeping or trying to do some homework.

Deciding if a Guinea Pig is Right for your Child

Because guinea pigs are social rodents, you might consider getting more than one so that your guinea pig isn’t sad and lonely. Some children become obsessed with their small pets and never lose interest. However, for those children that quickly move on to the next best thing, a guinea pig may not be the ideal pet, as they need lots of love and attention.

This rodent type is ideal for the child who is eager to have a pet to snuggle because if they are handled properly, guinea pigs do not mind being held and snuggled by little people. They also live longer than hamsters, so they will provide more pet love for longer.

Guinea pigs require regular exercise and should be let out of their habitat often. Let your guinea pig roam outside while supervised.

Guinea pigs also have much larger appetites than that of a hamster and will require more food (hay and vegetables.) Like hamsters, their habitats need regular cleaning, and guinea pigs also enjoy crawl spaces and hideaways, so be sure to create a cage that is cozy and stimulating. Their cages should be no less than 4 square feet, especially if they aren’t able to roam outside their cage.

Life Span

Guinea pigs typically live for about 5-7 years (some have even lived for 10 years). This makes a guinea pig a little more of a commitment than its hamster counterpart. For this reason, you want to be sure this is a pet your child will care for their whole life span.

Since too many pets get relinquished by uninterested children, you want to guarantee this little furry creature has a home in your household till the end of its little days.

The plus side to a longer lifespan is that your child can make a deeper, longer connection with their pet, continue learning and practicing responsibility, and better understand death once the time does come for their guinea pig.



Another excellent pet rodent is the gerbil. They are similar in size to hamsters but are much easier to take care of. They are also far more social creatures. However, it should be noted that while gerbils can make great pets, they are not actually legal to own in every state in the U.S. Gerbils are illegal in the states of Hawaii and California.


Gerbils are little social guys who prefer to be housed in couples or groups. They are not solitary like hamsters. Likewise, gerbils are much gentler and far more active than hamsters. While gerbils are typically easy to care for, they are fewer hands-on than other rodents, like guinea pigs.

Deciding if a Gerbil is Right for your Child

If your child is looking for a pet to snuggle and play with, a gerbil may not be ideal. While they are social with their own kind, they are less engaging with humans. They aren’t typically aggressive, but they don’t typically allow you to hold them for long. Keep in mind that they are fast and tend to escape.

Since gerbils are so fast and active, they can often run away and need to be supervised at all times when outside of their habitat. Likewise, they require a fair amount of stimulation and exercise; thus, they should have plenty of toys and wheels in their cage to keep them active.

Gerbils’ dietary needs are like those of hamsters and rats, meaning they eat pellets and seed mixtures. Gerbils are sensitive to their environments and can become depressed if not given enough stimulation and exercise. They also tend toward respiratory illness in humid climates, which make them not an ideal pet if you live in the American south, like Georgia or Tennessee.

Life Span

Like hamsters, gerbils typically live between 2-3 years. You can help extend their life span by feeding them properly, regularly cleaning their cages, and giving them ample amounts of exercise and playtime.


Rat with books

Some people are reluctant to bring a rat into their home because people typically associate them with being dirty and spreading illnesses. While this is true of large back-alley city rats, this is not as true for small pet rats.


It may surprise you to know rats thrive in groups, especially same-sex pairs. Due to their larger size, they are much easier to handle and are not prone to aggression, and thus are not likely to bite. Rats are also very emotional and social and tend to make strong, loyal bonds with their human family members.

Rats do require larger cages to thrive and must be let out to roam and spend time with their human owners since they grow to be strongly bonded to them. Rats are by far one of the best rodents to own for children for this very reason that they will develop a connection with your child.

Additionally, rats are easy and fun to train! They are calm and gentle but love being taught new tricks. Your child can teach their pet rat to run through mazes and to retrieve objects. Because rats are so smart, they do require a lot of stimulation and play.

You will need to provide your pet rat with lots of toys and objects to interreact with, as well as ample amounts of time to roam and explore.

Life Span

Like gerbils and hamsters, rats only live to be about 2-3 years old. This is one of the downsides of owning a rat, especially because they provide such deep connections; it can be a difficult loss for children – this is something to consider before bringing a pet rat home.


Child cuddling a rabbit

If you are looking for a pet that is not as small (and not as ‘rodent’ looking), a rabbit is an excellent option. They are good with children and typically make great pets.


Rabbits are social and do well with younger children when supervised. Like dogs and cats, rabbits need to be spayed and neutered to control their bathroom behavior and temperament.

Generally, larger breeds of rabbits are very gentle and affectionate. However, if not spayed or neutered, they can be somewhat aggressive and bite. Rabbits have a much bigger and more painful bite than other rodents, like hamsters.

Rabbits are bigger, thus require bigger space. Often people opt for a hutch or pen as opposed to an actual cage. Rabbits have unique bathroom behavior as well… they tend to eat while they go potty! Be sure to provide fresh food regularly near their bathroom area, as well as being sure to clean their pen regularly.

Life Span

Rabbits typically live for anywhere between 8 to 12 years – longer than any other type of rodent. For this reason, you should be very certain your rabbit will remain with your family for their entire lifespan. Often rabbits are relinquished because their human family members get bored or don’t anticipate having them that long.

This type of animal is ideal for young children if you want them to experience having a pet for a long duration of time.

The Key Take Away

Rodents are an excellent choice of pet for smaller children. There’s a variety to choose from, and being knowledgeable about each animal species helps to prevent upset expectations, which can lead to pet relinquishment.

Armed with all the proper information, you can now make an educated decision as to which rodent to bring to your home as a little furry family member!

Temperament, life span, and maintenance level are the key things to consider when looking for pets for young children. Evaluate the amount of time your family can devote to a pet and whether the death of a pet every 1-3 years is manageable or too upsetting. Generally, rats and guinea pigs make the best rodent pets for young children!

Lee Cameron

When I was younger, I had guinea pigs and hamsters as pets. There was limited information back then as to how to take care of rodents, and indeed information on the various types of rodents that could be kept as pets. In this website, I hope to make it an easy, one-stop information portal on raising rodents!

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