First pet for 12 year old - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 10-15-2008, 11:54 AM
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My niece is 12 years old and her parents are finally willing to let her get her first pet. They asked me for recommendations. I am thinking a gerbil, hamster or guineau pig.



Anyone else have any suggestions or experience with this?
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#2 Old 10-15-2008, 12:19 PM
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I suggest that she go to the humane society and see what they have available. The humane society near me typically has rabbits and guinea pigs.
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#3 Old 10-15-2008, 12:21 PM
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If you're looking for something of the rodent-type variety, I'd have to recommend rats (plural because they do much better in pairs or groups than alone). They're very intelligent and social and are lots of fun



Check and see if there are any rescue groups in your area for whatever type she decides on. The previous mention of the humane society is a good one!
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#4 Old 10-15-2008, 12:54 PM
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I think she should, within reason, decide for herself. I mean, as long as it's not an elephant or a poisonous snake or something.

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#5 Old 10-15-2008, 01:11 PM
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I really agree with Kiz in that she should decide for herself. I'm still traumatized by gerbils I had as a child :\\ And I know if anyone had given me a rat as a child...well, my reaction probably wouldn't have been one of great joy. No offense to rats and rat lovers intended but I'm a bit rodent phobic.

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#6 Old 10-15-2008, 01:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Jon View Post

My niece is 12 years old and her parents are finally willing to let her get her first pet. They asked me for recommendations. I am thinking a gerbil, hamster or guineau pig.



Anyone else have any suggestions or experience with this?



(emphasis mine)





I was under the impression the parents were looking for ideas or suggestions on what would make a good pet to present to the child as ideas. Maybe I was wrong in that assumption?
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#7 Old 10-15-2008, 01:14 PM
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Or maybe she as a secret hamster fetish or something. I had a cat fetish as a kid (guess I still do) but my parents kept giving me birds and fish. They were all very cool and I loved them and all but they just weren't cats!

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#8 Old 10-15-2008, 01:19 PM
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If you're looking for something of the rodent-type variety, I'd have to recommend rats (plural because they do much better in pairs or groups than alone). They're very intelligent and social and are lots of fun



Check and see if there are any rescue groups in your area for whatever type she decides on. The previous mention of the humane society is a good one!



rats are great. fascinating little people, they are.
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#9 Old 10-15-2008, 01:20 PM
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If the 12-year old is going to be the sole caretaker, I would recommend none of the above. If at least one of the parents also wants the pet, and is willing to help out with (and potentially take over completely) the care, and foot the bill (including vet bills), any number of pets could be suitable, as long as they do their homework beforehand and know what they're getting into (ie. cost, care, lifespan). I guess it really depends on what they are looking for. One thing to keep in mind is that some small animals, like rats and guinea pigs, need to live in pairs or groups. Ditto the advice on adopting rather than buying.



Out of the animals you mentioned, I've only had guinea pigs. They're a quite lot of trouble, especially when they have chronic health problems. If a rat or hamster has health problems, it won't be as expensive because they don't live as long. With a guinea pig it can be 8 years of vet bills. But, guinea pigs can be great pets as long as you're prepared.



Good guinea pig info is at www.guinealynx.com and www.guineapigcages.com
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#10 Old 10-15-2008, 01:22 PM
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That is true. If you get rats, guinea pigs etc that is what you are getting. Rats and guinea pigs, not "a rat" or "a guinea pig".



Mice are pretty good pets, too. Just don't get both genders!

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#11 Old 10-15-2008, 01:34 PM
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I'm with Minibean on this one. It really needs to be a family decision with the parents knowing that they're going to be "back up" if the child is unable to care for it properly, and to pay for food/supplies/vet bills. As long as the whole family is on board...



The problem I have with "pocket pets" (hamsters, gerbils, mice, etc..) is their short life span. Also the average person would go get one from a pet store, so I don't know how much influence you have for them to find a rescue, but blah pet stores. Moving up slightly to guinea pigs and rats -- they have slightly better life spans, and might be easier to find rescues. I personally think cats are a great, easy to care for, interactive pet. A young adult cat won't need so much "start up" at the vet -- should come pre-fixed and vaccinated, though of course, this isn't an appropriate pet if it's something the family wants to, say, confine to the child's room. (And there's cat barf and litter boxes, and the possibility of the furniture getting clawed)

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#12 Old 10-15-2008, 01:43 PM
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Guinea pigs make excellent pets, easily handled, easy to feed them from the vege kitchen, they are very hardy as long as you do some research into how to keep them, two together is best and never with rabbits.
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#13 Old 10-15-2008, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Dutchabbey View Post

I really agree with Kiz in that she should decide for herself. I'm still traumatized by gerbils I had as a child :\\ And I know if anyone had given me a rat as a child...well, my reaction probably wouldn't have been one of great joy. No offense to rats and rat lovers intended but I'm a bit rodent phobic.



Why were you traumitized by gerbils?
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#14 Old 10-15-2008, 02:53 PM
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Why were you traumitized by gerbils?



My parents decided to adopt a pair of gerbils that were no longer wanted in a local school. I guess they thought they would be ideal for me to help take care of because I really wanted a pet. I had been thinking kitty but my parents wanted to start smaller to teach me the responsibilities of having an animal.



The two 'females' turned out to be a breeding pair and, within a short period of time, they reproduced. I walked in one day after school to see Mom gerbil consuming one of her babies after having apparently eaten the rest of her litter. That was such a horrible sight, to this day I still shudder when I see one. My rodent phobia probably started that day and wasn't helped by living in NY at the height of their rat problem.

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#15 Old 10-15-2008, 05:37 PM
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This may sound odd, but I'll recommend NOT getting a rabbit if they're looking for something easy. Most people don't realize that bunnies are high maintenance pets, much like cats and dogs.



But I'll definitely recommend going with pets that are available from a local shelter.



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#16 Old 10-15-2008, 05:58 PM
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Pet Rocks. Low maintenance, and they live forever. I still have mine.

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#17 Old 10-16-2008, 01:36 AM
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How about having her volunteer at the local Humane Society or ASPCA? The bonus would be she would get hands-on training and decide what she wants. A pet isn't a decision to be made lightly. The ASPCA takes kids 14 and up and under 14 as long as they paired with a parent or guardian. Also, if she decides on a dog, different breeds have different temperaments and exercise requirements and the parents need to do some research into this and she may meet the kitty or dog of her dreams



There are so many cats and dogs without homes. My mom does lab rescue and its really devastating how many people buy the cute lab puppies (probably from puppy stores) then decide they have too much energy (its a puppy, Einstein) and get rid of them. She has fostered some wonderful dogs, trained them well and placed them into warm and appreciative homes.



At her age, this will be a family responsibility, I agree. Perhaps check into the local rescue organizations for cats and dogs (if she isn't into rodents). Generally they want experienced people to foster but you never know. I still think the ASPCA Or Humane Society volunteering would be a good idea. She is at a good age for a pet, not too young.



My family has a good amt of experience with rescue, breeds,and breed temperaments if you have any questions. Particularly good, lower maintenance dogs who are known to be excellent with children are newfoundlands- they call them the gentle giants for a reason. And they aren't super high energy. They do drool,but I consider it part of their charm and newfy rescue groups abound!
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#18 Old 10-16-2008, 01:50 AM
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Oh and if she does decide on a dog or cat and doesn't find the one for her at one shelter, Petfinder.org has links to all the local shelters and she can browse online. They will tell you if the cat or dog is good with kids, other pets, if they are trained, etc. Bonus is they have all their shots and are usually spayed/neutered so as not to breed more unwanted animals.
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#19 Old 10-16-2008, 06:53 AM
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I wrote out a long reply, that didn't post with pros and cons of certain animals. However, ultimately summed up it looked a bit like:



Ok choices:

Rats



Good choices:

Silkie chicken

Rabbit

Hamster

Cavy



Poor choices:

Gerbil

Reptile or amphibian

fish

Hedgehog





Favorite choice:

Silkie chicken, kept single or in a pair in an appropriately sized enclosure, indoors.



I you have any questions on why I ranked the way I did, just ask . I actually love ALL the listed animals, and have shared my life with all of them. I wanted to say rat, as I have 4 furry boys at home now, however, I think they are friendly, affectionate, cuddly, but not great as a first pet, and they require SO MUCH vet care.
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#20 Old 10-17-2008, 05:09 AM
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I think that the parents of that 12 year old should think long and hard about what kind of pet they themselves would like to have. The 12 year old won't be 12 for long...she'll be going off to college/university..not places known for tolerance towards companion animals. A lot of places require freshmen to live in a dorm...dorms that permit animals are likely extremely rare. I've never even heard of one. If she can decide to live off campus, she will be faced with trying to find housing in a college town which is hard enough when you don't have to add in finding a place that will permit animals and THEN there are the pet rents and pet deposits to think about. Not something a college student can generally easily afford.



I know this first hand because that's what I faced when I went to university...I had a cat and I didn't even have a choice about leaving her with my parents. She had to come with me. She was my cat and I loved her and thought it all worth it, but it WAS a lot of trouble and cost a lot of money. I was one of the very few people I knew who had even bothered to bring her animal companion....most of them got left at home with the parents.



So, what kind of pet would the parents like?
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#21 Old 10-17-2008, 08:25 AM
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Her parents have forbade her getting a cat or dog.



They have basically told her some type of small rodent.



Thanks for all the advice everyone.
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#22 Old 10-17-2008, 08:30 AM
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^^ sensible parents- puppies and kittens are cute and appealing when they're small, but walking the dog twice a day can get old really fast, and taking a middle aged cat to uni is a challenge most 12 year olds haven't considered.
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#23 Old 10-17-2008, 11:17 AM
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I just hope they understand that taking good care of a small rodent will be every bit as much trouble as taking care of a cat or dog, and quite possibly more, depending on what type of animal they end up with.
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#24 Old 10-17-2008, 11:45 AM
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I just hope they understand that taking good care of a small rodent will be every bit as much trouble as taking care of a cat or dog, and quite possibly more, depending on what type of animal they end up with.



This. My rats are SOOO much more expensive in terms of vet bills, and they require a lot of specialized care. On of my ratboys was rescued ill. Over the course of the 6-7 months he was alive I spent over 300$ treating his illnesses before finally having to have him euthanized. One ather rat, still with me, has cost over 150$ and he just turned one year old on October first. Overall, over this last year I have spent over 500$ on vet care between 3 rats alone. That is not counting the 100-150 dollars for food, 150 dollars on housing, 50 dollars on bedding, 100 dollars on other supplies, 50 dollars in adoption fees. And I did not just start out with rats this year, I already had many things they would need. Plus they require an enormous amount of attention and high level of care. Small pets does not equal less money or less reponsability. So many small animals are "cheap" to buy and live unhappy lives in cramped quarters with insufficent care. I am not saying this is going to be the situation in this case, just make sure they know that small animals are ALOT of work, just like any other species, and in some cases, even more work and more expensive than a cat or dog.
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#25 Old 10-18-2008, 06:47 AM
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This. My rats are SOOO much more expensive in terms of vet bills, and they require a lot of specialized care. ....... just make sure they know that small animals are ALOT of work, just like any other species, and in some cases, even more work and more expensive than a cat or dog.



I only wish that were true in my case....I spent over $2,500 in vet bills in the month of August for my two dogs. I have no idea how much I spend on food as they eat a lot of the same food I do....and I'm fairly certain they eat more than a rat. Even if they have a perfectly healthy year, just keeping up with required vaccinations can be rather expensive. Are rats required by law to have vaccinations? Also, dogs live longer, and therefore, have more time to accrue large vet bills. Over 15 years or so (the average life span for the breed of dog I have), even small vet bills add up to a large number. I'm not saying rats are cheap to maintain, but please don't say that they are so much more expensive than a dog or a cat unless you have actual numbers to back it up.



I think that one of the reasons the parents might be wanting a "rodent" (how I hate that word) of some sort might be simply that they don't have as long of a life span. Less commitment (in that way) for them and the 12 year old who will be going off on her own life soon (though probably not within the lifespan of a rat). I hope they choose to rescue a rat and not purchase one.
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#26 Old 10-18-2008, 11:07 AM
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I only wish that were true in my case....I spent over $2,500 in vet bills in the month of August for my two dogs. I have no idea how much I spend on food as they eat a lot of the same food I do....and I'm fairly certain they eat more than a rat. Even if they have a perfectly healthy year, just keeping up with required vaccinations can be rather expensive. Are rats required by law to have vaccinations? Also, dogs live longer, and therefore, have more time to accrue large vet bills. Over 15 years or so (the average life span for the breed of dog I have), even small vet bills add up to a large number. I'm not saying rats are cheap to maintain, but please don't say that they are so much more expensive than a dog or a cat unless you have actual numbers to back it up.



I think that one of the reasons the parents might be wanting a "rodent" (how I hate that word) of some sort might be simply that they don't have as long of a life span. Less commitment (in that way) for them and the 12 year old who will be going off on her own life soon (though probably not within the lifespan of a rat). I hope they choose to rescue a rat and not purchase one.



I also have a dog, and a cat. I know the vet bills for that, however, I was getting discounts for my rescue rats (15%) on the vet bills, and my vet would often write up prescriptions for me without exams if he had already seen the animal. I have the actual numbers to back it up . My rats, should I have not gotten discounts, and had a vet that works with me so closely would max out at over 1000 without question. That is only for the treatment of two of my boys. All of my boys also require neuters, which are over 100$ a peice (cheaper than a dog neuter, but still, for five of my boys(now 4 boys), that would have been over 500$ for surgery fees alone. Not counting pre exam fees (all rats need to be examined an cleared prior to surgery because of the prevalance of lung issues) or pain medications post op. I would have been spending another 500$ at least on that. Many specialized exotics vets cost much more than this. An exam fee alone at my boyfriends vet is 100$. I lucked in with my vet. A neuter is over 300$ there. My dog, currently though she is young, has cost a grand total of 270$, that is including all her vet visits, vaccinations, and treatment for a prolapsed rectum. When she gets her spay, that will be another 200$. I wont have to get her vaccinated again until next year, and she wont have to see the vet unless she becomes ill or injured. My cat is nine years old. I have spent a grand total of 500$, at the MOST over her entire lifetime on vet bills.Including her spay. Rats require treatment from specialized vets, they have more delicate surgery procedures, and are due to their heritage as lab test animals, have a high incidence of illness. It is estimated that 90% or more female rats will have cancer, though the number is lower for males. In terms of food, you can NOT just go to your local petstore and buy ratfood. I can think of none that I would give my animal to eat. Giving something "small animal mix" is te equivelent of feeding people "primate mix". I have to order in special food for my rats, and the shipping alone for the 35 pound bag is huge. There are few places you can buy it, and if you bought from the company direct, you would have to spend over 1000$!! My rats may only live a short time, and they may not require vaccinations, but they are VERY expensive. So yes, in my experience as I stated "my rats are SOOO much more expensive in terms of vet bills" is true, for me atleast. I never said rats are always more expensive, however, in my case they absolutely are.



Parents often want rodents because they do not see them the same as a dog or a cat, not just in terms of lifespan. I know, growing up in an animal loving home, my parents just did not think "hamster is sick, we have to take it to the vet". It was a rodent, and veiwed differently in terms of care. They are so often veiwed as throw away pets.I am not saying that is the case here AT ALL. I am just saying, in my expereince this is what I have encountered.
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#27 Old 10-18-2008, 01:18 PM
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I wouldn't recommend gerbils as a first pet. They tend to bite if not used to human interaction all the time.



Hamsters, maybe. A Syrian (teddy bear, black bear, etc) would be best because they live alone and don't NEED a lot of stimulation, so if the kid gets "bored" with it or something, it will pretty much still be ok.



Honestly, I think taking care of a rodent has more responsibility than taking care of say, a cat.



On the other hand, one thing to think about is that rodents typically don't live that long. If the kid got a hamster it would probably be dead by the time the kid was 15.



I would adopt a cat. Lots of cats need adopting, young and old.
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#28 Old 10-18-2008, 02:45 PM
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Noodle's estimated vet care not including surgeries (he's 11 and I don't want to list every single thing) $1,000. Neutered including pre-op blood work and meds: $400. Eye surgery including pre-op blood work: $150. First knee surgery including pre-op blood work: $3,500. Second knee surgery including pre-op blood work, emergency visit, emergency meds: $4,000. Dentals, including teeth extractions, x-rays, pre-op blod work: $4,500. Vaccinations: $1,100. Food? Toys? Bedding? Meds that didn't involve vet visits? I can't even begin to estimate. Not to mention that he has bad arthritis that practically immobilizes him in the winter...I know that this winter just having electric heat pads available 24/7 and daily doses of glucosamine are not going to cut it. And he is a healthy dog. Both knee surgeries were due to him thinking he can fly and then landing wrong (not congenital). A dog with health problems would cost a lot more.



Cookie? She's far younger at 4 years, but she has had knee surgery on BOTH knees THREE times. She's also been spayed, had numerous dentals, teeth extractions, undergone treatment for a failing liver, faulty kidneys, and has had to have extensive post-op care after each knee surgery...involving daily vet visits stretching over weeks each time. Let's not forget the pre-op blood work before each and every surgery and dental. I'm too frightened to even imagine what her estimated medical costs would be. She's NOT a healthy dog by birth or genetically, but she's doing pretty good now. Actually, after her last round of knee surgeries, the vets warned me that there was nothing left to work with and she would not be walking in her old age. In fact, they weren't sure she would be able to walk again (without a lot of pain for a while, and then at all). I bought her one of those doggy wheelchairs, but thankfully, she came through all right and is still quite active on her own. When she has been going for a while though, I can see a difference in how she moves and I know that she is in pain, so I can only hope she'll be walking for a couple more years at least.



Oh yeah, and you cannot just go to a pet store and buy dog food and expect your dog to be healthy eating just that. Just like rats, you need to make the extra effort. (I didn't even know they made rat food...I thought if people wanted to feed them healthy, they had to make the food themselves and provide lots of fresh produce and the like.)



Again, I think that because dogs and cats can live longer, they can accrue a lot higher vet bill total. Rats, no matter how well they are cared for, simply don't live as long. And while dogs and cats may not have as much of a history as lab animals, their rates of cancer and other diseases due to inbreeding and overbreeding and just plain poor diet are just as frightening.



I think we can agree, though, that EXTENSIVE research should be done on any animal before getting one to be sure one really understands the costs involved and can make a proper commitment to the care and treatment of that animal. Really, I think some kind of contract should be signed and one should attend classes to get a license to have an animal. Of course, I think the same thing of people who are thinking of having a child.
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#29 Old 10-18-2008, 04:35 PM
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DMZdogs, like I said, I have rats, a cat and a dog. The point being, rats are prone to serious illness. It is not a savings to get a rodent, it really, really isn't which was what I was trying to get across without getting into specific incidences. Personally, for me, my rats have cost more. Having hamsters, and gerbils I did not find the same kind of medical issues. I am not reccomending they get a dog or a cat, I am just saying getting a rodent is not a way to save money. They need vet care, some species more than others, and it is harder to locate a vet, they are more prone to illness and vet fees can be quite a bit more expensive if not on par with that of a cat or dog. Lochlan (RIP) almost had to get a 475$ femoral head ostectomy. This is on par with what one would expect to spend on say, a great dane for the same operation at that clinic. And I find that good quality dog food is much easier to come across. I hate waiting weeks for my shipment to come in. Rats need a very specialized diet to be healthy. They suffer with diabetes, fatty liver, heart failure, cancer and respatory illness much more frequently than other animals.



This isn't a who pays more for their pets issue. Its the issue of rodents, expecially rats not being a cheap animal to care for. You might decide to go the the nearest petstore and pay 5$ on a whim for a cute little rat, and end up with a mess of medical bills.
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#30 Old 10-18-2008, 07:37 PM
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Unfortunately, I think it's safe to say that the type of people who will purchase a "cheap" rat for $5 are not the type who are going to spend time finding a specialist vet or pay for treatment. So for them, it IS a cheap rat...and easily replaced when dead.



Perhaps the girl's parents could give her a choice of "rodents" they approve of and then have the girl research each one she likes, and present a final research paper on the animal of her choice. Such research should include information gleaned from specialty forums and websites on the internet and not the average "pet care" book found at a local library. For instance, the House Rabbit Society at www.rabbit.org . I used to know a great guinea pig one...but either it's no longer around or my google search wasn't enough to prompt my memory. I'm sure you could suggest good sites for rats. Perhaps these site addresses could be passed along to the girl to help her in her decision?
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