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Imagine a child’s first pet — something to call their own that’s easy to talk to, play with, and be their best friend. If you thought of a dog or cat, try again: A rat is a kid’s perfect companion.

A Santa Barbara–based website called RightPet, which provides care tips and detailed reviews of animal breeds and products, conducted a pet ownership survey from 2010 to 2018 across 113 countries. Based on 5,510 reviews from people who own or have owned pets at ages 10-17, rats provided more satisfaction than any other animal. Unlike cats or dogs, age was negatively related to satisfaction with rats, meaning their desirability decreased as kids got older.

Because rats are more intelligent than other small critters, like guinea pigs or hamsters, they are more fun to play with, said RightPet editor Brett Hodges. They don’t require a lot of attention or space, and they have personalities that children can bond with. Beyond these attributes, “There is a psychological component where kids 10-12 years old don’t want their parents telling them what to do,” Hodges said. “Kids love rats because it shocks their parents.” Hodges remembered his own rat, Tarzan, fondly.

Before conducting the study, Hodges would have guessed a dog or cat to be the preferred pet among youth, but seeing the results made complete sense, he said. “Dogs and cats are family pets, so kids wouldn’t say: ‘This is my animal.’” A rat allows children to own something that is theirs and theirs alone.

The RightPet survey revealed other interesting findings, including that larger dogs are generally preferred over smaller breeds, that moody or anxious men don’t care much for cats, and that the least popular pets are geese and scorpions. The study is intended to reflect broad psychological preferences across the pet owner spectrum, and the results alone shouldn’t predict what pets are right for you, Hodges said. Do your research at


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