Thinking of getting a pet for your kid? You may want to start with something other than a dog or cat.
Pet ownership comes with all sorts of rewards. Animals can bring love and joy into our lives and even contribute to our living longer, healthier lives. They are known for reducing stress and anxiety and for helping millions cope with emotional and physical setbacks through the use of service animals. Children can benefit greatly from pet ownership, too. Recent studies show kids with dogs are calmer and become less worrisome adults. But before getting a dog or cat for your kids, a small starter pet can be a good idea.
Small starter pets can help kids get into the swing of caring for animals and set the tone for eventually dealing with dogs and cats that require more time, care and discipline. It’s also a great way to get them used to having responsibilities and ultimately learning the pride of doing a good job. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at 5 small animals that make excellent house pets for younger children. Of course they’ll need overseeing from an adult, but these pets shouldn’t eat up too much of your time or budget, if you decide to bring one home. That’s why they make great starter pets for kids.
5 Best Pets for Kids
1. Fish Are Good Starter Pets
If you’re considering starting with a fish for reasons of low maintenance, then think about freshwater goldfish. That way you don’t have to mess with saltwater and concern yourself with ph balances. If you want something with character, there are a variety of goldfish beyond Comets. You might want to consider a Fantail, Ryukin, any of the Telescopes or even a Butterfly Tail. Just make sure to allow them to acclimate to water temps before introducing them to bowls and after water changes, and make sure your water doesn’t have high chlorine levels.
2. Rodents Are Good Starter Pets
Small rodents like hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs make wonderful starter pets that children can still stroke and snuggle up to, to a certain extent, without it being a cat or a dog. They can even live in an old aquarium or birdcage lined with cedar chips, if you’re not into buying them a tricked out condo like some of the pet stores sell. Their diet is easy to satisfy, and it’s a great way to get rid of borderline fruits and veggies that you’d otherwise throw away. If you’re not too wigged out by the idea, some people even get pet mice and rats.
3. Rabbits Are Good Starter Pets
Bunny rabbits make good pets if you’ve got a place outdoors for their hutch. They can be kept indoors, too, if need be, but they’re best suited to a little fresh air and the ability to stretch their legs for a daily hop about. You can buy collapsible enclosures at any pet or feed store nowadays and set it up in an area with a little bit of shade and some sunshine and let them get some exercise before returning them to their pens. They’re easy to clean up after, their diet is similar to that of the rodents mentioned above, and kids can hold them.
4. Birds Are Good Starter Pets
There are several types of birds that are well suited to being house pets for kids. You want to start out with something small but not too fragile like a canary or a parakeet. Later on, as your child gains in confidence and responsibility, you can perhaps work your way up to larger birds if avian pets strike a chord with your kids. It’s not a good idea to start with larger birds with stronger beaks made for crushing hearty seeds and nuts, because you don’t want children losing a finger.
5. Terrarium Pets Are Good Starter Pets
Small lizards, turtles or hermit crabs make excellent starter pets and are probably the least maintenance of all of the potential pets on this list. They can still be physically handled, their housing containers are easy to clean, they don’t eat much and they make no noise whatsoever, so they won’t keep you awake at night. They’re also the easiest of pets when it comes time for finding a pet sitter and you don’t have to worry about them reproducing like rabbits or rodents if you get more than one.
Avoid Pets As Impulse Buys
Try and refrain from impulse buys just because an animal is cute. Also, take your child or children’s ages into consideration before purchasing or bringing home any pets. While all these pets are pretty low maintenance, they are still living, breathing creatures that require handling with care. Are your children old enough, calm enough and gentle enough to be around small pets? Will they lose interest in it right away? Or, is there even the remotest possibility that they might be cruel to the pet?
If you’re unsure about any of these things, an ant farm might seriously be a better choice to begin with. One ant farm I think is a great starter pet is the Fascinations AntWorks Ant Farm. It's easy to take care of and really fun for kids to watch.