8 Best Pets for Kids
Learn how to choose the right pet for your child or children.
Choosing the Best Pets for Kids
Owning a pet can be a rewarding experience for a child. A well-chosen pet can bring years of joy, and given the realities of caring for a living creature, pet ownership can provide opportunities for valuable life lessons. With parents’ guidance, pets can teach children about responsibility and dependability. As an added bonus, some pets give affection in return for a child’s loving attention.
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A well-chosen fish may be the perfect “starter” pet for a child. But not just any fish will do. Goldfish may seem like the most obvious choice, but they are actually more difficult to raise than our all-time Easiest Pet to Own winner: the Siamese Fighting Fish (or Betta). These Southeast Asian natives are adapted to thrive in isolation, in surprisingly small amounts of stagnant water; no aerators, filters, heaters, or chemicals required.
The appeal of cold-blooded creatures may be less obvious than that of warm, fuzzy animals, but certain reptiles make prized pets. Tortoises, such as the plant-eating Russian tortoise, can live more than 50 years. Small color-changing anoles (native lizards often misidentified as chameleons) also make interesting and educational pets, but they require live crickets and other insects as food. Some snake species also make excellent pets, although constrictors should be avoided. Added bonus: reptiles are non-allergenic.
Birds can be excellent pets, but owning a bird is more demanding than caring for a tortoise or fish. Some birds are highly intelligent, while others are highly social; all birds require near-daily attention. For children new to raising birds, the relatively inexpensive parakeet may be a good starter species. More expensive (and more intelligent) birds like cockatiels and cockatoos also make excellent pets, although they may require more attention than parakeets or canaries.
Smaller mammals, including hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils, are relatively easy to raise. Most will thrive in a relatively small living space, and require fairly rudimentary care. Except for hamsters, which are solitary, it’s best to obtain young same-sex pairs. Regular, gentle handling promotes friendliness, but bites are possible should rodents feel threatened (especially hamsters). Surprisingly, rats make excellent pets due to their intelligence, larger size, and enjoyment of human companionship. Guinea pigs are also excellent kid-friendly pets.
Kittens are child favorites. Who can resist the antics of a fluffy feline? Notoriously independent, cats require somewhat less care and attention than dogs, but no less commitment. Like dogs, cats require regular veterinary checkups and immunizations. A cat may be a better choice than a dog for families with limited living space. Best breeds for children include: Abyssinian (considered friendly and sociable), American Shorthair (known for getting along with dogs), Burmese (affectionate and gentle) and Birman (deemed easygoing).
There’s no more classic children’s pet than a cuddly puppy. But choosing the ideal dog involves more than falling for big brown eyes. Some breeds may be unsuitable for children, while any breed will require a significant time and effort commitment. Puppies must be house broken and require daily exercise, regular veterinary checkups and immunizations, and plenty of affection. All dogs are individuals, but as a rule, kid-friendly breeds include: Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, and Australian Cattle Dogs.
Insects & Arthropods
Six-legged creatures seldom come to mind when thinking of pets for children, but owning an“ant farm” can be an entertaining and educational experience for a child. Various suppliers market habitats designed for maximum convenience and direct observation of ant activities. Ants can be shipped live or grown from eggs. Hermit crabs are another example of creepy crawlies that are readily raised incaptivity.
Perhaps better known as “sea monkeys” these tiny crustaceans are essentially fool-proof starter pets that even small children can enjoy. Readily available in kits, children need only add water and watch these tiny live shrimp emerge, become active, and grow. Maintenance for these hardy creatures involves adding feedabout once a week, and some occasional additional water to combat evaporation. With minimal care, a colony can thrive for a year or more.
Caring for a Pet
Caring for a pet can be a positive experience for children, providing memorable hours of companionship, entertainment, and educational opportunities. But pet ownership is also serious business. Pets are living creatures that require regular care and attention, and their maintenance invariably involves an ongoing financial commitment. Children may require adult supervision when interacting with some pets, but pets are capable of providing useful lessons about self-restraint, selflessness, and responsibility.