Caring for pets is a great way for kids to learn responsibility and grow emotional intelligence. From filling water bowls to learning about gentle touches, even the youngest children can be involved with pet care. Older kids can clean cages, exercise with pets, and even take part in obedience training. Regular positive interactions between animals and kids develop loving bonds that are irreplaceable.
All pets require regular care, feeding, and cleaning. In the best-case scenarios, the whole family is involved in taking care of pets. In reality, much like other household chores, adults provide most of the care, so it’s important to balance the overwhelming cuteness of small animals with the logistics of owning a pet.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Pet
Some families jump to getting a dog or cat as a first pet, especially when adults had these animals in their younger years. Others prefer more low-maintenance options for a child’s first pet. If you’re wondering what type of pet is right for your family, here are some things to think about:
- Time availability: Can you give a few minutes a day or a few hours to care for a pet?
- Interaction: Do you want a best pal to cuddle with or take walks? Or would you prefer a pet that needs less interaction to thrive?
- Age of children: Are the kids in your family old enough to share responsibility for a pet? Can they safely play with a pet or is supervision required at all times?
- Cost: How much flexibility do you have in your finances for equipment like cages, food, and regular veterinary care?
Low(er) Maintenance Pets
If you’re looking for a pet that’s relatively easy to care for, consider these options:
- Fish: Bettas, goldfish, and tetras are terrific first pets. They can live in smaller-sized aquariums, come in a variety of colors, and require minimal upkeep.
- Rats: These social and playful pets are inexpensive and easy to care for. For many kids, it’s a bonus when parents are a little freaked out having a rodent in the house!
- Guinea pigs: These quirky little animals recognize their owners, can learn tricks, primarily eat grass, and take naps throughout the day. They live for 5-7 years and do best in pairs.
- Bearded dragons: Quiet and mellow, these lizards are active during the day and like to interact by waving their arms. They do require their enclosures to be temperature controlled and need to be soaked in water a couple times a week to shed their skins. These unique pets can live 10-15 years.
A Few Words of Caution
Pocket pets like mice, hamsters, and gerbils are actually not great choices for young children. They are afraid of humans, require a surprising amount of care, and are most often active at night. Small children might squeeze these tiny pets too hard or let them escape.
Iguanas, snakes, turtles should also be considered with caution. They are not cuddly or affectionate, need large enclosures, and require particular diets of worms, insects, or small mice. These reptiles are better left to experienced pet owners. If you do have the time, dogs and cats are often the most child-friendly pets to bring into your home.
If you’re thinking about adding a pet of the dog or cat variety to your family, connect with the staff at Bowman Animal Hospital to talk through preparing your home and your kids for a new arrival or to schedule a wellness visit.