The Best Small Pet for Your Child

If your child is asking for a pet, there are many different kinds that can make the perfect companion for your child. Before you get one though, there are a few things that you need to consider, first of which is the age of the child.

small-pet-for-your-childBefore the age of 5 or 6, children are not really mature enough to handle the responsibility of having a pet of their own.  Depending on the pet they want, this age could be even higher.  If the child is too young, they may have a hard time not seeing the animal as a toy.  Rough treatment of the animal could result in a bite.

A dog or cat requires a lot of daily care and training so unless your child is much older, this is not a good choice.  Small pets such as guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, fish and turtles can make excellent pets for younger children because they do not usually require extensive care. The younger child can handle the responsibilities with your help until they are in the habit of caring for them on their own.

Before You Choose A Pet For Your Child

  • Keep the temperament of the child and the pet in mind before you purchase one. If your child is super hyper and active an animal that gets nervous easily will not be a good choice.  Take into consideration what temperament the different small animals have when you are deciding what type of animal to purchase for your child.
  • If your child has allergies you will want to look for a small pet that will not aggravate or increase their allergies. Animals that shed skin, feathers and fur can increase a child’s allergy symptoms and make them feel miserable.  Your pediatrician and veterinarian can provide some valuable advice as to the best small animals for a child that has allergies. All animals can be a source of disease if it is not taken care of and proper hand washing is not taught.  If you teach your child how to take care of themselves in terms of hand washing, the chance of diseases being passed on reduces significantly.
  • Make sure you sit down with your child when things are calm and ordinary and talk about the responsibilities of having a small pet of their own. Don’t embellish negatively or positively, but make sure that you give them a fair assessment of what having pets is like and the responsibility that goes along with that.  Talk about the kind of care the animal will require, including the not fun activities like cleaning cages.   You can get books from the library on a few different pets that they show an interest in and let them see what it involves in the way of feeding, water, training, and other care. If they show resistance during the talk, chances are this is not a good pet choice for them no matter how much they may want it.
  • Don’t purposely make having a pet sound like a terrible thing. There is a difference in being honest about the level of care the pet requires and trying to scare them OUT of wanting one. Owning pets can be a truly wonderful experience that, if your child is ready, can lead to a lifelong love of animals.  Make sure that the child knows that the responsibility of the new animal is up to them.   You don’t want to use the animal in a negative fashion or as a reason to punish the child.  If, after a few weeks, the child loses interest in the animal and you find that you are doing the care, sit the child down and explain to them that they are responsible for the pet and if they do not take care of their pet you will find another owner for it.

Popular Small Animal Pets For Kids

We have listed several of the most popular small animals that are great for younger children to have.  We’ve also provided some information about the animal’s temperament, life span and a little bit about the kind of care they require.  We’ve even provided a recommendation as to what age child each pet is good for and all these are low maintenance pets for apartments.  Use this information to help steer you in the right direction when you start shopping for the perfect small pet for your child.

1. Guinea Pigs

guinea-pigsGuinea Pigs are one of the most popular pets for kids and with good reason. They typically have wonderful temperaments, especially if they are handled often and gently, and they are very smart, entertaining little animals with a lot of variety in colors and hair length. They are a terrific choice for children of all ages.

Their life span can be anywhere from five to ten years of age.  Guinea pigs need a lot of exercise and love exploring empty cardboard boxes and tubes. Make sure that whatever space they are exploring is safe for them.  Guinea pigs do not do well with exercise wheels so make sure that you don’t put one in their cage.  Their cage needs to be wire with a solid bottom.  They can use shredded paper bedding or wood chips too.

Feeding a guinea pig is pretty easy.  Their main food is commercial guinea pig pellets that can be purchased anywhere.  They also love fresh vegetables, prairie hay and need a salt lick for extra health benefits.  Fresh water daily is a must and can be provided with a water bottle that attaches to the side of their cage.

2. Hamsters

hamstersHamsters are another popular small animal for children. They don’t have a very long life span which is something to keep in mind if you have a particularly sensitive child that gets attached to things easily.

Hamsters are great for children 8 years old and up since they can bite if they are held or handled too roughly.

Hamsters are nocturnal, which means they spend their nights awake and tend to sleep during the day.  They eat commercial hamster pellets and can be given fresh fruit and vegetables occasionally as well as cheese every so often.  They need fresh water every day and can drink from water bottles that are attached to the side of the cage.

The best housing for a hamster is a hamster cage that has wire sides that can’t be chewed through and a solid bottom.  Hamsters love hamster wheels, tubes and many other types of toys to explore in.  Bedding can be shredded newspaper.   If you purchase two hamsters, you will want to purchase two of the same sex unless you want to breed them. Keep in mind that hamsters can have tons of babies in their short life span.  A hamster pregnancy only takes two weeks.

3. Rabbits

rabbitsRabbits can be amazing little pets that will come when they’re called, can be trained to use a litter box and can even be walked on a leash.

If your child does walk their rabbit on a leash, it is recommended that this not be done out of an enclosed yard.

Other animals could randomly attack so keep a close eye on any walks the rabbit may be doing.  Rabbits can live about five to ten years of age or so and are perfect for children 8 years and older due to the care involved. They do well in rabbit hutches and cages but they need daily cleaning, food, fresh water and exercise to be healthy.

Rabbis come in all sizes, breeds and weights and can weigh as light as 2 pounds and as heavy as 13 pounds.  If you keep your rabbit in a hutch outside, make sure that it is built sturdily and that it has a good, solid enclosure where it can exercise safely.  Rabbits should have solid floors underneath them and will use a little box if one is placed in the bottom of the cage. Just remember to keep it clean.

4. Ferrets

ferretsFerrets are considered exotic pets but they are so loving, cuddly, playful and full of personality that they make excellent pets for children who are 12 years of age and older.

They do require a lot of care and need to be supervised whenever they are let out of their cage.

If a ferret is handled often they become loving, cuddly pets but you should still be careful when strangers are handling them.  Ferrets can eat special ferret food or cat food as well and lots of fresh water.

They can be trained to use a litter box and prefer it to be cleaned so this is a job that will need to be kept up with.   Ferrets love to play with balls, tubes, and many other types of toys and love to investigate their surroundings. A ferret cage should have tons of space and lots of levels and places for the ferret to play, sleep, climb and hide.

5. Chinchillas

chinchillasA chinchilla is another exotic pet that is great for children 10 years old and up. They are so velvety soft that you may just end up sitting and petting it all day. Chinchillas can come in black, charcoal, white and a few other colors as well.

They can live up to 20 years of age when taken care of properly, so be prepared to have this pet around for a long time.  They are very fragile little animals and need to be taken care of and handled gently.

They do very well in 65 to 75 degree temperatures and can live in solid floor, wire cages or hutches.  These beautiful little animals can be very popular and expensive due to the exotic pet label they carry.

6. Fish

fishFish may not be cuddly and furry but kids love fish tanks and they can make excellent first time pets. One type of fish in particular that makes an excellent pet is the Betta fish.

They are brightly colored and have a lot of style in the look of their flowing fins.  They can be red, blue, green, purple and even orange.

Most betas are only about 2 inches long and they can’t be kept with other fish.  Any age child can do well with a Betta fish for a pet.

They can live up to 3 years with excellent care.

A Betta’s fish bowl needs to be kept warm, between 78 degrees and 80 degrees. This may be easier to accomplish with a small tank with a heater or you can just make sure to add warm water periodically as needed. They eat once a day, just a pinch of commercial Betta food and that is it.

7. Turtles

turtlesTurtles can be really popular pets for children who are 8 years old and older. They can live up to 40 years so plan on having them around for a long time. A popular type of turtle to have as a pet is the box turtle.

They have colorful shells but can be really picky when it comes to eating.   The red eared variety tends to not be as fussy and have cool red marks on either side of their head.  Turtles eat insects, fruit, commercial pellets, and earthworms.

They do best in a specialized terrarium that has dry areas, shallow wet areas and rocks for them to perch on.  They don’t require a lot of exercise but can be fascinating for a child to watch. It’s fun to purchase turtles in groups of 2 or 3 but make sure that the terrarium is large enough to house them all and provide all they need easily.

8. Rats

ratsRats are super intelligent animals and despite the wild variety being considered awful, the domestic rats make incredible pets.

They are not very snappy, so getting bitten is not something you would have to constantly worry about if they are being handled properly.

They are also very laid back and like to be handled a lot.   Rats eat rat pellets and love to interact and play with people and toys.  Paper towel rolls are one of their favorite items.

Rats only live 2-3 years and that can be hard on a child, so be certain that they understand that they don’t live years and years like some of the other pets we have listed here.

Rats do well in a cage like a rabbit hutch but need solid bottoms. They love to climb so make sure there are lots of ramps and other interesting things for them to climb on.