Are your kids begging you for a pet, but you’re not sure if owning one’s a good idea? Cats and dogs are wonderful companions, but are also a big commitment. Luckily there are plenty of other much smaller pets that could be a lot better suited for your family that aren’t cats or dogs. Knowing what kind of pet to buy can be confusing, especially if you aren’t very familiar with raising pets yourself, or maybe you already have your own fond memories of growing up with pets as a child and want the same experience for your own kids! Well we’ve put together a list of which small pets you should buy and also a couple to definitely avoid.
1. Fish – Recommend!
While fish may not seem like the most exciting of pets to have, they’re actually really great for kids! Watching fish swim can be a really soothing activity and actually help calm some kids down. Since you can’t pet or hug a fish, parents don’t necessarily need to supervise their kids while they interact with this pet. Of course fish do need specific care, like changing their water and cleaning their bowl or tank, so this is something that parents will need to explain and help out with. They also need to be fed fish food regularly and kids might not know how much to give the fish on their own, so parents will need to make sure the fish aren’t being overloaded with food or underfed.
However, with just a little help from parents, kids can enjoy watching their fish and even have fun decorating the fish bowl or tank with things like pebbles, real or fake aquatic plants, or little hideaways for when the fish need a break. While these little guys don’t always live very long, they’re great starter pets and really help kids learn about the responsibility of caring for a living thing. Your kids will likely be ready for a more demanding pet after covering the basics with a fish!
2. Hamsters – Don’t Recommend.
These little puff balls are super cute and are really popular, however, they are not ideal first pets for kids. While there are exceptions, depending on the breed or individual temperament of the hamster, they tend to be scared of humans and often bite. Some can be friendly and enjoy cuddling in their owner’s hands if they’re raised as babies, but more often than not, they aren’t big fans of people and are sold as adults or nearly that. They’re also so small that they run the risk of small children squeezing them or dropping them, which could be very dangerous. They could even get loose and escape into the house, which could be a really stressful situation.
You also have to be careful when choosing their containers and bedding, as they have some specific requirements. They also need something to exercise on, like a wheel. And since they’re nocturnal, they’ll be rustling around at night and running on the wheel which could get noisy and pretty annoying. The temptation to buy a hamster can be pretty strong, as they’re adorable and pretty inexpensive, but they might not be as fun as you expected.
3. Guinea Pig – Recommend!
While being fluffy and cute like many other small pets, guinea pigs are much friendlier and easier to handle than most. They tend to enjoy being held by humans and getting lots of attention. They will even purr or squeak happily when being betted or held by their beloved human, which is absolutely adorable! Guinea pigs are actually pretty smart, and they can even be trained to do tricks and play. They can even complete obstacle courses and play games with toys.
Another great thing about them is that they live for a relatively long time, usually around 5-7 years. This is great, because you can spend lots of time enjoying your pal’s company and won’t have to say goodbye too soon.
While guinea pigs themselves are pretty low maintenance, their cages need to be cleaned regularly and you need to make sure they have fresh food and water. It might be hard to convince a child to keep up on this task and parents run the risk of getting stuck with it, so it would be good to think about how to keep kids motivated to take care of their new pet.
4. Birds – Don’t Recommend.
Colorful and pretty to look at, many kids are fascinated by birds and might want one for themselves, however, they do not make great pets for young children. Birds can be really charming and affectionate to humans, but are very fragile. If they get loose, they can be lost forever and fly out of a window, or fly into something. Since young kids can’t necessarily be trusted to remember to close a bird’s cage securely, there’s a lot of risk of a bird getting out.
Also, like many other small and light creatures, they can be easily mishandled by children. All it takes is being gripped or squeezed too hard to hurt or do worse to a pet bird. And while their chirps and tweets can be really nice to hear, it may get noisy after a while. Some birds even chirp or squawk at night, which can get tiring pretty quickly. Their cages also need to be cleaned very often and even still, the area around a bird’s cage, on the ground and around the walls etc, can get quite dirty.
Birds can be really wonderful pets and companions, but you might want to hold off on purchasing one until your child gets much older.
5. Rats – Recommend!
While small, they are extremely smart and can be very friendly and even affectionate if handled with care. Sometimes rats get a bad reputation for being dirty, but pet rats are actually very clean and take good care of themselves. Their cages can get dirty quickly and need consistent cleaning, but it’s definitely worth it for these little creatures.And while rats make wonderful pets and little companions, they live for just about 1-3 years, so do consider that when making your decision.
Rats usually enjoy being handled and petted by their owners, so it can be really fun and rewarding to play with them. They can recognize different people and might even enjoy sitting on your shoulder or cuddling in your lap. They’re also really fun to feed and look so cute when they’re eating! Check out what kinds of human food rats can and cannot eat first, but they can enjoy a lot of different fresh foods you might have on hand.
Rats are pretty social, so it would be best to get 2 of the same gender to live together, if possible. Just make sure not to put a boy and girl rat together or you run the risk of having many little rat babies on your hands! Also, while rats usually enjoy human attention, make sure that your child handles them properly and doesn’t squeeze them or hold them roughly.
So which pet appealed to you the most? Did some of the recommendations surprise you? Owning a pet is such a rewarding experience that can teach kids a lot of valuable lessons. They can be sources of joy and comfort that you can’t get anywhere else, but we know that it can be tough to know where to start. We hope that you were able to learn more about the different pet options out there and that you were able to find a pet in this list that seems like it might be the best fit for your family!
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