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Which Pets are Best for Children?

child-with-guinea-pigKeeping pets is an excellent way for children to learn about responsibility, as well as helping them to develop a kind and caring attitude towards animals. 

Not all animals are suitable pets for children and it is often advisable to get a small pet to begin with and nothing too exotic!

Big or Small?

A good idea is to go for something that is low maintenance such as rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils or mice.  These pets are generally cheap to keep and are also entertaining.  Hamsters are also good although they do tend to sleep during the day and come out at night.

All the above make good pets provided you keep them clean, fed and watered and will be great fun.  You still need to do your research though and ensure you know if the any outside pets need special winter care eg somewhere warm and sheltered to put them when it is frosty.  Food and bedding are relatively cheap too.

Children often show a particular interest in a specific animal although elephants don’t count!  They are more likely to want something cute and cuddly.  It’s advisable to steer clear of reptiles unless you research them first and are prepared to by the necessary tank, equipment and live food!

Although cats are an option, many rescue centres do not allow kittens to go to homes with young children because a toddler’s loving hug might just be a little too hard for a tiny kitten.  Likewise, an older cat may not be used to children and if the cat feels threatened it may protect itself with a claw.

If you are considering a dog, make sure that an adult is present when young children are around a dog or puppy.  Large dogs can often cope with toddler rough-and-tumble games but a large, excited dog can easily bowl over a toddler.  Behaviour varies greatly between breeds so you will need to take advice on a suitable breed for your family.

dreamstime 627015It would be wonderful if children took sole responsibility for the upkeep and care of their pet but in reality, this often doesn’t happen and when the novelty wears off, the parents need to accept that they will need to take over.

Before acquiring a pet, below are some useful points you need to consider:

  • Does my child suffer from allergies to fur, feathers, hay, dust etc?
  • What expectations of a pet does my child have?  Does he/she enjoy walks, playing in the garden, handling/ or would he/she be happy simply observing the animal’s behaviour without necessarily wanting to touch it?
  • How much am I prepared to spend on the pet including initial equipment and ongoing costs such as food, veterinary fees, insurance, cleaning equipment, holiday boarding etc?
  • How long am I prepared to make these commitments?  Some animals can live for years!
  • Who will look after the pet when we are on holiday?
  • How much space do we have for a pet and will it live inside or outside?
  • How much noise and/or odour am I prepared to tolerate?
  • Will the pet  affect my neighbours?
  • How much times does my children or myself need to spend looking after the pet every single day?
  • Can the pet be left for long periods while we are at school/work?

Great Favourites

Guinea pigs are great favourites with children. They are safe and easy for a toddler to handle.  They are fairly inexpensive to keep and they have lovely, friendly dispositions.  Guinea pigs rarely bite and have all sorts of fascinating habits and entertaining antics to watch.

Rats also make brilliant pets for young children as they are good natured and intelligent.

Rabbits,especially smaller breeds, are great for slightly older and more confident children.  They do need frequent attention to keep them tame but most are friendly with individual personalities.

The Stick Insect is by far the cheapest and easiest pet with a diet of brambles and very simple housing requirements.  They make interesting pets for a busy household with not too much time to spare!


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