A Home for the Holidays: Best Pets for Kids
Are you thinking of bringing home a pet this holiday season, but you’re not sure if your kids are ready? Sharing a home with kids and pets can be extremely rewarding, fun, and educational – children love taking care of living things. However, there are many factors to consider when bringing a new pet family member into your home.
One important thing to acknowledge is your own feelings about adding a new pet to your household. Although pets can be wonderful for children, it may not be realistic to expect them to care for your new pet 100% of the time. As the adult, you’re also committing to pet care, so be sure you’re ready before bringing a new pet into your home.
Before you dive in any further, let us give you some ideas for the best pets for kids, and we’ll also discuss ways to determine if your kids are ready for pets.
Best Pets for Kids
First, let’s take a look at some of the best pets for kids and why you might consider a pet other than a cat or a dog for your child.
Fish — Although perhaps not so cuddly, fish are excellent first pets for kids. Many species are very easy to care for, allowing children the opportunity to ease into pet care. As with any pet, do your research to learn the needs of different fish breeds in order to make an educated decision.
Rat — Surprisingly, rats make excellent pets for children, as they are intelligent and enjoy human companionship. They’re also small, making them ideal for little (and gentle!) hands. Rats are relatively easy to care for, but they typically only live for a couple years, so be prepared for this before getting one.
Guinea pig — Guinea pigs can make great pets for elementary age kids. They have lots of unique personality and are social animals, which is rewarding for children. They’re generally less skittish (and therefore less prone to biting) than hamsters or gerbils. Because they’re social herd animals, you need to consider getting more than one. Guinea pigs require relatively straightforward care. They eat hay and other fresh foods and typically live 5-7 years.
Bird — A bird may be a good choice for an older child. Birds can be excellent pets, but keep in mind that the larger, more intelligent birds will need more demanding care than a parakeet or a canary. Birds can be quite social and require daily feeding of fresh food, toys and activities, and cage cleaning.
Is My Child Ready for a Pet?
When selecting a pet for your family, keep in mind your child’s developmental stage. Talk to your pediatrician about whether your child is mature enough to handle a pet safely. If this is to be a pet that your child cares for, think about what your child is ready to handle. For example, dogs and cats require daily care (e.g., feeding, walking, cleaning up, grooming) that a younger child may not be prepared to handle. On the other hand, some pets (like fish) only require feeding every 2-3 days and periodic water changes/bowl cleanings.
Before bringing a pet home, discuss with your child everything that might be needed to care for it. Children’s books are a great way to introduce pet care and behavior, as long as the book depicts real animals (not amorphosical ones). As you read, talk to your child about what they see, and ask questions about what they think a pet might need in terms of care and how the pet might like (or not like!) to be handled.
Another great way to determine if your child is ready for a pet is to observe them with pets of other friends and relatives. Are they empathetic? Do they have a general understanding of pet behavior? Is their interest in a pet consistent over time? The best way to ensure a successful bonding experience between child and pet is to observe your child closely and do some research as to what types of care different pets require.
Every pet needs wellness care, and the team at Schertz Animal Hospital is committed to providing care for pocket sized pets, as well as dogs and cats. Please reach out to us with any questions about the best pets for kids or pet care in general. We’re happy to assist you!