Having a pet join your family is one of the most rewarding, powerful and exciting things you can do. But it can also be very difficult. Having a pet is a big lifestyle change. Below, we’ll cover the basics of some of the most popular animals to have as pets for kids, debunk the myths and hopefully give you a little more insight into whether these animals are the right pet for you!
Let’s be honest, us Brits are dog crazy. And with good reason: dogs are the best! If your kids are constantly waking you up in middle of the night with requests to get a pet dog, a) that’s a bit creepy, and b) we’re not surprised. Now obviously dogs are the highest maintenance pet on the list, but once you know what you’re getting yourself in for, having a pet dog is incredible. Things to consider that will help you minimise how much maintenance a dog is are things like breed and temperament, how much exercise and space they will need and whether it’s the right time for one to join your family. It’s a big commitment, but it’s one that is most definitely worth it.
The other top dog when it comes to the nation’s favourite pet has to be the cat! These fluffy little critters are amazing house pets. They’re a fairly big commitment too, but do take less work than dogs. Depending on where you live you can opt to keep your cat indoors, or you can install a cat flap and let them roam to their heart’s content. Ensure your cat is fully vaccinated, microchipped and knows where you live – so if you recently moved or your cat is still young, you should probably keep an eye on them. If not, then a litter tray placed in a safe and quiet place is all you need. Plus food and lots of affection, that is.
Rabbits are a very popular starter pet for families. They’re a great way to introduce the joy of owning and looking after a pet to youngsters. Highly intelligent and very inquisitive, 1.5 million Brits own rabbits. Daily activities include feeding, cleaning, grooming and exercising – as well as playing with your rabbit, too. Both house and outdoor rabbits love to socialise, so if you only have the one, you’ll have to spend lots of time engaging with them. Because of this, it is recommended rabbits are kept in pairs. Besides these requirements though, rabbits can be left to their own devices, so make for great starter pets.
4. Guinea Pigs
A descendant of the wild guinea pigs of South America, these cute little animals make the ideal low maintenance pet for kids. Again. It’s ideal to keep guinea pigs in pairs at least, as they are very sociable creatures. If your pair are of the opposite sex, it’s a good idea to get the male neutered – otherwise you going to have quite a crowd on your hand. With a decent sized hutch filled with food and bedding, plus regular playtime, guinea pigs are very rewarding pets. Guinea pigs live for around 4-8 years on average, so make sure your children are ready for the commitment.
Lizards are incredibly unique pets for kids and can expose your child to an exciting new type of animal to an early age. First of, you need to decide what kind of lizard you want. A good starter lizard is a leopard gecko as they do not require UV lighting. Other popular choices are bearded dragons, iguanas and chameleons – but all lizards have varying needs and behaviours. The most important facets of owning a lizard is providing the right heat and light in their environment (which will need to adjust at different times) and feeding them live prey like insects. If you can fulfil these requirements, then your lizard will be happy as Larry – which isn’t too shabby a name for a lizard either…
Hamsters are the most common first pet for children. Living to around 2 years, they’re another small mammal that are a great way to introduce caring for animals into your children’s lives. With a few different breeds, it’s best to go to a licensed supplier to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying. Some breeds are very sociable, but others prefer to live alone. Besides food and water, hamsters need plenty of bedding and nesting material. On top of that, they require cautious handling as they are very delicate, and are also nocturnal so that must be beared in mind.
Keeping fish as pets can range from the simple to the complicated, and as such are a great starter pet for kids: you can start off small and expand your aquarium or pond into a vibrant community of animals, that can form a lifelong passion for fish. We’d recommend you begin with a 20-gallon tank and start your collection with freshwater fish. Surprisingly, goldfish are ranked as fairly difficult to manage – they produce a lot of waste, need very regular cleaning and grow to enormous sizes. We recommend something like a barb fish, a zebrafish or maybe an angelfish. Once you’re kids are started, they’ll love nurturing their new fishy friends.
Rats are often considered unclean and even sometimes plain scary, but they are actually incredible as pets for kids. And those infamous beliefs couldn’t be further from the truth. Rats are very well kept, sociable and intelligent animals that are ideal for those looking for a low-maintenance, rewarding pet. We’d advice keeping rats in pairs as they are very sociable, providing them with plenty of enrichment opportunities to feed their inquisitive minds. A good diet and keeping on eye on their health are also key. All these aspects will ensure you have happy rats that are the perfect starter pets for kids.
Birds are beautiful, majestic and delightful creatures. The key to keeping them as pets is choosing the right one. Birds vary in so many different ways that you must do your research, as you don’t want to end up with a bird that’s too big, too loud or too much work. For instance, macaws make for popular pets but can live up to 60 years! We’d recommend you take a look at budgies or canaries, as well as some smaller breeds of parrots. Just make sure you do your research before selecting which bird you want!
Snakes are another reptile that makes it to the top of our list. Fascinating creatures, they can become quite tame with regular handling from a young age. No doubt you may know some people who are a little scared of snakes, but pick the right breed and there is no doubt they make for gentle and interesting pets for kids. Snakes can be more of a long-term commitment than other pets, as some species live up to 20 years. You’ll need be willing to keep live, or frozen pre-killed prey for your snake to eat. It’s also suggested that you find a snake from a reputable vendor, so as to limit the likelihood of disease or any other issues.
Quiet, cute and easy to clean up after – tortoises are low-maintenance pets for kids.The main point to consider with tortoise is their diet. They need a large variety of food, with particular attention paid to the amount of roughage they consume. Besides this, some species have voracious appetites, so be prepared for buying and prepping a fair amount of food. Tortoises need quite a lot of room too; we recommend an outdoor pen, but be sure to bring your tortoise inside if it’s too cold. Hibernation needs should be taken into account also. Again, make sure you research the specific breed you want before making a purchase!
12. Sea Monkeys
This might seem a little too low-maintenance for some but if you want to start off small, sea monkeys can be the ideal pets for kids. Great for youngsters between 2 and 5, you can have all the fun of watching these creatures but without quite so much hassle. Sea monkeys only need to be fed every 5 to 7 days, and if the water gets too cloudy you can reduce the amount of food you give them. Sea monkeys live for around 2 years – the ideal lifespan for small children that want a pet but that don’t firmly grasp what owning a pet entails.
13. Adopt an Animal
So you’re low on space, low on time and your kids are insistent they want a pet lion. There’s one simple answer: ‘adopt’ a local animal. Many zoos, wildlife parks or rescue centres offer the service of being able to adopt an animal, and it’s a great way to instil in your child an interest in conservation and ecology. If zoos aren’t your thing, there are always organisations like donkey parks or local farms which run similar programs, where your child can be a bit more involved in the animal’s life. Either way, you’re kid will feel connected to a really cool pet, plus be actively contributing towards the wellbeing of the animal they pick.
So that’s our rundown of some of the best pets for kids. With a ton of different animals, all with varying levels of work required, you’re sure to find the right pet for you. Pets take work, but can be one of the most rewarding activities on the planet! And remember, if you opt for a dog or a cat as your new four-legged friend, be sure to swing by PetsPyjamas for all your accessories or pet-friendly travel needs!