Which animals make the best pets for kids? At some point in their young lives most kids start begging for a pet of their own, even if they already live in a home full of animals like on a farm or a hobby homestead.
As kids start to feel competent and independent, they want to care for something on their own, not help mom and dad care for the animals in their lives. Kids usually begin begging for a pet like a dog or a cat, but some enterprising children have more creative requests such as tiny dwarf pigs or lizards. If you’re a parent whose child is begging for a pet of their own, you might like to know which animals would make good pets for kids and which would not.
5 Best Pets for Kids
Some wonderful first pet ideas for kids include:
1. Sea monkeys
Sea monkeys or brine shrimp make perfect introductory pets for your child. You can usually find these ready to grow in a kit with instructions that are easy for a young child to follow, and maybe even read and do on their own.
You have to feed brine shrimp to keep them alive which makes a great introduction to a feeding routine. Brine shrimp will breed and make babies in front of your children, allowing them to watch the whole circle of life without a lot of expense and drama.
Fish are another good introductory pets for kids. Specifically, easy to care for tropical community fish, or even a Betta. They do require a little more care than sea monkeys, but they are very colorful and rewarding in that many has personalities that are easy to fall in love with.
An aquarium can also be a calming spot in a bedroom for a child who needs a sanctuary and can provide welcome night lights for children. Stick to a standard ten or twenty gallon tank combination and allow your child to pick the color of gravel and decor.
For the Betta, the biggest bowl you can afford is all you need, with a bed of pretty marbles or pebbles and a plastic plant or two are all you need. At first, have you child feed the fish and help them with the cleaning, but as time goes on you can add cleaning the tank or bowl to their regular chores.
Please see our recommendation on goldfish as a poor pet choice (you’ll find it below) before you settle on goldfish.
Tortoises make unusual, excellent pets for children if you can find one. They’re hardy, easy to feed, easy to house, are harmless, portable, and are fairly tolerant of being roughly handled by smaller children.
Most tortoises that grow large eat plants exclusively, and you can buy hem from grocery stores. If you have a garden, even better.
Tortoises enjoy a heated pen or container with a warming light to rest in for a good portion of the day, with added UV lighting. Bedding can be a simply towel, or pine shavings, or straw in their pens. If you live in an area where a tortoise can go outside, they can be penned up outside with a shelter much like a small dog that never barks.
Tortoises are healthy and long lived. They are also surprisingly interactive. Feeding a tortoise is easy and simply done according to the species’ needs. A child feeding a hungry tortoise a bright red strawberry is a wonderful sight indeed — very delightful for the child, and the tortoise.
For older children some reptiles can also make great pets. These reptiles include bearded dragons, anoles, some geckos, and for kids who don’t need the constant interaction from a pet, even a snake might make a good pet.
Consider locking the top of the reptile cage to avoid a smaller child or even yours from taking out the lizard and losing it. Lizards need to be handled gently, which is why they make better pets for older children.
Feeding a reptile such as a bearded dragon requires some level of responsibility, as they need to eat a lot and often — and as they grow their diets change. Snakes need to be fed only weekly at the most. Anoles and geckos are interesting in that their diets can vary in type and amounts, so lots of studying on the part of your child as to what species of reptile they are most interested in and what suits them best is a necessary process of picking and keeping a reptile.
5. Small furry mammals
Finally, small furry mammals such as Guinea pigs, hamsters or degus too make good pets for kids, as they’re fun to hold, relatively undemanding, and fun to interact with.
A locking cage is necessary as similar for reptiles to avoid losing the pet. Rodents and small mammals are easily fed with waterers that require filling once every couple of days, and food hoppers that offer available food constantly and need simple refilling. They also respond to treats and enjoy fresh foods that kids enjoy giving. And finally, they’re adorable, which kids love.
Not So Good Pets for Kids
Along with animals that make good pets for kids, there are animals that don’t make so good pets for kids. Here are the top five poor yet commonly given pets to kids:
Goldfish are terrible pets for children, because of how they’re typically housed. Goldfish need a lot of room in cold, very clean, well oxygenated water. They are not bullet proof. A child doesn’t benefit from caring for a goldfish in a bowl that dies regularly. If you want to house a fish in a bowl, consider a Betta instead.
Kittens and cats are also a bad choice for both the kid and the cat. Some rare cats and kittens tolerate children, but most can’t deal with the noise, fast movements, and pinching, pulling, and choking hands and arms that kids seem to possess. In response to normal handling of a cat by a child, the kitten or cat may scratch and bite the child. This is a surefire way to not only bring harm to your kid but to also teach the kid that animals are bad things. Older, calmer children do well with cats and kittens, but for children under the age of 10, cats do not make good pets.
3. Dogs and puppies
Dogs and puppies require an entire family to care and interact with them and should never be given to a child as their own responsibility. A child alone simply cannot properly train and care for a dog. If you are willing to help your child care for the dog, then you can still consider taking a dog. While a dog might not make the most perfect pet for a kid, a dog can be a really good friend and a playmate for your kid.
Birds are also not good pets for children, in normal circumstances. They’re fragile animals, and in the cases of larger parrots they need calm, constant interaction that doesn’t mesh well with the busy lives of today’s children (being in school and activities most of the day almost every day). Larger parrots are simply dangerous around small kids. Even small parrots like parakeets can do a lot of damage if they bite a child. Children handling a bird without supervision are a recipe for disaster, as children handle things roughly — which the hollow, fragile bones of a bird cannot take.
Turtles are in some cases a good option as a pet for the child that’s responsible and old enough to know to wash hands after handling the turtle. Younger children, though, can get very sick from handling a turtle. Turtles can also bite pretty hard.
They also need large fish tanks with beefed-up filtration systems that need constant cleaning, something most children will find hard to keep up with. You see so many small turtles for “adoption” and are extremely tempting for young kids because they do start out so small and cute, but they grow and are demanding pets.
The Benefits of Having a Pet for Your Child
What to expect if you do allow your child to care for a pet on their own?
A first pet is an exciting time for a child, and ideally it’s a great opportunity for your children to not only connect with a friend but to learn how to care for something outside of them in a meaningful way.
Having a pet teaches children responsibility and how to follow a timeline schedule, how to spot problems, and fix issues on their own.
Some kids can even turn their love for their pet into a hobby, connecting with other pet lovers in their area and become budding experts on animals and everything involved with them through programs such as 4H and FFA (Future Farmers of America).
And inevitably, having a pet can not only show children miracles and help them appreciate life, but also learn about death.
There are many excellent, fundamental life lessons available to children when they’re allowed to care for a pet on their own. It’s up to the parent to decide whether or not they want to use pets as a vehicle for these life lessons, and to assess whether or not their child will benefit from these lessons or be able to learn from them at all. Children that show remarkable caring for others, who are mature beyond their years, are willingly and usually cheerful helpers around the home are signs that a child might be ready to take on the responsibilities that come with owning a pet.
Conclusion on Pets for Kids
Children benefit greatly from keeping a pet in the right circumstance and if the child is mature enough to handle the responsibility. A lot of research must be done by the child and by the parents to make sure that having a pet in the home for the child is a sound decision, for the family, the child and of course the animal.
Is your child ready for a pet? What type of pet are you considering a good option for your kid? Did the above list of good pets for kids help you decide which animal would be the best pet for your kid? Let us know by leaving a comment below!