The Best Pets for Kids

It is hard to find a child that doesn’t dream of having a pet. Childhood just isn’t complete without a trusted, animal companion at your side. There is also plenty for parents to love about pets too. They can teach your children responsibility, and studies have even found that children with pets have stronger immune systems than those without.

However, choosing the perfect pet for your child can be difficult. Dogs and cats are the most common, but there are tons of other species to consider as well. To help you narrow down the playing field, we’ve put together this list of the ten best pets for children. We recommend you carefully consider your living situation and your child’s age to determine what pet is the best fit for your family.

1. Dog

Dog

Dogs are likely the most stereotypical pet for children – and there’s a reason for that. Most average-sized dogs are large enough to avoid being injured by your child, but many breeds are also calm and laidback with children. Canines easily live to a decade, so you shouldn’t have to worry about having that uncomfortable conversation with your child. This species is also trainable and can usually go anywhere your child can, so they make good everyday companions.

However, dogs also need quite a bit of care. They’re going to need chew toys to prevent them from chewing on your furniture and a high-quality dog collar like this one. Children should not be expected to take care of a pet all by themselves – most of them will need help with this everyday care.

2. Cat

Cat

Cats are also a pretty common pet for children. They’re large enough to avoid being injured by an accident-prone toddler and also make wonderful companions. They live long lifespans and are also playful. However, cats do not typically require as much maintenance as dogs. They do not need to be walked or bathed, and cats are usually more than okay with being left alone.

Still, cats aren’t perfect for everyone. Cats can’t keep up with an energetic child as easily as a dog can and are not typically “run around in the yard” pets. They also need quite a bit of equipment, just like dogs. They need scratching posts and plenty of toys. Cats will also need a litter box, which can take up quite a bit of floor space. 

3. Turtle

Turtle

Turtles can make the perfect pet if you want something low maintenance and quiet. They are peaceful and calm. Though they are small, many can also handle quite a bit of handling. Turtles have notoriously long lifespans. While this means that you don’t have to worry about your child losing their childhood pet any time soon, it also means that you should be prepared to take care of this pet for a long time.

Turtles do need a very specific enclosure, however, and they need to spend most of their time in this enclosure. All of the equipment needed for this enclosure can get expensive. Your turtle will need a filter, large tank, heat lamp, and other equipment depending on their species. Luckily, most of this is a one-time cost. After initial set up, turtles do not require much.

4. Fish

Fish

Fish are often the ideal pet for small children. They require little upkeep and attention, and fish typically do not take up much room. They are quiet and can provide a listening ear for your children when you need them. If you’re looking for a pet that doesn’t require much work on your part, then this pet might be for you.

However, fish do take up quite a bit more work than you might expect. For example, goldfish cannot live in small bowls for very long, and their typical lifespan is ten years, though they can live up to 25. They can grow to be very large and need a tank to match. Betta fish require equally as big of a tank to live their full lifespan.

5. Hamster

Hamster

Hamsters are cute, lively, and need little maintenance. They are a great first pet for older children who have already proven that they are responsible enough to regularly care for a pet. They don’t require that much room, and you won’t have to worry about cleaning pet hair off your couch. They’re a great choice for families who want a pet but aren’t quite ready to commit to a cat or a dog.

Still, hamsters aren’t good for all families. They are nocturnal and are notorious for biting when mishandled. They require specialized care, much like the fish and turtle. One of the biggest investments you’ll need to make with a hamster is a cage, which can be expensive and take up quite a bit of room.

6. Birds

Birds

Birds are a good choice for older children who aren’t interested in having a cat or a dog. They require a bit of maintenance and care, but birds are mostly contained to their cage and do not require the training that a dog would need. Birds also are quite full of personality and can be entertaining for children who have grown out of roughhousing.

Not all species of birds are good for children. Smaller birds typically take up less room and are easier for children to handle. However, all bird species are different. It will make owning a bird far easier for you if you carefully research different species and choose one that best fits into your family.

7. Guinea Pig

Guinea pig

Guinea pigs are becoming more and more common as companion pets. They are less prone to biting than a hamster, take up less space than dogs and cats, and are rather responsive to their owners. Guinea pigs are also hardier than some of the other, smaller rodent species. They are also known to be less skittish than many small pets and are tamed very easily.

Guinea pigs do require a lot of upkeep, though. They need a decently sized cage to roam around in, high-quality food and are very social. It is generally recommended to adopt more than one guinea pig, which can amp up the amount of space they take up considerably. They also depend on vitamin C and need a daily supplement, which can be difficult for children to give properly.

8. Ferret

Ferret

Ferrets are coming into their own as pets. They spend most of their time in their enclosure, but can also be brought out for regular play time. These animals are extremely playful and will spend hours playing with their toys and human companions. They are social and love spending time with their family. Ferrets do not vocalize and can be litter trained just like a cat.

However, ferrets are not a good choice for small children. They will bite, especially when they are younger. Just like a dog or cat, juvenile ferrets will try to play with humans like they would their littermates, but unlike dogs and cats, it is easy for their tiny teeth to break the skin. They are also easily damaged by rough children. Much like cats, ferrets will also not be much into cuddling until they are at least a year old.

9. Mice

Mouse

While a mouse might not be your first thought when you consider getting a pet, these small rodents can make a wonderful addition to your family. Mice require very little space but are also intelligent and social. Mice are a great pet for a child who wants a pet to watch but isn’t impressed with fish. These pets are easily kept in groups, which makes them very interesting to watch. They are also pretty easy to care for, requiring only a cage, food, and a few other items.

You should keep in mind that mice really aren’t made to be handled by small children, though. They are not the type of pet you regularly cuddle and play with. They also do require care, and their cage will need to be cleaned. Children often cannot do this themselves.

10. Gerbil

Gerbil

Gerbils aren’t as popular as guinea pigs and hamsters, but they can make great pets. They are not easily spooked and therefore do not bite very much. They are awake for periods during the day, unlike hamsters, and require less cleaning. Gerbils are desert creatures, and therefore make less waste than most animals. They are also durable and can be readily handled.

Gerbils cannot be kept alone, though. They are very social and require a companion or two. They also live longer than hamsters, which can either be a good or bad thing depending on your expectations. Their cage also needs to be deeper than most because they have strong tunneling instincts.

There are many species that make wonderful companions for kids, while also helping them to learn what is required to care for another living being. Depending on your child’s age, you may want to have them handle certain tasks associated with caring for their new pet, such as feeding or helping to clean a pet’s habitat or litter box. Older and more responsible children may be able to take on most of the responsibility of caring for their pet. Choose an age-appropriate pet for your child that’s suitable for their interests and abilities so they can truly enjoy the experiencing of bonding with their pet.

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Kristin Hitchcock