How to choose the best pet for your family when you have children
If your children are looking for an animal to bond with and care for, a bird might be the right choice. They may not be as high-maintenance as dogs or cats, but birds still have big personalities and need activity time.
“Birds are relatively intelligent creatures that need to be stimulated,” says Bales. Not only is it important to feed them properly, but also to provide an enriched environment by understanding their needs, which may mean human interaction, time out of the cage, talking to them, etc. Birds can also live up to 20 years or more, giving your child a friend for life.
Reptiles, such as turtles, snakes or lizards, are excellent pets for children. They are quiet, low maintenance and non-allergenic. But it’s essential to get as much information as possible about your new pet before you buy it (did you know that turtles can be linked to salmonella?). You’ll also want to make sure there’s a veterinarian in your area who can care for your pet in case something happens in the future.
Cats are playful animals that require less maintenance than dogs (no walks or baths), but they can still manage with young children. They’re not as energetic as a typical puppy and won’t be able to hold out for a few hours of playtime, so if your child is looking for a lively friend to play with every day, cats may not be the right choice.
That said, they do need space to roam. Bales recommends giving cats plenty of space to hide, wander and climb throughout the day, and they need human play time at least twice a day. She adds that you should consider getting two cats from the same litter so they can play with each other…
There’s a reason why dogs are the classic first pet for children. They are playful, affectionate and hard to handle. Ms. Bales’ main advice is to look at the behaviors of the breeds. It’s easy to fall in love with a cute puppy, but a guard dog wants to guard something, a listening dog wants to be heard (possibly with his mouth), and small dogs need more exercise than you think. If you find a dog breed that matches the same behaviors as your child, the match should be pretty perfect.
Fish are perfect pets for young children because they can fit just about anywhere in their room, don’t require a lot of attention and can teach them important skills outside of school.
“To properly care for a fish, you need to have some knowledge of chemistry to create the right water conditions and temperature for their needs,” Bales says. So if your kids are interested in science, this could be the best pet for them! They’ll have to do some research to find out what kind of water, food and other types of fish can go into their aquarium, but it’s a daily learning experience.
Guinea Pig or Hamster
If you’re not sure your child is ready for a cat or dog, consider starting them with a guinea pig or hamster. They are smaller and are fairly independent in their cage with the help of toys. That said, they still have daily and weekly needs, such as meals, cage cleaning and human attention.
In addition to being adorable, rabbits are also intelligent creatures. And while they may seem like small, low-maintenance animals, these pets need as much love and care as a cat or dog. So if your child is looking for an animal that needs exercise, can learn tricks or be trained, and has specific daily needs, a rabbit may be a great compromise. Bales stresses that it’s important to find the right veterinarian to care for them (a cat or dog specialist is not the right expert!), and to understand the type of diet they need. The Humane Society says that rabbits eat fresh vegetables every day, so maybe this will encourage kids to start eating healthy, too.