What Is The Best Type Of Pet For My Young Child?

Are you looking to add an animal to your family? Pets bring love and joy into a home. Plus, they help kids learn responsibility, empathy and have plenty of other benefits. But not all pets are the same. You want a pet who will be the perfect fit for the ages of your children, your family’s general lifestyle and additional factors.

Not sure what type of pet will be best to bring home? Here’s a look at common types of pets and what you need to know about each:

Dogs: Loyal Companions Who Require Lots of Care

Dogs are a classic pet enjoyed by many families. But not every family is ready to commit to a pooch. Owning a dog requires a big commitment of both time and money. Dog needs include:

  • Daily exercise
  • Regular vet care
  • Lots of love

Plus, the dog will need to be comfortable around kids. Kid-friendly breeds include Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, boxers, beagles and more. Generally, you’ll want to avoid small dogs, as children can pick them up and accidentally cause injury.

While dogs can be a great childhood companion, keep in mind dogs aren’t a pet you can put away in a cage or aquarium. Dogs of every age need a lot of attention, and aren’t a good pet choice if they’ll be left alone for extended periods of time.

However, dogs can still be a great choice. As long as you’re able to provide proper care, a puppy and child who grow up together can enjoy a beautiful lifelong bond.

Cats: Fun but Often Finicky

No two cats are alike. Some love to cuddle while others are far more aloof. While they still need plenty of daily attention, generally cats live more independent lives than dogs.

Kids should be old enough to understand cat-care basics. Otherwise, biting and scratching can result. But, as with dogs, cats can be a loving addition to any family able to properly provide care.

Fish: Fascinating and Easy to Care For

Fish are generally a safe pet for kids. They’re fascinating to watch but also much easier to care for than a dog or cat. Fish typically require daily feeding and a tank cleaning about every two weeks.

Fish can be surprisingly fun pets. Watching the colorful fish swim around the tank can be soothing and interesting. Plus, caring for fish is a much more child-friendly responsibility than caring for a dog or cat.

Rodents: Intelligent and Sociable

Hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils are generally easy to care for and make great pets for kids. Rodents don’t require much living space, but they will need daily attention. Many people are surprised at how intelligent and friendly these pets are. They’ll happily play with and be handled by kids. Just make sure little ones know not to surprise or corner pet rodents, as they can bite when frightened.

Most pet rodents are very social and will do best when purchased in pairs. The exception is certain hamsters, which prefer to live individually. When considering a rodent, choose a type who will be active during the day instead of at night.

Birds: Social and Smart but Requires Specialized Care

Birds are intelligent, interesting pets – but care levels can vary dramatically between species. Parakeets and canaries are typically the easier birds to keep at home. Generally, you’ll want avoid parrots, cockatiels and cockatoos as they all require fairly elaborate care.

Keep in mind some birds can up to 25 years. Also, you’ll want to be aware of potential health issues. Birds can carry avian tuberculosis or psittacosis, both of which can be harmful towards children or anyone with a compromised immune system.

Reptiles: Fascinating and Non-Allergenic

Cold-blooded creatures such as snakes, lizards and tortoises can make great pets. They’re often fascinating to kids. Plus, they’re relatively easy to care for. The biggest obstacle will be setting up a terrarium for their needs, but once that’s done daily care is usually pretty simple.

However, reptiles do pose certain dangers. Namely, they can transmit salmonella. Kids will need to understand how to properly wash their hands after handling any reptile pets.

What’s the Best Pet for My Family?

When searching for a pet, it’s easy to fall in love with the first dog or cat you see. But you want to make sure the animal is a good, practical fit for your household. Here’s what to consider:

Your Schedule

You’ll want to take a realistic look at your daily responsibilities and overall level of free time. Dogs and cats – especially young ones – thrive when they have a lot of attention. If your house is typically empty during the day, a pet besides a dog or cat might be the best choice.

Of all the animals on our list above, fish and reptiles typically need the least amount of attention each day. Rodents require some handling and play, but not as much as dogs or cats.

Daily Care

Every kid will make promises of daily care. But over time, interest can fade. Even well-meaning kids can occasionally forget pet-related tasks. Ultimately, the adults in the household will have to make sure the pets are properly cared for.

Plus, you’ll also want to consider the lifespan of the pet. If your children are teens or pre-teens, the start of college might mean you’ll end up the primary caretaker of a dog, cat or reptile. Pets can live 10, 15 or even 25 years – and almost none of them are welcome in dorm rooms.

Final Thoughts

For many children, a pet can be a loyal friend and trusted companion. Plus, pets help kids develop a sense of responsibility and an understanding of the natural world. But before purchasing any animal, make sure your home is ready to be a forever home.

Whether you go the traditional route, with a dog or cat, or choose something more exotic, like a snake or spider, the right pet is sure to be a welcome addition to your family.

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