Sooner or later, every child will come home and ask about getting a pet. That’s not a bad thing. Pets are fun companions and they are an excellent way to teach a child responsibility as well. The trip to the pet store can leave your head spinning though. Should you get a mouse or a bird? Or should you bring home a puppy or a goldfish? Below I’ve listed some of the best starter pets for your child and some of the reasons why to help make your decision to bring home that first pet a little easier.
Traditional pets like cats and dogs aren’t necessarily the best choice for a starter pet no matter how adorable they are. The best way to appease a child whose heart is set on one of these is to look into adopting an older animal. These animals are often better with children and you won’t have to take on the added responsibility of housebreaking them.
In the water pet category, goldfish are perhaps the most well known starter pet. After all, feeding them is as easy as shaking some flakes into a bowl and they never need a walk. The biggest responsibility of owning a fish comes when it’s time to clean the bowl. While most parents and children pick a goldfish as a first time pet, don’t overlook such pretty species as the fancy guppy which come in many bright colors with beautiful fan tails, or the platy which thrives in a small bowl. Steer clear of water pets like turtles which are surprisingly high maintenance and carriers of salmonella; also avoid frogs for first time pets as they can’t be handled much and the water needs to be cleaned very frequently.
Among rodents, hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs and rats are excellent choices. These animals acclimate to humans quickly and only need five minutes of handling a day to stay socialized. Another bonus is that rodents need very little equipment to make them happy. An exercise wheel in their cage generally does the trick. All rodents need something to chew on because their teeth never stop growing and this can cause injury or an inability to eat if they can’t wear their teeth down. If you don’t provide something, many resourceful rodents, especially gerbils, will use the bars on their cage for the purpose.
Reptile pets can be a bit tricky. Many reptiles require a diet of mice or insects to be happy, so it’s important to consider how your child will handle feeding. The leopard gecko is a good starter pet for a child who really wants a reptile. They come in many different patterns and colors and they don’t get very big. They will need a heat source in their tank because they are cold blooded and you should make sure that the tank is small enough that they can stay warm.