While many children beg and plead for pets growing up, busy parents often worry about the time commitment, responsibility and overall care involved with owning a pet. Not to mention a pet’s temperament and behavior toward their children.
While these are valid concerns, finding the right pet for your family can oftentimes be a rewarding experience that helps children learn emotional skills such as empathy and affection, as well as useful traits such as responsibility and care for another creature.
Each pet requires its own level of care, but below are a few animals that can make some of the best pets for children.
Apart from cleaning the tank every two weeks or so, a child’s main responsibility with a fish is feeding it. As a plus, they’re dander-free and can make good companions for children with allergies.
Certain types of fish may be easier to care for than others. The Betta fish, for example, is incredibly low-maintenance. He typically does best living alone in a 2 to 5 gallon tank, and to top it off, he has beautiful flowing fins and bright colors to enjoy.
Parakeets are another species that do well living alone, unlike Canaries and Finches who prefer cage mates. These birds are lower maintenance than other species, and as an added bonus, they aren’t messy and generally don’t take up too much space.
Parakeets typically enjoy human interaction, affection and like to be handled. Children who want to take a more active role in care and training can help refill the food and water dish daily, and can even teach words to their new feathered friend.
It is important to note, however, that parakeets adapt best when handled by gentle, calm individuals. Unpredictable actions may frighten these birds. Teaching a child gentleness when around their new pet may help instill lifelong lessons of patience.
A rat may not be the first animal that comes to mind when you think of the word “pet,” but these rodents can actually be great family additions. Rats tend to be loving, affectionate and are even known to show excitement when their owners approach.
They are intelligent animals, so children can be involved with teaching tricks to their new furry friend in addition to daily feedings and spot-cleaning the cages.
As social creatures, rats typically prefer to live with other rats, so you might consider getting more than one. Also keep in mind that their lifespan is roughly only 3 years, so your child will sadly have to face loss at some point in their childhood.
Did you have a guinea pig growing up? These tiny animals seem to be popular pets for children, and with good reason. They’re low-maintenance and are generally calmer and more loving and than hamsters.
Like rats, guinea pigs are social creatures that enjoy human interaction and show excitement when their owners pay them attention. They may be perfectly content just sitting in their owner’s lap or trodding along their owner’s hands.
They have a slightly longer lifespan than rats at 5 to 7 years.
Cats and Dogs
While cats and dogs are the most work and require the greatest amount of adult assistance, time and financial responsibility, the bond formed between children and their four-legged friends is arguably unlike anything else. Certain dog breeds even tend to be exceptionally protective of children in the family.
Parents will need to be involved with regular trips to the vet, any necessary vaccinations, potty training on either using the litter box or going outside, daily walks and training canines basic commands such as, “Sit” and “Stay.”
Children, however, will be able to assist with refilling the food and water dishes, cleaning the litter box when they’re old enough, letting Fido outside or taking him for walks with Mom or Dad.
Some breeds can also live upwards of 15 or 20 years, so they are a longer time commitment.
Choosing the right pet for your family can be overwhelming, but each pet offers its own responsibilities, time commitments and benefits. The lessons that children can learn from taking care of pets while growing up may stick with them long past their adolescence.
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