Choosing the best pets for your kids


Many of my friends have prepared for parenthood by trying their hands at pet rearing. Those less confident have opted for the -easy to replace’ goldfish whilst others have opted for the more furry species.

So often a child is brought into the world and immediately exposed to a mixed breed named Rover whose sole purpose in life is to lick the little ones face during meal times. The metaphorical Rover is however, your pet and it won’t take long before your child wants a pet of their own.

Having a pet is usually a rite of childhood but a request for one usually inspires a sense of impending doom if you are a parent. Regardless of the pet you choose it’s going to be a lot of work. No matter how much your child insists they will do everything you know the bulk of the responsibility will sit squarely on your shoulders.

Pet ownership means vet bills, food, toys, grooming, cleanup – and who knows what else. It’s not something to take lightly.

But the right pet paired with your child can result in wonderful companionship. The love lavished on a living creature, and the responsibility of looking after a pet leads to lifelong lessons. Pets are a source of love and comfort. They can become an integral part of a family and love their owners unconditionally. The bond with a pet can provide immeasurable fulfilment for everyone in your family, not just your child.

So as a parent you need to ask yourself a number of key questions to decide whether your family is ready for a pet and what type of pet would be most suitable for your child and your family.

Key Question Number 1:

What are the expectations of all family members and how will the pet fit into the family members lifestyle?

Aspects to consider would need to focus on the amount of care the pet requires, the role each family member will play in the pet’s care, the medical care the pet may need, how big the pet will grow to be and how the pet will relate to other pets you may already have. A budgie is perhaps not the best idea with a couple of cats roaming the house – the carnage that could ensue is not a sight you would want to expose your child to. It is important that all family members, including your children, have realistic expectations of the care involved in looking after and nurturing a pet.

Key Question Number 2:

Is the pet potentially dangerous?

Some animals hold appeal for your child because they’ve seen them on the big screen or celebrities carry them around like an accessory. Although some of these animals may be cute to look at they can be dangerous as pets in terms of temperaments and possible diseases they may carry. In addition to this, wild animals belong in the wild and are not meant to be tamed and incorporated into urban households. Examples of such animals that may not be child-friendly include reptiles, rodents, amphibians, ferrets, baby poultry, monkeys, and other exotic animals. Reptiles transmit salmonella through their faeces. Pet reptiles are extremely risky for infants and elderly people who are likely to have difficulty fighting off a salmonella infection.

Dogs and cats can also spread infections from picking up ticks so it is imperative that you use effective preventative tick treatments and check your pets regularly for nasty intruders. Some dog breeds aren’t recommended for children due to their size (Doberman Pinschers, Dalmations and Great Danes) and others specifically being bred to be aggressive (such as some Pit Bulls or Rottweiler’s). Certain terriers and Chihuahuas are particularly feisty and known as being less tolerant of children.

Key Question Number 3:

What pets are recommended for young children? 

Guinea Pigs

These pets can be kept indoors or outdoors and should be kept in pairs or groups. They are very sociable creatures and will not appreciate being left in an enclosure without any attention. They are gentle creatures, easy to look after and are awake during the day. They can live up to seven years. As they prefer to live in groups it is best to consider adopting two female guinea pigs as males are prone to fighting and a male/female pair will result in unwanted additions to the family. Guinea pigs also provide good practice for responsible pet ownership. The longer-haired varieties need to be groomed daily which is good practice for dog or cat ownership.


These are popular options if you can bear to see a bird in a cage. They are friendly little birds, easy to care for and can be taught tricks, something children will enjoy. They are quite sociable and like to interact with family members. They are best kept singly or as a pair. Budgies live up to nine years or longer so it is a long-term commitment.


For children who suffer from allergies, fish are a good option and can be easy to care for. This is a perfect starter pet as they don’t require much care or attention. They range from simple goldfish to tropical fish in an aquarium. Note the more exotic varieties will need more attention whilst the cost of aquariums and other necessities can mount. Do check with your pet store before deciding which fish varieties you want to purchase.


Cats can be a good option for children as they can be independent, but crave attention. However once again it is a pet which requires commitment as they live to a ripe old age. Cats are not ideal pets for noisy and boisterous children as they may become very unsettled and unhappy.


Ant farms are an interesting option which are very easy to care for and can keep your young one occupied for hours – although not quite a -hands-on’ pet. These days you can get farms with nutrient gel instead of sand and 3-D ant farms. Ant farm maintenance includes removing old food and debris, regular feedings (usually other insects, plus a honey mixture), and fresh water.


Puppies are the most popular pet – and I use the word puppies on purpose. The -puppy effect’ can wear off leaving parents to care for the adult dog. Breeds specifically known for their gentle natures and high tolerance levels with children are Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. Another suitably calm breed are Pugs. It is extremely important that you research the breed of dog you select for temperament type before making your final choice.


Other things to consider

Another aspect which you should take into account is size and space. Committing to having a large dog, for instance, in a small yard impacts on the wellbeing of the dog. Even if your child assures you they will take the dog for walks regularly it is not advisable to restrict a dog in this manner. Other pets, like Rabbits, should also not be cooped up in small hutches. Space is paramount to the wellbeing of pets and will in turn ensure that you have a calm, well-cared for pet which impacts on the family as a whole.

Impulse buys like a Rabbit at Easter time can create problems later as many don’t realize that you have now entered into a  5-10 year commitment for such a pet. Many parents also buy pets for their children at Christmas and some of these land up in Animal shelters not too long afterwards as they were bought on a whim without much thought of the consequences of owning a pet – especially dogs. It may seem clinical to approach pet selection in such a methodical manner but a carefully thought out choice will ensure that your child, the family and the pet are happy.
Ultimately choosing the right pet for your child will result in cherished memories for the whole family.
– Janet Lamont George

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