In our previous blog post, we discussed how to choose the perfect pet for your family—a process that depends on aligning the pet’s characteristics with the needs and dynamics of your household, particularly in relation to your children and how they interact with them. We examined various factors to consider prior to settling on a pet, such as 1) your child’s age, personality and any potential allergies, 2) the pet’s age, size, and temperament, 3) care requirements, and 4) financial implications, including your family’s budget and overall lifestyle.
Having gone through all of the important aspects of selecting a friendly companion, let’s now shift our focus to explore some of the best pet options for children!
If your child is interested in aquatic life, fish is one of the best pets to consider—they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors! For children, you will likely want a fish that is colorful, playful, and entertaining to watch, all of which can keep your child interested and intrigued. They do not need to be held or or played with like other pets. Your child can watch them swim around and also help to give them food. But! Be sure that your child does not overfeed them! As easy as it is to sprinkle food into the water tank, they may be feeling a little generous and put too much. Explain to your child the dangers of overfeeding and be sure to place the fish feed somewhere they can’t easily access without your help.
Fish are generally a low-maintenance and cost-effective pet option. Other than the set-up, which can be expensive, they typically don’t require much money to upkeep. However, the species of fish you select will shape the experience you have. Two varieties of fish that you can choose between are freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater fish tend to be more budget-friendly, easier to care for, and are usually more adaptable and hardier. Therefore, they are more inclined to be a favored choice among pet parents. On the other hand, saltwater fish are costly and require more habitat maintenance (water salinity, temperature, lighting, filtration systems, tank size, etc.). So despite their vibrant and mesmerizing colors, saltwater fish may demand a higher level of care and dedication.
Ensure the health and well-being of your fish with proactive care! Maintain a regular routine for tank cleaning, water changing, and filter replacements . Tailor the aquarium, maintenance, and decorations to suit the type of fish you choose. Adding enrichment objects is also a great idea to enhance their habitat environment! While tank cleaning and maintenance is typically the responsibility of the parents, older children can still partake in learning fish care and assisting with tasks. Having your kids involved will make it an enjoyable and educational experience!
Below, let’s explore some of the most commonly kept fish species!
Betta Fish come in beautiful varieties and their long fins, colorful bodies, and various fin shapes will surely be able to capture the attention of your child! Native to Southeast Asia, they can grow to a maximum size of about 3 inches and are one of the most popular fish to keep as pets. They are also known as “Siamese Fighting Fish” due to their aggressive temperament and territorial nature, so it’s best to keep only one in the tank!
Betta fish are low-maintenance and generally inexpensive and easy to care for. They require a high-protein diet and eat things such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, larvae, freeze-dried foods, and betta flakes/pellets. Be sure to change their water regularly (if your tank does not have a filter) and ensure the temperature is appropriate. You also want to maintain them in an environment that replicates their natural habitat.
They can be a rewarding addition to any household and are a great species for kids to start learning about the fundamentals of pet care!
Guppies are a great beginner choice for starter aquariums. They are tiny fish, only reaching lengths of 2 inches in size and are known for their frequent breeding—so don't be surprised if you wake up to find the number of guppies in your tank has increased! They come in a wide range of colors and hues that can readily captivate and stimulate the imagination of children, especially the younger ones. They offer a visually engaging experience for kids which can help to foster creativity and overall appreciation!
In terms of diet, guppies are omnivores, and as such, they will eat a wide variety of food like commercial fish food (flakes or pellets) and both meat and plant-based foods. Avoid housing them with aggressive fish and overcrowded tank conditions which can stress. Ensure optimal water quality within the tank and monitor it regularly to help maintain their health. Also, be sure to choose an appropriate aquarium size!
Among other widely recognized choices, a goldfish is often the most popular freshwater option that people think of when it comes to pet fish! Unsurprisingly, many individuals experienced the joy of having a pet goldfish during childhood, and if you didn’t, well you’re never too old to get one! They are perhaps the most obvious choice for parents when thinking of the perfect fish to get their children.
Goldfish come in a variety of different colors ranging from bright orange, yellows, and reds to white, brown, blacks, and other complex patterns and rare colors. Therefore, your child will be able to pick out one they think looks cool! They have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years if kept in good conditions and with proper care, however, many unfortunately do not live to reach their lifespan potential. Maintaining a goldfish is not as easy as you may think. Many people found that their goldfish died relatively quickly and are unsure of where things went wrong. So, let’s talk about it!
Despite what one may think, a bowl is not enough to keep a goldfish as they need far more water than what a small enclosure can provide. For one, they require strong filtration to process and keep up with their high bioload as they do not have a stomach and produce a lot of waste. They also have high oxygen needs and require adequate water quality and aeration. Therefore, it is important to ensure that they are kept in a large and spacious habitat in order to thrive—especially depending on the type and full-grown size of the goldfish. Make sure it is kept cleaned!
Goldfish are omnivores and their main diet should typically consist of high-quality flake food or sinking pellets that provides them with about 30% protein for proper growth and development. These can then be supplemented with live food and vegetables. To avoid overfeeding and digestive upset, only give them food at appropriate times. For adults, they should be fed up to once a day, however, you may find that young goldfish need to be fed at least 2 to 3 times daily.
Nonetheless, goldfish can be a perfect pet for your child. But—they do require more maintenance, so keep that in mind!
Guinea pigs—cute, cuddly, fluffy, and full of excitement. What more could a child want in a pet? They are small, relatively easy to care for, and are very sociable and friendly animals—making them a popular choice for children starting their pet ownership journey. Rarely to bite, guinea pigs tend to exude calmness and tameness—traits attributed to their gentle temperament and long-standing history of domestication. They actively engage with their surroundings and are very affectionate and responsive to human interactions, to which they can form strong bonds with their human family. While some may be calm or shy, others are outgoing and curious, ensuring a distinct and tailored experience for every pet owner!
Guinea pigs are active during the day and love to play! As long as your child handles them correctly and with gentleness, they are generally amicable to interactions such as petting and stroking their fur. However, due to their delicate bones, it's important to exercise caution to prevent accidental injury. Considering this, guinea pigs might be more suitable for children between the ages of 7 to 11, who are better equipped to manage the responsibilities associated with having them. Alternatively, if you have younger children, closely supervise them as they interact with their new furry buddy.
Though guinea pigs are not high maintenance, they still require considerable amounts of attention, time, and daily TLC to maintain their happiness and health. For one, they don’t require much grooming, except for longer-haired breeds which need regular brushing to avoid tangles. They also have a more demanding diet consisting mainly of fresh vegetables and hay. According to the AVMA, they also require supplemental vitamin C, which needs to be obtained through the food they eat since they cannot produce it themselves. Vitamin C helps to prevent a disease called scurvy and other health-related issues.
To ensure a clean and safe living environment, clean their cages frequently, change their water daily, and replace their bedding often. Have them receive regular vet check-ups as well. Getting your children involved in caring for the guinea pig is a great way to teach them responsibility. For instance, they can help with feeding or giving them water. They can also have fun decorating their cages and creating toys for the guinea pig to play with. With a long life span of about 5 to 7 years, guinea pigs can make great friends for your child as they grow up!
Guinea pigs also have unique habits! One of the cutest things they do is vocalize their excitement when they see their favorite person around them. They are good at remembering voices, so whenever they hear your child, they may get happy and start “popcorning”—hopping or jumping in the air out of excitement. How adorable! They even make squeaking sounds and sometimes even purr or produce quiet vibrations when happy or being petted!
With Guinea pigs being as sociable as they are, they do best in pairs (same-sex or in groups). So if you’re looking for just one new pet, maybe you’ll want to consider other options!
Birds can make wonderful companions and household additions, transforming your home into a space with a vivacious ambiance. They come in an array of sizes and colors and their personality varies widely across the various different species. However, it is important to understand that not all species of birds are suitable for domestication. So, before committing to a bird as a pet, it is essential to do your research and consider the interests of your family.
With birds, you not only need to consider their social needs and care requirements, but noise level as well. They require attentive care, therefore it is important to craft an environment for them that is enriching and incorporates proper nutrition, mental engagement, and daily attention.
Not to mention, they can make excellent pets for kids! Let’s take a look at a specific species of bird that your child is sure to find fascinating!
Parakeets, also known as Budgies, are beautiful birds originating from the landscapes of Australia. They come in a variety of bright, colorful plumages, spanning a spectrum that encompasses lush greens and blues, whites, purples, and even rainbow! They’re social, affectionate, friendly, and love to be near and interact with humans. They can even learn to talk! Some parakeets have the remarkable ability to mimic not only the sound and phrases they hear, but can also master a vocabulary up to 100 (or more!) distinct words through consistent repetition. Generally speaking, if you obtain a parakeet when they are young, they tend to be relatively easy to tame and train. Their playful and cheerful nature will keep your child busy and entertained!
Parakeets are relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance. As with other pets, they need daily food, water and cage cleaning. In terms of feeding, parakeets need a balance of essential nutrients. High-quality pellets, seeds, and a medley of fresh vegetables and fruits should be incorporated into their diets to ensure their optimal health. Always consult with an avian veterinarian for recommendations on a healthy diet best suited for your feathery friend! Parakeets can be pretty messy, so children can participate by helping to change the food, water, or cage lining!
Cages should be big enough for them to fly, climb, and walk around. Toys are a must! Parakeets are intelligent birds, and therefore, they require stimulation for them to be happy and healthy. Perches, swings, ladders, and other toys encourage them to stay active. Rotate the toys out weekly to prevent boredom and introduce new ones. Most importantly, take them out of their cages and interact with them daily!
With a life expectancy of anywhere between 7 to 15 years—though some varieties can surpass this range—parakeets are definitely a long-term commitment and need sufficient time and attention. They are great for kids who can respect their small size and handle them gently without squeezing them or any other sudden/unpredictable movements. It is generally recommended that a child is between 10 to 12 years of age or older before owning a pet bird. If they are younger, parents will need to help them care for it, but it all depends on their maturity level and how prepared they are to take care of one. Children need to have a great deal of time and patience to handle these birds. According to petMD, parakeets can help to teach children patience and how to be calm.
Dogs and Cats
Dogs and cats are the most commonly owned household pets, therefore, it should be no surprise that they are two of the most popular options for children. They are fun to play with, sociable, form bonds easily, and serve as sources of joy and companionship for the little ones in the family. Being that both animals have different characteristics, choosing which one to bring home depends on your family’s lifestyle and circumstances—including your child’s preferences!
Though both require regular veterinary visits, cats and dogs each have unique needs and specific care requirements—especially factoring in their breed type and personalities. For instance, cats are more independent and typically low-maintenance. They thrive in environments that provide them with access to vertical, elevated spaces for climbing, cozy hideaways for them to relax, and opportunities for mental stimulation such as scratching posts or interactive toys. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they mostly eat meat. They require a diet that consists of high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and minimal amounts of carbohydrates.
On the other hand, dogs have boundless energy! Not only do they require a lot of care and attention, but some can be high-maintenance as well. Appropriate exercises such as daily walking, energetic play sessions, interactive games, swimming, and more are vital to ensuring they stay active, happy, and healthy. It provides them with mental stimulation and can even help to prevent behavioral issues! Their nutritional requirements should be met with a diet that best suits their breed, size, age, and any specific health needs.
Proper grooming is essential for both dogs and cats! Though cats will typically self-groom by licking their coats, you should still take the time to brush their fur to minimize any hairballs, reduce shedding, and enhance their coat’s sheen. For dogs, grooming routines contribute to not only their physical appearance, but their overall comfort and hygiene. It is a significant part of pet care as it can help to prevent serious health consequences in dogs and cats.
Regarding the care of dogs and cats, your child can take on various responsible roles. For instance, the younger kids can help to brush their fur, provide them with food, and ensure a supply of water. On the other hand, older children can undertake more involved duties such as taking the dog for walks or tending to the maintenance of the cat’s litter box!
Reptiles are an option for pet parents who can do without the fur or feathers. Not only do they require less daily care (in most cases) and take up less space in your home, but they can also be the perfect companion addition to any family with kids! With a variety of reptile options to choose from, such as lizards and turtles, you can easily find a pet that suits your lifestyle and child's interests.
Keep in mind that every reptile is unique and has varying special needs. Make sure to do research on the types of reptiles that have a friendly disposition and are easy for kids to handle and care for before you obtain one, as some can be too large or pose challenges that may be overwhelming for your child.
Let’s take a look at one of the most favored reptiles for children!
Bearded dragons are a popular choice among reptiles! Not only are they low maintenance, but they are friendly, typically don’t bite often, and are pretty docile. Some people even dress them up with little hats and clothing, a fun activity your child can take part in during festive occasions like Halloween or Christmas! As with other pets, the key is to be gentle and handle them with great care and respect. They enjoy being held and petted! Whether you perch them on your shoulder, have them lounge and relax on your lap, or give them a nice rub from head to tail, they are a fantastic option for your child to engage with—just be safe and supervise your child’s interactions.
Under optimal care, bearded dragons can live for a remarkable 8 to 10 years, and in some cases even surpass this span. They showcase a diverse array of colors and have the potential to attain a mature length ranging from 16 to 24 inches. Bearded dragons are relatively easy to care for but tend to be a bit more costly in terms of equipment. For one, the housing environment and set-up for bearded dragons can be quite intricate and expensive. As they can grow to be pretty large reptiles, they require a long and sizable enclosure with plenty of space allowing them to walk around and be comfortable. They also require enrichment items such as climbing or hiding materials, rocks, plants, and more to keep them stimulated, active, and encourage natural behaviors.
Within their enclosure, bearded dragons also need special UV lighting. This lighting is crucial as it is needed to help stimulate appetite, properly metabolize Vitamin D3 and calcium, maintain optimal bone development, and overall remain healthy. Basking lamps are also important! It imitates heat produced by the sun, allowing your bearded dragon to absorb warmth and regulate their body temperature. A cool zone within the enclosure helps them to cool down if they get too warm. Proper temperature gradients are essential!
In terms of diet, bearded dragons do have specific health needs. They are omnivorous, therefore, they have a strict diet of fruits, insects, fresh vegetables, and reptile-specific dietary calcium supplements. Their age does play a factor in how they eat, so always consult a veterinarian to determine a proper and well-balanced nutritional diet.
Bearded dragons are often more suitable for older kids, typically 10 years of age and up. However, it all depends on the maturity of the child. Older kids can possibly help with responsibilities such as changing the water, cleaning their living enclosure, or feeding them insects!