Has your child been asking you to get a pet? What is the best first pet for children? It’s a big decision to add a new member to the family. Especially another one that may need potty training. Choosing the right pet should be a family decision. It is a balance between the child’s hopes, dreams and expectations and a respect of the busy parent’s time, energy and finances to support the pet ownership venture. Some families get a new pet, where the main pet care is done by the adults, while other families choose for the children to be responsible for the majority of the pet care. Which ever way you choose, this is a new member of the family and they will require your care, but in return your child/children will get many years of love and enjoyment.
If your child is going to be the main carer, you will need to consider how old the child is and whether they are ready to take on this responsibility. Different pets require different amounts of care, with some being much simpler than others and each having their own unique set of needs and characteristics.
Together, a family should consider, housing, expenses, level of experience as pet owners, whether or not there is a family history of allergies or asthma and how the pet will fit into their lifestyle.
When you’re looking to add a pet to your family, there are many options to choose from other than the go to, cats and dogs. There are plenty of small animals that can be kept in compact spaces, are easier to care for, affordable, and don’t require as much attention/experience. Many suggest that 5 years of age is when children show the levels of responsibility required to care for a pet. Small pets are good options because they can be a great way to teach further responsibility. To decide which small animal might work as a family pet, you should do as much research as you would when choosing a larger pet.
The safety of both child and pet should be always be considered. Naturally curious and rambunctious, children sometimes forget to be calm and gentle around animals. Even animals that are known for their gentle nature may scratch or bite if provoked.
Another consideration to keep in mind is the lifespan of the chosen animal. Is your family able to commit to caring for the pet for this period of time? Your child will of course become attached to their pet over time and will experience grief upon the loss of their pet. Keeping this in mind may affect whether you choose a pet with a short or long lifespan.
Let’s have a look at some of the great first pet options available to Australian families.
Best first pet for children?
Guinea pigs are social, yet timid creatures who are fairly active and need a moderate amount of space. They are best kept in pairs as they require companionship. Guinea pigs are gentle and have a sweet disposition, which makes them less likely to bite. Their social nature, means they won’t mind being handled — as long as they are held properly — and they won’t mind if young kids want to interact with them. Guinea pigs are ideal for a kid who is just learning to take care of a pet because they are less likely to get frustrated with a young caretaker. They have a big appetite for lots of hay and vegetables which can make guinea pigs messier than other small mammals, so you might have to clean their cage or hutch more frequently.
Like guinea pigs, rabbits are good for younger kids (with adult supervision) because they usually have a very gentle and sociable nature, especially the larger breeds. They aren’t as easy to handle as guinea pigs though, due to their powerful hind legs.
All rabbits should be spayed or neutered to prevent any aggression (and to prevent uterine cancer in females). This is especially important if you want to keep more than one rabbit in the same space.
Rabbits are fairly easy to care for and it is even possible for rabbits to be litter-trained. A proper diet is very important to ensure the animal’s health and happiness: grass hay, rabbit pellets, and vegetables.
A fish may be the perfect first pet for a child, but not just any fish will do. Goldfish may seem like the most obvious choice, but they’re actually more difficult to raise than the Siamese fighting fish.
Siamese fighting fish are native to Southeast Asian and have adapted to survive in isolation, in surprisingly small amounts of water. You may not even need aerators, filters, heaters, or chemicals.
However, these fish thrive best in small aquariums with the water being regularly changed and kept between 24 and 28°C. You may require a heating pad to do this in the cooler states of Australia. Be sure to buy your fish from a store that has someone who can advise you on how best to care for them.
Budgerigars, affectionately known as budgies, can be an excellent starter for kids who haven’t raised birds before and are fairly inexpensive. They can be hand tamed and some have even been known to learn a few words.
These chatty little guys are fairly low maintenance and their cage won’t take up much space. Some birds are highly intelligent while others are very social. All birds require almost daily attention, with providing fresh water and food. Being predominantly seed eaters, they will regularly need the husks blown from their seeds.
Check out our post on Fun Facts About Budgerigars for more on these wonderful little creatures.
A cuddly, playful puppy is probably the most classic children’s pet. Keep in mind that choosing the ideal dog involves more than falling for big brown eyes. Some dogs may be unsuitable for children because of their size or temperament. Before adopting a dog, ensure that it is well-socialised and comfortable around children.
Any breed will need a significant commitment of time and effort. Puppies must be toilet trained if they are to be inside the house and require grooming, training, daily exercise, regular veterinary check-ups and immunisations. Every dog is different, but kid-friendly breeds include:
- Labrador retrievers
- golden retrievers
A fluffy, playful kitten is almost irresistible. Cats are notoriously independent and require somewhat less care and attention than dogs, but no less commitment. Like dogs, cats require regular veterinary check-ups and immunisations.
It’s important to choose a cat that’s suitable to be around children. A cat may be a better choice than a dog if your family has limited living space.
Your local animal shelter staff can advise you on the temperaments of adoptable cats.
So what is the best first pet for children? In the end there are no bad choices, just do your research and make sure that the pet you choose is right for your family at this time in your child’s life. Good luck with beginning your child’s pet obsessions.