Useful tools, Wellbeing
The best pets for children
21 September, 2023
Owning a pet can be a lot of fun – but it’s also a big responsibility. Before you jump in, do your research and choose an animal that will be just right for your family.
The best pets for children
Dogs, cats, birds, fish… pets can be a wonderful addition to the family, providing companionship, entertainment and a fun incentive to get outside and be active. They also teach children responsibility and empathy. The latest Pets in Australia study from Animal Medicines Australia shows that across Australia, 69 per cent of households have at least one pet.
What age is good to introduce a pet to children?
Many families have pets before they have children, so there’s no definite right or wrong answer here. The best pets for families are the ones that fit in with yours, so you’ll need to consider your own family and what you can manage. Is your child full of energy? They may love a dog to run around with outside and take for walks. An anxious child may find it soothing to have an animal to hold and pet, such as a cat, rabbit or guinea pig. Children who tend towards rough play may find it difficult to be gentle with a bird, and some children may prefer to observe their pet, rather than interact with it, so may prefer fish or a tortoise.
What to consider when choosing pets for children
Pet life span: Children build close attachments to their pets, so ensure you consider the lifespan of the animal and how long the pet will be a part of your family. Some small pets for kids, such as fish, may live for only two years, while dogs and cats can live for 10 or more. If you’re planning a future move from a house with a backyard to an apartment, you may need to choose an indoor pet.
Household and garden space: Consider how much space you have to accommodate a pet. Large, active dogs need room to exercise, while birds need a quiet place to sleep at night.
Care and exercise needs: Consider the care requirements and daily exercise needs of the pet to determine whether it will fit with your family’s lifestyle.
Health care costs: Pets require nutritious food and a safe place to live, as well as vaccinations and veterinary care. Consider the potential ongoing costs to determine what your family can afford to spend before you commit to a pet.
Child interaction: Consider the needs of your child in a pet. Some children prefer a pet they can play with and hold, while others would rather observe a pet in its natural habitat.
What are low-maintenance pets for kids?
If this is your first pet, you may want to consider an animal that’s low maintenance and doesn’t take much effort to exercise. The following animals are regarded as fairly easy pets for kids:
- Guinea Pigs– These are among the best pets for toddlers. They’re calm, fairly hardy and like to be handled. They live for five to seven years. Kids can help brush them, clean their cage and give them fresh food.
- Rats– They’re affectionate, intelligent and fairly hardy. They live for about three years. Kids can help feed them and teach them tricks.
- Mice– Mice are among the best small pets for kids. They’re affordable and affectionate, easy to care for and live for about two years.
- Goldfish– Goldfish are among the easiest pets to care for. They’re affordable and calming to watch and can live for 10-15 years in the right environment.
- Bearded Dragons and Lizards – These reptiles make good pets for kids who want something a little different. They’re gentle and fairly easy to take care of and have a lifespan of 10-15 years. They will need a special enclosure and possibly a license, depending on where you live.
- Budgies – If you’re into birds, Australian budges are considered one of the best pets for children. They’re small and affectionate and can learn a few words. Kids can handle them – gently – and help change their food. They can live for 5-10 years in captivity.
How to introduce a child to a first pet
It’s important for the safety of both your child and your new pet that you prepare your child before introducing them to a pet. Talk to them about the animal and how it should be approached and handled. It may be helpful for your child to have an opportunity to simply observe the animal before they interact.