Has your child been asking (or pestering) you for a pet? If you’re on the fence and not too sure whether you want the commitment of looking after a small animal, you should keep in mind there are actually plenty of advantages of having a pet that will benefit both you and your children.
Welcoming a pet into your home teaches your children responsibility, communication, patience and perseverance. Perhaps you aren’t ready for to introduce a puppy into your home–after all, they do require a lot of time and patience–but there are plenty of smaller animals for which your children can have responsibility and also reap many useful life skills.
Here are the three best small animals for children:
1. Betta Fish
Betta fish make the perfect first pet choice for many children; there are many bright and colorful choices, plus a Betta fish tank can easily fit into a small area in your child’s bedroom.
Betta fish come in hundreds of different colors and tail shapes, and only require a 5-gallon tank. Their setup is really simple: they’ll need a filter and a heater, and the rest of the tank can be designed by your child. If they want to use some colorful gravel for the bottom of the tank, consider a color that matches their fish. Betta fish are available in blue, red, pink, yellow, white, purple–pretty much any color of the rainbow.
Keeping fish will teach your children how to be responsible; they’ll need to look after their fish, feed them at the correct times and make sure the fish is happy and healthy. Fish can also help children consistency; they’ll need to carry out weekly water changes and make sure the tank stays clean.
In addition to the life skills learned from caring for a living creature, there are also a number of educational things that having a fish tank will teach your child, including the nitrogen cycle, the science behind water chemistry and the natural habitats of the certain species they want to keep.
2. Guinea Pigs
If your child wants a pet they can cuddle and play with, a guinea pig would make the perfect partner.
Guinea pigs are a lot more robust than smaller animals such as mice and hamsters, but they’re also not as large as a cat or dog and don’t require as much maintenance as larger animals. Guinea pigs are really active throughout the day and will squeal in excitement when they see your children, which can help your kids to learn how to form close bonds. These animals are super friendly and happy, and are great fun to just sit and watch. They can be kept inside or outside; depending on how quiet you like your home to be! They are very sociable animals and like to be kept in pairs or groups; this could be ideal if you have more than one child, as each child can choose and take responsibility for a guinea pig.
Just like fish, kids will learn how to be responsible through carrying out daily and weekly chores; however, guinea pigs do require more care and maintenance than fish. The benefits of this extra maintenance are that your children will have an animal they can connect with more, get out for cuddles and share all their stories with. They live between four and eight years, which is quite a long time for a childhood pet, so you need to be prepared that your child might lose interest– again though, there’s another life lesson to be learned regarding commitments.
Don’t click away–we’re serious! Although rats often don’t have the best reputation (they’re generally thought of as unclean and scary with their long scaly tails), this couldn’t be further from the truth. A rat makes an excellent first pet for a child; they are sociable and quite low maintenance. They’re also very clean and intelligent, and as long as they have been well-socialized and handled from birth, they’re highly unlikely to be aggressive.
Rats come in plenty of different colors and live for about two years on average. Rats love to climb, so will need a large and tall cage to climb around in. Maintenance-wise, they fall somewhere between fish and guinea pigs. They need daily social interaction and should be allowed to run around outside of the cage for around an hour each day. They’re also much easier to handle than smaller rodents such as hamsters. Like guinea pigs, rats need to be kept in pairs or groups so make sure you have enough space to house them!
Which Pet Will You Choose?
The choice of a first pet will most likely fall down to how committed you think your child will be. A pet fish definitely requires the least amount of maintenance, whereas a guinea pig will need the most.
Whichever pet you get for your child will invariably pass away, teaching them yet another valuable life skill–dealing with grief. Before getting any pet, make sure that your kids help you research in advance and that they understand the importance of caring for another life, but most of all–enjoy!