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Posted on Friday, February 24th, 2012

Choosing Your Child’s First Pet

Little Girl and Kitten

A first pet is an exciting challenge for a young child. However, it’s important to remember that most children have never been responsible for something as demanding as a live pet, so even though they may promise to feed it and groom it regularly, they may not live up to their guarantees. Because of this, some pets that make better companions than others for small children. Here are examples of these sorts of pets:

Guinea Pigs, Hamsters and Gerbils: When you’re thinking about a first pet, it’s often good to start small. These small pets make good companions because they’re easy to handle, easy to keep track of, and non-threatening to a child. Guinea pigs make especially good pets for very young children because they are easygoing, rarely bite and are easily handled. Hamsters are also calm creatures, but are mostly nocturnal. Gerbils are the most active of these three small pets, and may become aggressive if they feel threatened.

Rats: Despite their reputation, rats are calm, gentle, clean and friendly. They are easier to handle than mice because they are larger, but they also use urination as a territorial marker and may bite when threatened. For this reason, rats make better first pets for slightly older children. Rats work well in pairs, so take that into consideration when buying your child’s first pet!

Fish: Fish are great pets for kids because they are interesting without being interactive. As long as you place your aquarium tank in a location where it is secure and can’t be tipped or tampered with, you don’t have to worry about your child harming his pet. However, fish require a lot of technical maintenance to keep their aquarium healthy, which you will have to do yourself. Fish make good pets for very young children as long as you are willing to do most of the work.

Cats: Cats make good pets because they don’t require much training, they can live independently and an adult cat won’t easily be injured by your child. Unfortunately, their litter boxes need to be cleaned often and they can scratch, which can be painful. An older, more responsible child would make a good first-time owner for a cat.

Dogs: Canines require a good deal of care, and dog training can be incredibly intensive. For this reason, a dog isn’t usually a great first pet to put a child in charge of. Dogs are incredibly affectionate, though, and make great, protective companions for a child, as long as there is plenty of adult supervision and care.

Tell us about your first pet in the comments below!