Best Small Pets for Kids?

Don’t have space for a big pet? Don’t worry. There are still plenty of friendly, palm-sized options your child will love. Here are the best small pets for kids.

If you think they’ll lose interest in caring for the hamster, these years might seem long, but they could also seem too short if the pet dies, giving your child their first exposure to death . Unless your child has experienced the loss of a family member or friend, the experience will undoubtedly be upsetting, though it can also provide the opportunity for an important life lesson.

These cuddly creatures are ideal for a kid who is just learning to take care of a pet because a guinea pig is less likely to get frustrated with its young caretaker. Guinea pigs have a longer life span around five to seven yearsthan hamsters do, and they require more time and effort because of their bigger appetite for lots of hay and vegetables. It’s easy to feed gerbils because they have a standard diet similar to that of rats and hamsters: rodent pellets and food blocks, along with some supplemental seed mixes.

Since rats enjoy interacting with people and things, providing a number of toys and accessories, from ropes to paper-towel rolls, will keep them happy and occupied.

What is the easiest small pet to take care of?

Hamsters..Gerbils..Rats..Guinea Pigs..Hedgehogs..Chinchillas..Reptiles..Insects.

What is the best small animal for a kid?

According to the American Pet Products Association 2011-2012 survey, the top eight small pets are rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice/rats, gerbils, chinchillas and ferrets. Here’s a quick review of each species’ child-friendly pet potential.

What is the easiest pet to take care of for a kid?

Rodents. Smaller mammals, including hamsters, guinea pigs, and gerbils, are relatively easy to raise. Also, most will thrive in a relatively small living space, and care is fairly straightforward. Except for hamsters, which are solitary, it’s best to obtain young same-sex pairs.

What is the best starter pet for a kid?

Guinea Pigs. Guinea pigs are social creatures, yet timid. ….Rats. Rats as pets tend to be misunderstood because of their wild kin. ….Hamsters. Hamster can be small or large in size. ….Gerbils. ….Mice. ….Leopard Geckos. ….Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

Choosing the right small pet for children is a big decision. Every animal is different some need lots of attention, some are easy for small hands to handle, and some are more inclined to bite.

Little animals can also be easier for the child to care for themselves by cleaning their cage and topping up food and water, teaching them responsibility and building a bond. Youll need to handle them every day, play with them, let them run around outside the cage (they generally wont wander too far) and keep them mentally stimulated.

Ferrets are another small pet better suited to older children (theyre not always happy being held in younger hands). Some fish can live much longer than other small pets, depending on the breed and the care they receive. Another popular choice for a family pet, cats require less attention than dogs in terms of walking and routine.

Things you need to think about include whether you live near a main road, paying for a cattery when you go on holiday, the cost of vaccinations and cat insurance.

Dogs and cats are at the top of the human-pet love pyramid for a reason: they like people, they’ll willingly live with you, and they’re relatively easy to care for. But if you can’t or don’t want to have a dog or a cat, and have a young child who desperately wants a pet, you may be wondering what are the best pets for kids (or conversely, the worst pets for kids). Here are some great and terrible options.

They’re also escape artists and will make a beeline for any open door, and if not neutered, the males spray stinky pee all over your house. Ferrets also need both a cage and a litter box, hours of attention/training daily, and have one of the weirdest pet habits out there they form attachments to particular objects in your house, and make little caches of them.

Perhaps worst of all, birds can carry bacteria, viruses, and diseases that can be spread to humans and since their cages need daily maintenance, they require a lot of care, too.

As many adults know, caring for a pet is a rewarding and satisfying experience. And, adopting a pet that a child can also help take care of can be an enriching experience for your kid.

Both Dr. Mackey and Dr. Hess recommend booking a consultation appointment with a veterinarian who is experienced in the care of the species you are considering. She explains that by the age of 7, children start to understand how to be gentle with pets and can actively engage in their birds care.

With training, a parakeet can learn dozens or more words, so your child can actively engage with them in a fun and unique way. A young crested gecko will need time to adapt to their living situations before you can start conditioning them to be handled, which can take three to four weeks. Once you do start handling them, you must teach your child to be very gentle, because crested geckos will drop (lose) their tails if startled or made to feel threatened.

Keep in mind that you will need to teach your children to wash their hands after handling their gecko because reptiles tend to carry Salmonella bacteria more frequently than some other species of pets. Theyre a little tougher. Dr. Hess explains that once kids have a longer attention span, rats can be an ideal pet. A pet rat can help an older child to understand that theres some kind of schedule to their day, says Dr. Hess.

Kids can help with the mental and physical enrichment of pet rats by setting up mazes for them to explore. They can also create foraging toys and places to hide using toilet paper tubes, which the rats can also chew on. Dr. Mackey does caution that rats tend to eat everything you give them and can easily become overweight, so you will have to work with your child to ensure you find the right balance between food and exercise.

Guinea pigs are popular pets for kids because of their size and manageable care requirements. There are also a wide variety of guinea pig breeds to choose from, so your family can find one that fits what you are all looking for in a pet. Children can also actively participate in keeping the cage tidy and providing the guinea pig with fresh hay, salad and pellets.

Guinea pigs tend to live 5-7 years, so they are an option if you are looking for a moderate commitment in terms of life span. Both Dr. Mackey and Dr. Hess point out that rabbits can startle easily and can be very fragile; they can bite and jump and injure themselves, so they should only be handled by a child with a calm demeanor. They are very social creatures that crave attention from their owners and will require a significant time and care commitment.

When children are taught how to properly interact with cats and dogs, they can play a very active role in the care of these pets. Younger kids can give fresh food and water and wash towels and bedding, and tweens and teens can take dogs out on walks, change the cat litter , and even help out with teeth brushing. In terms of responsibilities, your older child can take an active role in the care of their bearded dragon, from feeding and cleaning to socialization and enrichment.

One thing to keep in mind is that the housing requirements for a bearded dragons well-being are a bit more intricate. But luckily, your older child can help with changing the bulbs before they burn out, measuring the temperature of the cage (which needs to be kept at specific levels) and feeding insects to your bearded dragon. Be aware that bearded dragons tend to be more expensive to care for than other pets, due in part to the insect diet and special lighting, says Dr. Mackey.

They do require rodents as food, but they should be freshly deceased or frozen, because live mice can injure your pet snake. With all reptiles, youll want to check the humidity and temperature of the cage and keep the space cleanall activities your older child can assist with. Greek tortoises will grow to be about 5-8 inches, and they should be kept in a large naturalistic enclosure made of plywood (this helps them to learn their boundaries, whereas glass and plastic will have them constantly trying to escape).

When it comes to the care of your tortoise, you will want to work with your veterinarian to meet their individual needs and discuss their nutritional requirements. Your kids can help out with checking the temperature, humidity, light and heat inside the enclosure.

Hamsters

This classic small pet is easy to care for and can even be trained to use litter. That said, hamsters can be rather nippy, and small breeds (females in particular) can be quite aggressive, warns Katherine Quesenberry, DVM, MPH, DABVP, an exotic-pets expert at New York City’s Animal Medical Center. This makes some hamsters difficult to handle. Dr. Graham recommends getting a larger breed such as the Syrian hamster, which is more likely to adapt to home care.A hamster should be kept in a roomy cage, with tunnels and nesting areas for sleeping—but make sure you can clean the cage easily. Hamsters will also typically live for about three years, so consider how much your child will want to interact with it. If you think they’ll lose interest in caring for the hamster, these years might seem long, but they could also seem too short if the pet dies, giving your child their first exposure to death. Unless your child has experienced the loss of a family member or friend, the experience will undoubtedly be upsetting, though it can also provide the opportunity for an important life lesson. “It can be sad but also a way to introduce the idea that everything dies,” says Dr. Graham. “You can be there as your child goes through the experience.”

Guinea Pigs

While guinea pigs are in the same rodent family as hamsters, their demeanor couldn’t be more different. These rodents are gentle and have a sweet disposition, which makes them less likely to bite. Plus, they can be sociable, which means they won’t mind being handled—as long as they’re held properly—and they won’t mind if young kids want to interact with them.These cuddly creatures are ideal for a kid who is just learning to take care of a pet because a guinea pig is less likely to get frustrated with its young caretaker. Consider getting another guinea pig as a companion, however, so they won’t get lonely.Guinea pigs have a longer life span—around five to seven years—than hamsters do, and they require more time and effort because of their bigger appetite for lots of hay and vegetables. This appetite can make guinea pigs messier than other small mammals, so you might have to clean their cage more frequently as well.

Gerbils

“Gerbils are easy to take care of but not very hands-on,” Dr. Quesenberry says. “They’re fine for kids who don’t want to be that involved.” Unlike hamsters and guinea pigs, gerbils have a relatively short lifespan—about two years. It’s easy to feed gerbils because they have a standard diet similar to that of rats and hamsters: rodent pellets and food blocks, along with some supplemental seed mixes.Gerbils are not usually aggressive, so they can also be held, but they are very fast, so it won’t be easy to hold them for long. This quickness means a lot of activity in the cage, which could pique your child’s curiosity. Gerbils are more sensitive to their environment than other small animals, however, and humidity can give them respiratory and fur problems. If you are concerned that your environment might be too humid for a gerbil, consult a veterinarian.

Rats

A rat might not be the first pet on your list, but “they make some of the best pets for small children,” says Dr. Graham. “Rats can be calm, laid-back, not as nippy as other small mammals, and they can be handled a lot.”They make ideal pets if you want your child to develop a strong bond with a pet, because they’re interactive and able to learn tricks, such as retrieving objects and navigating mazes or obstacle courses. Since rats enjoy interacting with people and things, providing a number of toys and accessories, from ropes to paper-towel rolls, will keep them happy and occupied. Rats are also easy to care for and require a standard rodent diet of food blocks. However, like gerbils, rats have a short lifespan ranging from two to three years.

Rabbits

You can consider these popular small pets for kids as long as there’s adult supervision. Like guinea pigs, rabbits are good for younger kids because they usually have a gentle and sociable nature. While larger breeds can be especially gentle, Dr. Quesenberry advises that 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.A rabbit can live from 8 to 12 years. They can also be litter-trained, and they’re easy to care for. Dr. Quesenberry notes that a proper diet is important to ensure the animal’s health and happiness: grass hay, rabbit pellets, and vegetables.

Chinchillas

Chinchillas are a more exotic option for kids who want to watch their pet rather than directly interact with it. Although they’re gentle, chinchillas can be very agile and quick, and they may not be appropriate for young children who aren’t able to handle them, Dr. Quesenberry says. They need a diet of chinchilla pellets and hay, with vegetables as a treat.Unlike their small-pet counterparts, chinchillas should be provided with a dust bath instead of a water bath. Buy chinchilla dust (specially formulated to mimic the dust in their native habitat) and place it in a sturdy bowl or deep dish, or purchase a dust house. A chinchilla needs a dust bath two to three times a week, given outside of its cage; the cage should be multilevel so it can climb up and down.With a lifespan of around 12 to 15 years, chinchillas tend to live much longer than guinea pigs and other rodents.

Best Pets for Kids Ages 4-7

So, how should you go about finding a good match? Both Dr. Mackey and Dr. Hess recommend booking a consultation appointment with a veterinarian who is experienced in the care of the species you are considering.Consider bringing a list of animals you’re interested in so you can discuss each one and determine what the best pet for your family would be. Some factors to take into consideration include:You’ll also want to meet your pet in person so you can get a feel for each other. Dr. Mackey cautions that while some pet store employees are highly knowledgeable, others are not, so your veterinarian is the best resource when it comes to determining care requirements for your pet.After you bring your pet home, you’ll want to book an appointment with your veterinarian immediately so they can assess your pet and then provide you with recommendations on how to best care for them.

Parakeet

Parakeets (also called budgies) can be a good option when it comes to pets for kids. “They’re fairly low-maintenance, not super messy and don’t take up a lot of space,” says Dr. Hess. She explains that by the age of 7, children start to understand how to be gentle with pets and can actively engage in their bird’s care.Parakeets are known to be very affectionate, and they respond well to regular, gentle handling. With training, a parakeet can learn dozens or more words, so your child can actively engage with them in a fun and unique way.A parakeet is a great pet for kids who are able to respect the small bird’s size. They will not do well with children who handle them roughly or act unpredictably and startle them frequently.However, if you are willing to work with your child to help them learn how to positively interact with their pet parakeet, Dr. Hess says that these birds can help teach children how to be calm and patient.When it comes to the everyday care of a parakeet, the parents should take care of the daily cage cleanings, but children can help out with other tasks like washing and filling up the food and water dish and feeding vegetables as a treat.It is important to remember that parakeets can live into their teens, so this pet would be a long-term commitment.

Crested Gecko

If you are comfortable with lizards in your home, then a fun and unique pet to consider is the crested gecko.“Little kids love the gecko because he just sits there in your hand,” says Dr. Mackey. “They’re a cool, cool lizard. They’re the softest animal you will ever touch. Feet stick to the glass on the container. But, they’re nocturnal. You can see them during the daytime, but the evening/early morning is the best time to see them.”While these little guys can be handled and have some quirky characteristics, you will need to work with your child to be gentle with them. A young crested gecko will need time to adapt to their living situations before you can start conditioning them to be handled, which can take three to four weeks.Once you do start handling them, you must teach your child to be very gentle, because crested geckos will “drop” (lose) their tails if startled or made to feel threatened.The care of the crested gecko can be split up between family members. Children can help with mixing a crested gecko’s powdered food with water and how to measure it out. Dr. Mackey says that a child can also help with setting up their terrarium.Keep in mind that you will need to teach your children to wash their hands after handling their gecko because reptiles tend to carry

Rats

They may not be your immediate thought when it comes to pets, but rats can be great pets for kids. “Rats are phenomenal animals,” says Dr. Hess. “Rats are generally very loving and bonded to their owners. They’re gentle. They’re a little tougher.” Dr. Hess explains that once kids have a longer attention span, rats can be an ideal pet.A pet rat can help an older child to “understand that there’s some kind of schedule to their day,” says Dr. Hess. They can add structure and responsibilities that can help children grow to be more thoughtful. For instance, they might have a morning task to feed the rat before going to school.Pet rats are also affectionate pets that, when socialized, love interactions with their humans. They can show excitement when they sense (sight, smell and sound) their human’s presence, and some will even cuddle. But they also like to have a cage mate, so you should be prepared to have more than one.When it comes to caring for pet rats, there are many activities that kids can get involved with. Besides helping feed their pet rats pellets and small veggies, kids can replenish water, clean the water bottle and spot-clean the cage.Kids can help with the mental and physical enrichment of pet rats by setting up mazes for them to explore. They can also create foraging toys and places to hide using toilet paper tubes, which the rats can also chew on.Rats are very intelligent and can be trained, so your child can actively bond with their pet rat and try to teach them a whole host of tricks.Dr. Mackey does caution that rats tend to eat everything you give them and can easily become overweight, so you will have to work with your child to ensure you find the right balance between food and exercise.However, rats tend to only live for about three years, so you will have to be prepared to have a tough conversation with your child if you choose to have a pet rat while they are still very young.

Canaries and Finches

Canaries and finches are ideal pets for kids because they don’t have to be handled a lot. However, they usually prefer the company of others, so you will need to be prepared to have multiple birds. These birds are flock animals and tend to do better when they’re in a group, says Dr. Mackey.Canaries “can be a little skittish. But if they’re kept happy, they’ll sing, and it’s beautiful,” says Dr. Hess. “Many people appreciate small birds for their beauty.” She explains, “Finches are fun to watch. They’re very active.” But finches will not sing, like the canary, so if you are looking for a quiet bird, finches may be a good option.Canaries and finches can be great options for kids who would like to observe more than interact with their pets. While, with patience, canaries can be taught to perch on a finger, most finches prefer not to be handled, so your child will have limited opportunities to physically interact with their finches.Canaries are not the hardiest of pets, either; they “have to be kept safe and away from other pets. They’re fragile,” says Dr. Hess.Kids can help out with cage cleaning and providing fresh food and water for the bird. Your child can also be responsible for removing the bird cage cover in the mornings, changing the paper at the bottom of the cage and vacuuming around the cage.Canaries and finches have a long life span—10-15 years in captivity—so you and your child will need to be prepared to provide care for them well into their teen years.

Guinea Pigs

Everyone has heard about guinea pigs as pets, and some even consider them to be good class pets. Guinea pigs are popular pets for kids because of their size and manageable care requirements. “They’re pretty calm. They’re adorable,” says Dr. Hess. “They’re not high maintenance. They’re fairly hardy.”Guinea pigs generally enjoy being around humans and will actively engage and interact with you. They are willing to sit calmly in a child’s lap and will even vocalize their excitement when their favorite human is around.There are also a wide variety of guinea pig breeds to choose from, so your family can find one that fits what you are all looking for in a pet.If your child can handle additional responsibility, you can consider getting a long-haired guinea pig; they can help with brushing the guinea pig and making sure the hair doesn’t get matted, says Dr. Hess. Children can also actively participate in keeping the cage tidy and providing the guinea pig with fresh hay, salad and pellets.“Guinea pigs are really social animals. They do better when there’s more than one,” says Dr. Mackey. But if you get another guinea pig, that’s twice the cage space and twice the expense.Guinea pigs tend to live 5-7 years, so they are an option if you are looking for a moderate commitment in terms of life span.

Rabbits

Rabbits can be great pets for kids, but you have to be prepared to be very involved in your rabbit’s care.“They’ve very, very loving,” says Dr. Hess. “They live a long time. They can be very bonded to their owners. They can be gentle.”Both Dr. Mackey and Dr. Hess point out that rabbits can startle easily and can be very fragile; they can bite and jump and injure themselves, so they should only be handled by a child with a calm demeanor.Despite their reputation as low-maintenance starter pets, rabbits are actually better suited for older children that understand how to be responsible with the care of their pet. They are very social creatures that crave attention from their owners and will require a significant time and care commitment.If your family is ready to take on the care of a rabbit, then you will find that they make great companions. They are curious and playful and will provide your child with a loving pet that enjoys their company.Since these pets are best for older children, your child can be actively involved in their care. They can ensure the litter box is cleaned, provide the rabbit with fresh hay, replace paper-based bedding and clean their cages. They can also help you pick out vegetables for your rabbit.Rabbits also need to spend time out of their cages, so you can use this as an opportunity to bond with your child as you both watch the rabbit explore his surroundings safely.Keep in mind that rabbits could potentially be attacked or harmed by other animals and will probably need to be kept in their own separate space.Domestic rabbits tend to live 8-12 years, so they will be long-term commitments for your family.

Cats and Dogs

Cats and dogs, while common, are major commitments when it comes to time, money and responsibility.When children are taught how to properly interact with cats and dogs, they can play a very active role in the care of these pets. “They understand responsibilities and consequences. They have to participate in the care. That’s part of the deal,” says Dr. Hess. “Picking up dog poop isn’t so much fun. It’s something that you have to do.”Children can take responsibility for a variety of care tasks for a pet dog or cat. Younger kids can give fresh food and water and wash towels and bedding, and tweens and teens can take dogs out on walks, change the cat litter, and even help out with teeth brushing.Dogs and cats can live to be well over 10 years old (some for 20 years or even more), so they are long-term commitments.

Bearded Dragons

If you have older children who are looking for a more unique pet, consider a bearded dragon. According to Dr. Mackey, bearded dragons are the “world’s greatest lizards… because they’re fairly hardy [and] because they don’t bite often. I won’t say that they won’t, but they don’t, typically.”Bearded dragons are reptiles that enjoy being handled and held, so if your child is looking for a reptile that they can actively engage with, they are a great option.In terms of responsibilities, your older child can take an active role in the care of their bearded dragon, from feeding and cleaning to socialization and enrichment.One thing to keep in mind is that the housing requirements for a bearded dragon’s well-being are a bit more intricate. They require special UV lighting and temperature controls, and sometimes live feedings.But luckily, your older child can help with changing the bulbs before they burn out, measuring the temperature of the cage (which needs to be kept at specific levels) and feeding insects to your bearded dragon.Be aware that bearded dragons tend to be more expensive to care for than other pets, due in part to the insect diet and special lighting, says Dr. Mackey.Bearded dragons tend to live 5-8 years but can live to be up to 10 years old when provided with optimal care.

Corn Snakes

Both vets praised corn snakes as being easy to handle and a good option for a family prepared to care for a pet snake. “Corn snakes can be very gentle,” says Dr. Hess.The corn snake can grow to be 2.5-5 feet, so you will need to adjust their terrarium size as they grow. They are great starter reptiles for older children because they do not mind being handled. They do require rodents as food, but they should be freshly deceased or frozen, because live mice can injure your pet snake.They’re also relatively low-maintenance pets when it comes to daily chores. However, because they have special care requirements, they are best suited for older children.With all reptiles, you’ll want to check the humidity and temperature of the cage and keep the space clean—all activities your older child can assist with. Your child can also take an active role in the layout of the cage and the accessories it contains.Corn snakes have a life span of 5-10 years, so they are also long-term commitments.