10 of the Best Pets for Families with Young Kids

fishAt some point in your life as a parent, you will be besieged by bargaining, pleading and begging for the addition of a family pet. While your first reaction may be to change the subject or issue a flat-out denial, the truth is that caring for a pet can be a rich and rewarding experience for your children. They’ll learn compassion and responsibility, as well as the rewarding feeling of caring for another living being. That being said, not all pets are ideal for families with young children. These ten animals, however, tend to be a great fit with young families.

  • Fish – Unless you opt for a massive saltwater tank filled with exotic specimens, fish can be an ideal first pet for youngsters. They require daily maintenance that will keep kids interested, but not so much care that little ones become overwhelmed. They’re also virtually guaranteed not to scratch or bite.
  • Guinea Pigs – There’s a reason why these furry friends find their way into so many schools as elementary school class pets; they’re great with kids and fun to interact with. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to place an exercise wheel in their cages like those commonly found in hamster cages, as running on them can cause leg and joint damage in these unique critters.
  • Rats – Throw away your preconceptions about rats long enough to truly research them, and you may be surprised to find that they’re one of the pets best suited to life with a young family. Sociable and gentle, rats are relatively easy to care for and don’t mind being handled.
  • Small Dogs – While many parents think that larger breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers are the best bet for households with kids, their size alone can be intimidating to small children. Instead, consider a smaller breed with enough energy to play for hours that’s not so big that kids are frightened.
  • Ants – The battle to keep them out of your kitchen seems overwhelming, so at first blush, the last thing you’d want to add to your family is a box full of ants. They’re actually fascinating creatures to watch, very inexpensive to keep and only likely to escape if kids deliberately let them out of their habitat.
  • Sea Monkeys – Few pets offer kids the opportunity to watch something come to life, but the brine shrimp commonly referred to as sea monkeys do just that. Like ant farms, their habitats are inexpensive to maintain and provide kids with hours of observational fun without requiring extensive upkeep.
  • Birds – As long as they’re chosen for temperament rather than showy color, certain types of bird make great pets for kids. Their cheery chirping brings a smile to little faces, but their cages do require adult assistance for cleaning and maintenance.
  • Gerbils – While gerbils require less maintenance than cats or dogs, they do need lots of attention and affection to thrive. They’re very unlikely to hurt kids, but little hands can cause the gerbil injury if they get too rough. Be sure to have a long talk about gentleness with your little ones before introducing a gerbil to the family, then enjoy the fun!
  • Hamsters – Similar to gerbils in some ways, hamsters are another fun and cuddly member of the rodent family that make great pets for kids. It’s not a great idea to keep the cage in kids’ bedrooms, however, as these naturally nocturnal critters can make just enough noise to disrupt kids’ sleep if they’re in the same room at night.
  • Leopard Geckos – There’s something about reptiles that appeals to kids, but not all are safe for kids. Iguanas, for instance, have razor sharp teeth that they won’t hesitate to plunge into an offending hand if they feel the urge. They also can carry salmonella. Leopard geckos, however, do tolerate handling and will only reach about eight inches in length, making them more manageable for families with kids.

Before you commit to bringing a pet into your home, it’s important that you ensure that you’re well-versed in the care the animal will require and aware of the fact that pet ownership is a commitment that should be taken very seriously. In addition to flooding the market with adult animals that aren’t likely to find homes, changing your mind after lengthy ownership can be hurtful to kids that have grown attached to their animal friends.