Little Friends: The Best Kid-Friendly Pets

It seems like almost every kid wants a pet of his or her own. While this is a lot of work, many parents recognize the role a pet can play in helping to develop a sense of responsibility, empathy, and compassion. The age of your child or children, your family’s lifestyle, and personal preferences all come into play when selecting a pet, however, which can make the decision more complicated than you may have been expecting.

We know that there is something special and rewarding about the relationship a child can have with a pet, and want to do everything we can to support that. Our list of kid-friendly pets aims to help you figure out which type of pet would be a good fit for your child and your family as a whole.

Kid-Friendly Pets

  1. Guinea pigs – It’s easy to see why guinea pigs are such popular pets for kids. Besides being cute and fluffy, they are friendly, generally enjoy being held, and are easy to care for. Along with needing a large cage and lots of room, guinea pigs need companionship and do best when paired with another guinea pig of the same sex.
  2. Hamsters/gerbils – Hamsters and gerbils can make good pets because of their low-maintenance care and small size. It’s important to keep in mind that these rodents are nocturnal, which means they are often awake (and noisy) and night, and many do not enjoy being held.
  3. Rats – Rats can be extremely friendly and tend to enjoy interacting with humans and each other. The commitment level for a rat is lower than for other rodents, due to their short lifespan (2-3 years).
  4. Rabbits – Rabbits have always been beloved by children and adults for their cuteness and intelligence, but not all rabbits make good pets for kids. Although many rabbits are friendly, some don’t like being picked up, and may bite or kick. Rabbits also have longer lifespans than other small pets, many living up to 10 years or more.
  5. Fish – A hardy, easy to care for fish makes a classic pet. Look for fish who are commercially raised and do well with tap water, such as guppies, goldfish, bettas, and tetras. Learn how to care for your fish of choice before bringing him or her home.
  6. Reptiles – If someone in your family is allergic to pet dander, certain reptiles can make good pets for kids. Kid-friendly reptiles include bearded dragon lizards, geckos, and corn snakes. Understand, though, that these pets have specific food, temperature, and humidity requirements to keep them healthy and comfortable.
  7. Cats – A cat or kitten with the right temperament can make a great pet for children. Although children can learn to feed and care for cats with relative ease, parents should supervise interactions and make sure children understand how to interact with a cat to prevent injury (to the child or the cat). Families should be prepared for the fact that cats can live quite a long time (15+ years in many cases).
  8. Dogs – Kid-friendly dogs are the ultimate family pet! Set yourself and your child up for success by finding a social dog who likes kids (your veterinarian or shelter/rescue worker can help you here). Adult family members should plan on sharing the responsibility of pet dogs, especially since they will likely end up as the main caretakers once school/activities take over or children leave home after high school.

As a general rule, children under age 8 should always be supervised around a small pet who is out of his or her habitat. Although children can and should take on age-appropriate pet care responsibilities, the adults of the household are ultimately responsible for the care and well-being of any pet.

Still need help finding the right pet for your family? Your team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates is only a phone call away!