If you have a kid that’s over the age of five, there’s a particular question that you probably get asked a lot.
No, the question isn’t “Are we there yet?”, although that’s a pretty close second. The question that tops the charts is actually: “Can we get a pet?”.
Well, if after the 100th time you’re asked this question, you find yourself entertaining the thought, here’s a blog post on how to go about choosing a pet depending on how involved you plan to be, how much help your kid will have, and how responsible you think they are.
Here’s a list of pets you could get, ranked in order of how easy they are to care for:
Fish may be easy pets to start with because they need very little care compared to most other pets. The most work you will need to do is cleaning out the fish tank every few weeks. This might sound appealing, especially if your kids are very young, however, fish live longest in their natural habitat, among other fish. While we can do our best to recreate their ideal habitats by regulating the salinity of the water, planting weeds, maintaining a steady water temperature, procuring the right food, etc, it will never be quite the same as their natural habitat.
Don’t believe everything you see on the internet – turtles can’t really fly. But they are definitely a step up from fish because they can be held and played with. Most turtle species live for several decades so you are in for a lifelong friendship with a creature that has been around on planet Earth for centuries. They are known to have individual personalities too!
Since they tend to be shy, they can get stressed by regular interactions and can sometimes also bite. So if your kid wants a pet they can handle often, turtles might not be the best choice.
Important note: Turtles can also carry salmonella germs on their shells, so it’s important to wash your hands every time you handle one. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure that owning a turtle is legal in your state/country. Like fish, turtles are also best suited to living in their natural habitats.
GUINEA PIGS & RABBITS
Kids love guinea pigs and rabbits because they’re tiny, warm, and fluffy. They’re more interactive than fish and turtles – you can actually hold them and play with them for longer periods of time. All they need is a little space in the house, regular feeding, and for their cages to be cleaned twice a day.
Important note: There are 2 things to be wary of if you’re looking at getting either of these pets – (1) They multiply fast (2) If you don’t clean their cages/crates/enclosures often, they can start to smell. Pee-yew!
Like guinea pigs and rabbits, hamsters are fuzzy and adorable. The only real difference between them is that hamsters are more active and need more engagement. They basically need to get their daily steps in – but a hamster wheel in their cage should do the trick. To keep a hamster happy, make sure to give it lots of toys (tubes, ladders, wheels, swings) and a lot of personal space.
Just be careful, they’re super cute and cuddly but they also tend to be less docile – I’ve been bitten by my hamster, but never by my guinea pig.
Important note: They’re nocturnal, so they prefer to sleep during the day and play at night. My hamster would sleep inside cardboard tubes during the day to escape heat and light.
We’re obviously not talking about the live action musical with the same name – that one’s a BIG NO.
All jokes aside, cats make great pets! They’re very independent, they clean themselves, and they do not need to be walked – you’ll only have to change their litter and keep them well fed. You will need to make regular visits to the vet to make sure your cat is vaccinated, dewormed, and flea-free, but apart from that, they’re easy to litter train, can be transported easily, and are very affectionate (when they want to be).
Important note: If you’re considering getting a cat, make sure you and your family are not allergic to cat fur.
First of all, the science is in: Turns out that even just petting a familiar dog lowers blood pressure, and heart rate, slows breathing, and relaxes muscle tension. The unconditional love that they offer to their humans truly makes up for the fact that they live under your roof and never even offer to pay rent.
Now, there’s no denying that dogs are a lot of work – but they’re also worth all the effort! Like it is with cats, caring for a dog is a commitment for the whole family. They need to be walked twice or thrice a day, fed regularly, exercised, played with, bathed, vaccinated, and the list goes on and on (and on).
That being said, part of the charm of having a dog is the amount of discipline and responsibility they teach you. If you think your family is ready for this, go for it! Getting a dog is a life-changing experience for kids – and grown-ups too!
With all pets, it’s important for your kids to be gentle, disciplined, and maintain personal hygiene. All animals carry bacteria and germs that are transmittable to people. Washing your hands every time you handle your pet can help you, your pet, and your family, stay healthy.
Now that we’ve run through a list of pets you could bring home, here are some signs that your family might not be well placed to welcome a pet:
- You’re expecting a new baby.
- You travel a lot and have no one to stay home with the pet.
- You don’t have a lot of space at home.
- Someone in your family is allergic to fur.
- Not everyone in your family likes/is comfortable with animals.
- Your kids aren’t gentle with animals.
If any of the above holds true for you, you should probably think a little more about how things would change with a pet around. Adopting a pet is like bringing home a new family member and is not easily reversible. In fact, it’s extremely important to know that you’re 200% ready for a pet before you take the plunge.
Important note: Changing your mind after you’ve brought them home and sending them away will most definitely cause severe abandonment issues in the pet.
If you’ve decided to not get a pet, but have kids who love animals, here are some other ways they can channel their passion:
- Volunteering at an animal shelter.
- Making donations to organizations that rehabilitate animals and protect their rights.
- Spreading awareness on animal rights and the prevention of cruelty to animals
- Fostering animals temporarily until they’re ready for adoption
If there are other animals that you’d like to have seen on the list – I’d love to know which ones and why. Do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’m always up for a good pet story!
Shreya is part of the marketing team at DIY. Having always loved animals, she “began her career” (her words) as a vet’s assistant at the age of 8. Since then, she’s adopted, fostered, and rehabilitated all kinds of animals – from white mice to dogs! She’s a big believer in the impact that animals can have on how children develop.