5 Good Pets for Kids and How to Choose the Right One

Published May 13, 2022
Two young girls outdoors hugging and kissing pet dog

Caring for a pet can be a wonderful experience for children. It teaches them responsibility while providing unconditional companionship. However, with so many companion animal choices, it can be challenging to find a good pet for kids that also aligns with your space, lifestyle, and budget. Explore these options to find the perfect pet for your child.

Bearded Dragons

For children fascinated by dinosaurs, a bearded dragon, which looks like a small dino, might be the perfect pet. These reptiles are docile, gentle, and easy to handle. They're not as quick-moving as many other lizard species, so most will sit patiently in a child's hands or lap. Still, bearded dragons are soft-bodied and best for older children who can hold them gently and resist touching their own face during play. Due to the possibility of Salmonella transmission from reptiles, children must wash their hands thoroughly before and after handling a bearded dragon.

Bearded dragon on girls shoulder

Rats

Rats aren't everyone's idea of the ideal companion, but these small critters make surprisingly good pets for kids. Pet rats are charismatic, cuddly, and develop strong bonds with their owners. However, this bond can make losing them difficult, as these rodents only live about two to three years.

A young girl holds a pet rat in her cupped hands

Rats are more suitable for children than other short-lived pocket pet species because they rarely bite. Plus, they're intelligent, so your child can even train their rat to perform tricks. There is a caveat; because they're such social creatures, a solo rat can easily become depressed, so you're likely looking at acquiring a pair for your child instead of a single pet.

Betta Fish

If your child doesn't mind a pet they can't hold, a betta fish may be the way to go. There's still plenty your little one can do to engage with this type of pet, including feeding, offering interactive toys, and even decorating their tank. Studies also suggest that watching fish swim can lower stress levels and improve mood.

Child watches family pet fish in fishbowl at home

Dogs

Most children dream of getting their own puppy, but is this pet really a good choice for kids? Actually, yes. Dogs are highly intelligent animals who are generally very patient and gentle with children. A dog can provide your child with unconditional love and improve their confidence. Dog ownership is also proven to reduce stress levels. Have your child oversee or participate in daily walks to increase their physical activity alongside their canine companion.

Golden Retriever licking girl's face

Before settling on a dog, consider their size and temperament. A lot of petite breeds may be too fragile for young children to carry around, and some small dogs are notorious for nipping. A few of the most child-friendly breeds and mixes include Labrador Retrievers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Boxers, Irish Setter, Coton de Tulear, among numerous others. Of course, each pet is an individual with a unique personality, regardless of breed.

Cats

Cats are an equally popular pet choice. These curious, playful animals do not require as much care as a dog, but your child can still enjoy cuddling, grooming, and playing with their new cat. Many guardians worry about cat allergies, but early exposure to pets may reduce a child's risk of allergies or asthma.

Cat Resting in Lap of Little Girl on Armchair

While many cats are affectionate toward children, some can be aloof or even unpredictable. A cat is best suited for an older child who can read their body language. Some experts recommend acquiring a younger adult cat rather than a rambunctious kitten for a child.

Considerations When Picking the Best Pets for Kids

A pet's temperament and attitude toward children aren't the only factors you should consider when choosing a species. There are several other things you must take into account.

  • Lifespan: Consider the commitment each pet carries. A rat may only live to be 2 years-old, whereas a tortoise can live for over 30 years. Depending on the age of your child, you may be responsible for the pet's care if they become bored with the pet or leave the house. Preparing for the passing of this beloved companion is also something you should bear in mind.
  • Handling: All pets should be handled with care, but some are more fragile than others. Rabbits are not an ideal pet for children because they can easily luxate or break their backs if handled incorrectly. Additionally, some pets cannot be handled at all, like fish or salamanders.
  • Sleep cycle: Not all pets stay awake during the day and sleep at night; many small pets are crepuscular or nocturnal. This means they may be sleeping when your child would like to play with them, or they might make noise at night by running on their wheel.
  • Risk of disease: Some pets carry more risk of disease than others. Reptiles and amphibians carry the Salmonella bacteria in their gut, which can infect humans without incorporating proper hygiene. Dogs and cats can also spread zoonotic diseases like worms, whereas a fish is unlikely to make your child ill. Proper preventive measures significantly reduce these risks, but they are something to be aware of when researching pets.
  • Size: Assess how much space the pet requires and whether your home can accommodate it. Some pets are better suited for small spaces than others, and some, like dogs, also need outdoor space.
  • Activity level: Does the pet in question need daily exercise? Even some small mammals, like rats, must be let out of their enclosures every day to stretch their legs, and you will need to supervise this activity.

Good Pets for Kids of Any Age

Owning a pet can be incredibly rewarding and beneficial for children. Studies suggest that kids who have pets are more likely to be compassionate and empathetic, and animal ownership can be an excellent way to promote responsibility. However, as a guardian, you are ultimately accountable for the care and welfare of the animal. Choose a pet you can all enjoy.

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5 Good Pets for Kids and How to Choose the Right One