My child wants a pet….. what should I choose?

At some point, most children will want a pet of their own!!

As a parent, it can be difficult to choose an appropriate pet for your child.  Small mammals are a good choice as they are easier to care for, under parent supervision vs a dog or cat which tend to be more of a ‘family’ pet. This article discusses the pros and cons of different small mammals to help you select the right furry friend for your child.

Rabbits are social animals so it is best to select a pair.  Generally a young bonded male and female, both neutered, are a good choice.  Rabbits need a lot of exercise (5 hours or more daily!) and a large cage.  When considering a breed of rabbit, the main considerations are short faced rabbits (like Netherlands dwarfs for example) will tend to have more dental problems, and the larger the rabbit (in general) the more calm they will be. For the most part, bunnies enjoy being social and being pet by their owners, but do not tend to enjoy being lifted.  Rabbits are easily litter trained.

Guinea pigs are generally an excellent choice for children, if well-handled from a young age. Like bunnies, they are social animals so it is best to get a small, same sex pair or group.  The need a good deal of space in their cage and the opportunity to exercise outside of the cage daily. Guinea pigs tend to be less tidy than rabbits and often don’t have one designated area where they toilet.

Chinchillas are popular pets however as they are nocturnal and tend to be quite skittish, they make a better choice for adults vs children.

Of the remaining small furries, rats are an excellent choice for children. They are smart, sociable, and tend to form strong bonds with their owners.  It is best to get 2 rats of the same sex so that they have company.

Hamsters are a popular pet, however they are nocturnal so tend to not be sociable at the hours a child is normally awake, making them not a great choice.

Mice can be social, but tend to not enjoy social interactions with humans as much.  They also have quite potent urine.

Gerbils are very quick and difficult to handle, so not the best choice for a young child.

It is worth bearing in mind that, like guinea pigs, small furries will urinate and defecate out of their cage, including on you if you’re holding them!

Before making a decision on any particular pet it is important to consider a few key questions.  Does your child or anyone in your family have allergies to pet dander, hay, or sawdust? Are you prepared to help with any cage cleaning? While children will often assure you they will tend to their new friend’s every need, most parents can tell you they end up doing much of the cleaning! It is also worth bearing in mind the costs involved in purchasing pet food, hay, shavings, and fresh veg each week

Finally, even small mammals occasionally take ill and need to go to the vet, so it is wise to be prepared for these potential costs.

The right pet can provide a special friend for you child, bring a feeling of fulfilment for being able to care for another, and give them a sense of responsibility.

If you have any questions about which pet is right for your family, please give us a call or come in for a chat.

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