What animals are good first pets for children? I know my first pet was a small dog when I was 7, but I was wondering if there are better options than dogs.

asked 09 Dec '09, 14:03

Matthew%20Jones's gravatar image

Matthew Jones
accept rate: 18%

We never had cats because my dad was allergic to them. And with so many kids in the house, mom didn't want to deal with a dog. Instead, we had a beta fish (you can have them in a bowl instead of a tank with an air filter) and later a small turtle. Both were easy to take care of and could, therefore, survive in our very busy household. The downside was that you couldn't really play with either of them. We'd take the turtle out sometimes, but the entertainment factor was pretty limited.

I'd almost recommend a gerbil or hamster, but I don't have any first-hand experience with them. They're fluffy and fun to touch, but if they get out of their habitat, you could have trouble finding them in the house.

My criteria for good firsts pets would be the following:

  1. Requires a small amount of care. You want to teach the child responsibility, but keep it simple. Example, a fish only needs to be fed once a day and have its bowl cleaned about once a month.

  2. Allows for some bonding with the child. The problem with our fish was that we usually forgot about him. The child needs to be able to play with the pet at least a little bit, especially if the goal is to work up to having a dog or cat later.


answered 09 Dec '09, 14:19

Artemis's gravatar image

accept rate: 11%


I, too, like the gerbil/rodent idea, but it's important to note that they are fuzzy, can be played with, and therefore develop attachments, and when the life span is 1-5 years, you could have the "death" conversation with your child earlier than intended.

(10 Dec '09, 07:37) DarwinsMom

My SIL has a pet rat. Okay, steretype/gross out factor aside, they are very intelligent and evidently make good pets.

(10 Dec '09, 21:11) mkcoehoorn

When we moved to where we currently live (about 5 years ago), we were considering getting a dog as my wife would be at home with our older (and then, only) daughter. However, we decided to put it off until after the Christmas for that year.

Early that New Year, one of the people at work had a stray cat dump a litter of 5 kittens on her door step, and then die. We volunteered to take two of the kittens. They were not weaned so we had to bottle feed them for the first few weeks.

Our daughter (about 2 years old) was amazingly good to them and the cats were amazingly indestructible.

As the cats grew, and another daughter came along, they have been a good pet: they can be affectionate (when they want food!), they are relatively easy to care for (we mostly just feed them dried food nuts, not canned food), and they can mostly look after themselves.

For my daughters, they get to feed the cats once a day (a cup full of "nuts") and make sure they have water.

My wife is mildly allergic to cats, but she has nearly always had cats at home, so this is only a minor issue.


answered 10 Dec '09, 01:03

Peter%20K.'s gravatar image

Peter K.
accept rate: 0%

I agree that cats are pretty indestructible - they can get away if they are being treated unpleasantly. We have an elderly cat who puts up with most things, and never bites or even scratches, but she'll warn the kids if they're being too rough and then simply run away.

(10 Dec '09, 18:22) Meg Stephenson

At our local mall, the new trend is to buy Hermit Crabs. You can let your child pick out their own unique coloured shell for the crab to live in and the crab comes in its own little plastic habitat with water and a sleeping area. They require minimal care; food and water once a day, clean their container once a month. And they can actually be held by a child unlike a fish. Here's some hermit crab info. We are getting one for my 7 yr old autistic nephew for Christmas from a booth in our mall.


answered 09 Dec '09, 14:36

Shannon%20B's gravatar image

Shannon B
accept rate: 9%

My parents had two miniature dachshunds when I was born, and they seemed to get along well with my brother and I. We also had fish when I was little, but at Artemis noted, there's not much in the way of interaction there. I also had a gerbil but those don't mix well with mini doxies.

Currently we have a cat. She's working out well with our kids because if they start to annoy her she just leaves the room. We had a Rat Terrier for a while, but, due to a variety of conditions, it didn't work out.

I'm looking at getting my son some fish just after Christmas, not so much as a pet, but to generate white noise in his bedroom since he is a light sleeper.


answered 09 Dec '09, 16:51

mkcoehoorn's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%


I had developed a fear of dogs pretty early (thanks to a bad baby-sitter), but my aunt and uncle had several dachshunds that were very sweet tempered. I never had a problem with them. I think they're a great breed for small children.

(10 Dec '09, 04:05) Artemis
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Asked: 09 Dec '09, 14:03

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Last updated: 10 Dec '09, 01:03