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KFP Boy and his dog

How Do I Choose the Best Pet for My Family? 16 Pet Ideas!

Kid-friendly pets come in all shapes, sizes and personalities – just like our kids. When choosing a kid-friendly pet, one size does not fit all.

Matching the personality traits and needs of the pet to the age, needs, and personality of the child will offer a better fit. Be sure to consider the costs, care needs, and life expectancy of the pet in comparison to the family’s financial and time resources and the home environment. Understand the care requirements and responses to human interactions of the pet so it fits with the interaction expectations of the child or family.

How do I choose the best pet for my family?

Often a pet becomes part of the family or home environment. Therefore, make sure the pet you choose is a good match. A pet that wants to be left alone, for example, wouldn’t be a good fit for a child who wants to cuddle and play with the pet.

Consider the longevity of the pet chosen, for instance, fish have short lifespans while tortoises may live to be 50 years old. This may impact a child’s experience with either death of a beloved pet or long-term care.

KFP hamster

There are low maintenance pets – like fish – and high maintenance pets – like hedgehogs – that require significant attention and care. Determine what your child or family can manage with other life responsibilities.

If allergies are a concern, remember that cats are highly allergenic pets while turtles and tortoises are considered hypoallergenic but may also carry bacteria.

Though hamsters and guinea pigs look similar, they differ in their care needs and how they interact with kids so buy wisely and with a full understanding of what is needed for each pet and how your child’s interactions may aggravate the pet or how the pet may calm your child.

A child’s age, responsibility level, and personality must also be considered when choosing a pet so that both the child’s needs and the pet’s will be met.

When choosing a pet for your child or family, consider the following:

  1. The daily and lifetime commitment requirements of the pet.
  2. The costs involved in obtaining and maintaining the pet.
  3. The personality of the pet and the personality of the child(ren) and family.
  4. How the pet will interact with your child or family?
  5. How much maintenance is involved in caring for the pet?
  6. Whether or not my child can meet the care requirements of the pet alone, or with supervision.
  7. How my child might engage the pet with or against siblings.
  8. Allergy implications for my child or family.
KFP kitten

16 of the Top-Rated Kid-Friendly Pets

1) Fish

Fish are one of the best starter pets for kids. They are low maintenance, low cost, easy to care for pets. They are not good for kids who may want to reach in and touch them.

2) Hamsters

Hamsters are easy to care for and can be trained to use the litter box. They can be aggressive and bites may occur if hamsters feel threatened. Life expectancy is three years. (Are Hamsters Good Classroom Pets?)

3) Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs are gentle, sociable, and less likely to bite than hamsters. They are great for new pet owners. They do better in twos. They can be messy and need more maintenance. The life span is 5-7 years.

4) Gerbils

Gerbils are easy care but not hands-on because they are fast and hard to hold on to. Their busy nature is great for curious kids. They are sensitive to their environment. Life span is about two years.

5) Rats

Rats are some of the best pets for small children. They are calm and can be handled a lot. They make strong bonds and can learn tricks. Life span is 2-3 years.

6) Rabbits

Rabbits are good for young children who have adult supervision. They are gentle and sociable. They can be litter-trained and are easy to care for. Life span is 8-12 years. (Are Rabbits Good Pets for Toddlers?)

KFP rabbit

7) Chinchillas

Chinchillas are great for watching but not interacting. They are gentle, but quick, and not great pets for young children. Life span is 12-15 years.

8) Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are friendly, but not for cuddling. If handled when young, hedgehogs become social. They tend to be high maintenance due to propensity for health problems and high vet costs. They may develop mites. Owning hedgehogs may not be legal in some states. Lifespan is 5-7 years.

KFP hedgehog

9) Tortoises

Tortoises are non-allergenic. Reptiles are not recommended for young children as they may transmit salmonella. Lifespan is 50+ years.

10) Turtles

Turtles are long-term investments and can live 30 years. They require daily care, including a large water tank with a good filtration system. Turtles should be handled infrequently because it stresses them out and they may carry bacteria.

11) Birds

Birds require daily attention. Different varieties of birds have different abilities and needs. The parakeet is inexpensive and may be a good starter pet.

KFP bird

12) Cats

Cats are independent and full of frolicking. They take up less space than dogs, but need regular vet care. Choose a cat with the right temperament for children.

13) Dogs

Dogs are not all alike. Choose one well-socialized and suitable for children. Dogs need significant time and effort; may need to be housebroken, and require daily exercise and regular vet visits. (The 5 Best Dogs for Scared and Shy Children)

14) Hermit Crabs

Hermit Crabs are low maintenance, low cost, curiosities for kids. They can be handled with supervision for young children. They can be easily injured so are better for older children.

15) Small Lizards

Small Lizards are docile. Children must learn not to over-feed the lizard. They are great for energetic kids. They will live a long time, so choose lizards if long-term care is desired.

KFP small lizard

16) Small Snakes

Small snakes, especially the corn snake can be good pets. The corn snake is the most popular, friendly, and non-venomous. Snakes require a large, sturdy tank and a heat source. They may escape. This pet needs daily attention and some adult supervision for the child caregiver. Avoid constrictor snakes. (

Why are pets important for kids?

Pets are a great way to teach kids responsibility. Be sure to choose a pet that requires the level of attention your child can provide by themselves or with some supervision. Children can also learn to bond with a pet, develop nurturing qualities, and obtain a sense of connection and selflessness as they put their pets needs above their own.

Owning a pet builds maturity as children learn how to care for another being, often putting the care and costs of their pet above other desires. They learn to get along with others and respect boundaries, especially if their pet needs its space.

Children may learn valuable life lessons by owning a pet.

Those pets with short lifespans may offer a child their first experience with death. This can be valuable in learning the skills to deal with grief and loss before they must do so with a loved one. Don’t take away that opportunity by replacing the fish without telling your child if it dies.

For longer life animals, children learn about patience, long-term care, and commitment to a relationship.

All these are valuable lessons your child can learn from owning and caring for a pet.

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