Family life

5 best pets for kids (and 3 to avoid!)

Which pets are the easiest to raise? Here’s a look at animals that are reasonably low-maintenance (and three you should steer clear of).

5 best pets for kids (and 3 to avoid!)

Photo: iStockphoto

All animals need attention, grooming and care, but compared to their counterparts, the following creatures require relatively minimal work.

Are your kids ready for a pet?

Once you've eyeballed your budget and think you can squeeze in pet expenses, a trial run is a great idea. Before diving into pet ownership, consider spending time with animals by fostering or pet-sitting for friends. Monitor your child's behavior and any physical symptoms after the interaction—don't forget to confirm that your kids are allergy-free.

Next, consider whether your kids are old enough to tend to pet-related chores and have enough time in their schedules. Do they understand that a cat, for example, is a long-term commitment and not a toy they can ignore when they get bored? In general, it's best to wait until a child is five before getting a dog.

Mother and son playing with a cat at home sanjeri/ Getty Images

Betta fish

While you may be drawn to the classic goldfish as a beginner pet, Calgary-based veterinarian Wendy McClelland advises against it. They require more space than many other fish, frequent water changes and regular filter cleaning. These responsibilities tend to fall less on the kids and more on the parents.  McClelland recommends betta fish, as they require the least maintenance. "They’re inexpensive and they don’t need any filters, chemicals or aeration in an aquarium.”

Forget dealing with frequent meals—bettas only require feeding once or twice a day. Just drop a beautiful betta in a 9.5 litre tank of water and you’re all set. But keep in mind that they’re solitary creatures. “Betta fish have the tendency to fight with other fish,” says McClelland, “so it’s important they are housed alone.”

5 best pets for kids (and 3 to avoid!) Photo: iStockphoto



Leaning towards a more exotic pet? You might dig a degu. A tad larger than your traditional hamster, these delightful rodents are enjoyable, good-natured and easy to look after. “They’re amusing and interactive with kids,” says McClelland. “And unlike a hamster, degus are not nocturnal.” Since they have the same sleep patterns as people, you won’t have to deal with squeaking noises keeping everyone up at obscure hours of the night. Nutrition-wise, degus are designed to eat a diet high in fibre and low in carbs. “High-quality chinchilla or guinea pig food with rodent blocks is a good place to start,” suggests McClelland.

Bonus tip: They love to be held, but never pick one up by its tail.

5 best pets for kids (and 3 to avoid!) Photo: iStockphoto


Searching for the purr-fect companion? “In contrast to other popular pets, cats are rather low maintenance,” says McClelland. “They’re fun to play with, but they also don’t mind being alone.” Plus, you don’t have to walk them, so you’ll be spared any empty promises from your kids.

What’s more, a cat’s stay-at-home nature makes it less susceptible to outside harm and injury. “That certainly helps for parents trying to avoid sky-high vet bills.”

5 best pets for kids (and 3 to avoid!) Photo: iStockphoto

Guinea pigs

Another cuddly critter of the rodent family, guinea pigs are social and generally kind in nature, making them great with kids. But, despite their nice demeanour, they require more upkeep than degus. For starters, while they share a similar diet to degus, most guinea pigs are at least 400 grams heavier, which means they’re likely to eat a lot more than their fellow rodents. “Guinea pigs also like to kick shavings and make a bigger mess than other rodent pets, so there’s a little more cleaning involved,” says McClelland. “But kids really seem to love them.”

5 best pets for kids (and 3 to avoid!) Photo: iStockphoto


Golden retrievers and labradors

If you have your heart set on a dog, it’s best to remember that all breeds come with a different disposition. McClelland notes that golden retrievers and labs (or lab crosses) tend to be great with children. “Goldies and lab crosses make excellent domestic pets,” says McClelland. “They all have really wonderful temperaments and are pleasant with kids and other animals.”

5 best pets for kids (and 3 to avoid!) Photo: iStockphoto

Pets to avoid: bunnies

While there are many more animals that make awesome additions to the family household, here’s a rundown of a few you should probably avoid:

Bunnies As cute as they are, bunnies aren’t necessarily kid-friendly. “They’re prey animals,” McClelland explains. “If toddlers try to pick them up and snuggle them too hard, they can easily get scared and bite or scratch in response.” This often leads to children dropping them. “It isn’t uncommon for a bunny to get a broken back from a plummet to the ground.”

Happy girl with her rabbit at veterinarian's looking at camera. skynesher/ Getty Images

Pets to avoid: shar-peis

This dog breed comes with a strong and sometimes aggressive personality that can be difficult to train. “They’re really fuzzy and adorable to look at," says McClelland, "but their temperaments are a lot more challenging.”

Shakey Shar-Pei Ashley Baxter, Getty Images


Pets to avoid: Rottweilers and Dobermans

Dobermans and Rottweilers can be excellent pets when they're socialized and trained, but you might want to think twice before bringing them into a home with little kids. Dobermans are high-energy working dogs and large guard dogs that weigh up to 100 pounds. While they are often sensitive to the vulnerability of a small child, accidental injuries can occur.

The same applies to Rottweilers. If you've had a loyal and loving Dobie for a while, you should still avoid leaving your young child alone with them. Toddlers don't know how to handle animals, and the dog may respond poorly.

rottweiler alberto clemares expósito/ Getty Images

Pets to avoid: chinchillas

One of the most high-maintenance rodent pets, McClelland notes that they require regular dust baths, special cages and aren’t very amicable towards young children.

Cute Mosaic Chinchilla Playing in the Cage Kesterhu/ Getty Images

Read more: 4 things to consider before getting a family pet The debate: Is getting a dog a good idea when you have little kids? Another reason to get that cute puppy: Pets make for healthier babies

This article was originally published on Apr 11, 2017

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