Have your children already started asking for a puppy, a pony, or a monkey? For many parents, the idea of adopting a pet seems like one more responsibility and expense. If you are warming up to the idea of a family pet, consider a “starter pet”.  Starter pets teach children about responsibility and pet ownership, but are easier to take care of than a pony or a puppy. Whatever pet you chose, it is important to remember the commitment that is involved with having a pet. If you are ready to take the plunge, check our top starter pets that could make great additions to your family!

Gerbils and Hamsters
Gerbils and Hamsters make great “smarter pets” for children. They are fairly low maintenance pets without many requirements. These rodents live in small cages with bedding, food, water and a wheel for exercise. Gerbils are indigenous of the desert, and don’t drink much water therefore the bedding in their cages does not have to be changed as frequently as other animals. Gerbils and hamsters are nocturnal creatures that are social and good with children.

Hermit Crabs
Hermit crabs are also good starter pets. These crustaceans make for good teachers about pet ownership. Not only do you have to mist hermit crabs daily, but they require bigger shells as they grow. These animals need care, but do not require more care than a child will be able to give.

Geckos or bearded dragons are good pets for children. These species are not very big in size, even when fully grown. However, not all lizards make for good starter pets for children. While all species are small in their infancy, some can grow to be several feet long in adulthood. These nocturnal animals are docile, resilient, and low maintenance making them great for children.

If you feel that your child is not ready for the one on one time that most pets require, consider an ant farm. Ants are very low maintenance creatures that only require food and water. An ant farm will help your child to develop a sense of responsibility, but an ant’s needs will not overwhelm children.

Fish are classic “starter pets” for children. With few requirements, such as clean water and food, they are easy for children to take care of. Betta fish are a good choice for pets. They do not require filters in the water and hardly any tank set up. We don’t suggest gold fish, because they are extremely fragile and have short life spans.

Older Dogs or Cats
Older dogs and cats are a good middle ground if your child is insistent on a furry friend. While a puppy needs continuous attention and training, older pets are already house broken. We suggest this choice for older children, because they do have more requirements than most other starter pets. In addition to the basics of food and water, these pets need regular exercise and stimulation as well as time outdoors. While older dogs and cats have more needs, they are tolerant of children and bond well with the whole family.

Whatever pet you chose for your family, it is important to remember that every pet requires work and attention. While you may be selecting a pet for your child, ultimately you will have some responsibility for this new animal. Pet ownership means adoption fees, vet bills, food, toys, care, and clean up. These responsibilities should be considered before bring a new pet home.

However, the benefits of owning a pet are numerous. Pet ownership can teach children responsibility and foster a caring nature. When the right critter is adopted, the bond with the pet can bring about unmatched happiness for the entire family.