World of Small Pets
“There are so many small pets you can choose from!”
Children have an inborn fascination with animals, and keeping a pet is something most children will want to experience (and should!). It is likely that if you have a young child, you have heard them ask, “Can I have a pet?” If you haven’t heard it yet, you likely will someday soon! The question then becomes which pet should we choose? Well, believe it or not, there are plenty to choose from, all with their own perks!
Before jumping into the pet world with your child, you will want to consider all the aspects of pet ownership and go over them with your child. Many factors will determine what type of pet you ultimately decide upon. The child’s age, maturity level, and how responsible they are all come into play. Also keep in mind that as a parent, you will ultimately be responsible for any new pets well-being.
Benefits of children owning pets abound. It helps teach them responsibility, it provides them with unconditional companionship, and, because most pets do not live as long as people, it gives them the opportunity to learn about and experience death. In general small pets for kids are the most ideal. This is because of their small size, relative ease of care, and because they don’t entail a long-term time commitment. Next, I will go over the qualities of many of the more popular small pets for kids you might consider..
The Different Types of Small Pets
1. Hamsters. Hamsters are a very popular small pet – One of the most popular in fact! This is one of the very first animals many people consider purchasing for their child. And they actually do make very good small pets for kids. They sleep during the day and are active at night. As long as they are tamed while young and held regularly, there is usually not a huge problem with biting. Hamsters can make wonderful pets for young children.
2. Rats. These critters are many peoples favorite. Rats have an astounding reputation for being quite smart. They can learn many basic tricks, including coming when you call their name. They can be trained to ride around on shoulders and give kisses. They are very loving and affectionate to their human owners and are definitely kid-friendly pets! In addition, they are very clean and don’t have much of an odor to them!
3. Mice. Mice are very easy to take care of. They require little time or maintenance and can be great for very young children. Mice aren’t quite as interactive as rats, but they are still easy and fun to handle.
4. Guinea Pigs. Guinea pigs take a little more care than some of the smaller animals and can live somewhat longer. Because of this, they are better pets for older children. Guinea pigs rarely bite, but can get jumpy when frightened. They need larger cages than rats, mice, or hamsters. But, they can be very loving and usually respond well to human interaction.
5. Rabbits. Rabbits are another small pet which are often recommended for older children. There are several different rabbit breeds however, and some are better suited for younger children than others. In general, rabbits require higher maintenance. They are larger and live longer than other small pets. Needing a lot of interaction, their owners have to be able to dedicate time to petting and handling them. Many people like to brag that rabbits can be litter box trained. This is a definite plus!
6. Gerbils. Gerbils are one of the all-time favorite “pocket pets” available! They are great for kids, and crave plenty of interaction and love. It is actually a good idea to get at least 2 gerbils, to ensure they don’t get lonely. Gerbils are extremely clean with little to no odor.
7. Degus. Degus are good for older children. They require really delicate handling because their tails are prone to breaking off. A good way to win over their hearts is to offer treats often.
8. Chinchillas. Chinchillas require much more specialized care than some other small animals. They need to be given dust baths, and should be handled gently. If chinchillas fall, they are prone to breaking their legs or going into shock. They also cannot be exposed to extreme temperatures (especially heat) because it will kill them. Because of these needs, chinchillas are really best for older children who know how to be gentle and are ready to take on the responsibility of caring for them.
9. Ferrets. Ferrets have very strong personalities. It is hard not to love them! They are also always on the go and very curious – they want to check out everything! Many people compare them to having a small child in the house. Because of this, they are not a very good pet choice for small children. Older children often love them and do well having them as companions. They do need dedicated time where they can interact and explore outside of their cage, and they do need some training to keep them from getting into trouble! Biting can also be a problem. They can bite a person or another pet if they feel threatened, or they may attack smaller animals in the house for no apparent reason. Having them de-scented is also a must, because these critters can smell.
10. Sugar Gliders, Squirrels, Hedgehogs. All of these small pets are more high maintenance and require special care. If an older child wants one, they should prepare to do some research and really plan to dedicate time to being a good, interactive pet owner. They are quite rewarding and unique pets to have around!
I hope this gives you a good start on determining what the best small pet for your child might be. There are many considerations that have to be made!
Have you gotten a small pet for one your children before? Are there any other factors you would like to add to these?
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Pet Mouse!
The Pet Mouse. Ahhh. I cannot say enough good things about mice. I love them and could write a book based on my experiences alone! The first thing that comes to mind is, “This is what started it all!” Because, really, the mouse is the rodent that marks the beginning of my complete fascination with animals. I got my first pet mouse when I was in 4th grade. I remember begging my parents to let me have one. They reluctantly said yes. Then one mouse turned into getting two mice so that the first one would not be lonely! And from there, two mice turned into a litter, and then a second litter, and then into a whole roomful of many small pets. I have fond memories with my pet mice from my childhood. As a matter of fact, the mouse pictured here is one of my mice that I had in high school! Her name was Dora.
Mice are great pets. They are great for young children as a first pet and great for older people who just want to have a small, easy to care for, companion. Mice are inexpensive and clean. They do not need a lot of room or a ton of attention. They are clean and don’t usually have much of an odor to them. They only live for 1-3 years and so do not require a life time commitment. They can become quite tame and handle-able if you wish.
Some background on mice. There are several different mouse types. These include house mice, field mice, harvest mice, and pet mice or fancy mice. They all have their own scientific names, with the Pet Mouse being Mus musculus domesticus. It is believed that house mice originally came from parts of Asia and from there began to spread throughout the world. Mice are very adaptable, making their spread easy and natural. In the 1800’s people began using the term “fancy mice” because of the rising popularity of exchanging colored mouse fur. The National Mouse Club was founded in England around 1900 by Walter Maxey. Over the years mice have been used for several purposes. They have been used for everything from religious rituals to being test subjects in studying disease. Today, they are even specially bred by mouse enthusiasts to come up with new coat and color combinations. Did you know that there are over 700 different color and coat varieties in mice?!
The care and feeding of mice is simple. Find or purchase a mouse cage (many different types are available) and line the bottom with wood shavings or other purchased litter preparations. You can provide them with a wheel for daily exercise and other decorations/hiding places if you wish. Change out the bedding at least once or twice a week and clean their food and water dishes out daily. The easiest way to feed your pet mouse is to simply provide them with a nutritionally balanced mouse food mix that can be found at a pet store. They will also appreciate occasional treats such as vegetables, seeds, cheese, or other prepared treats from a pet store. Provide them with sticks of wood as well, to help keep their constantly growing teeth trimmed. Mice are also very social and do well with companions. For this reason, you may want to consider having at least 2 mice in a cage to keep them from becoming lonely. Females usually do great together, but you may have to watch putting males together because they will often fight.
Mice are fairly healthy if taken care of properly. As long as they have clean and dry bedding, food and water, and are kept away from drafts, they don’t usually have too many health problems. Things to keep an eye out for include sneezing, not eating, lethargy, and diarrhea. If they have any of these or other concerning symptoms, check out this list of Mouse Ailments.
The Pet Mouse is a common and wonderful small pet. They are great first pets for children. For more information, Animal-World’s Pet Mouse page gives a thorough run-down of everything mouse related!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.