Owning a pet can be a fulfilling experience for adults and children alike. A pet matched to the right family can bring years of joy and happy memories. Owning a pet is also an opportunity to teach your child valuable life lessons by caring for something other than themselves. With the right guidance, a pet can teach children about the qualities of responsibility and dependability. And as an added bonus, pets are great at teaching children about relationships and how friendships develop naturally. What’s more fun than a furry friend waiting for you to play with after school?
However, pet ownership is also serious business. Pets are living creatures that need regular care and attention, just like you! Caring for an animal does require an ongoing financial commitment which may be fairly significant depending on the animal and its needs.
While a pet can provide useful lessons about compassion, self-restraint, and selflessness; not all pets are great for families. Dogs are great but for the busy working family, a dog may not be ideal. It is important to know how much time and financial resources you are able to devote to a pet prior to choosing one.
Consider something other than the traditional family pet and check out these great options.
Fish – Fish are probably one of the most popular starter pets you can get. And there’s a reason for that. Fish like goldfish and Beta fish are easy to raise since they require very little care. Aside from a quick daily feeding and a regular bowl cleaning, they need very little in the way of things like the filters, heaters, and chemicals required by some animals. This makes them great family pets since children as young as toddlers can help care for them. Not to mention that beautiful aquariums are known to be a terrific stress reliever. After all, who hasn’t gone to the National Aquarium and stared in awe at the majestic tanks brimming with colorful fish?
Birds – Although they are a bit more demanding than a fish, birds still make excellent pets for families. Birds such as parakeets and finches are often inexpensive and only need a small habitat to be happy. Birds do require more maintenance than other pets as far as daily care but, as a plus, they also tend to be very intelligent and social to the delight of children in the house. Larger birds such as cockatiels and parrots can even be trained to talk and follow simple commands.
Rodents – If you can get past the idea of a small rodent running through your house, rodents such as hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs make excellent pets. Not only are they easy to care for but, depending on the temperament of the animal that you have, many of them actually enjoy being gently held and cuddled. And just like birds, rodents are also known to be very intelligent. They love to be challenged with puzzles and mazes just as much as children do. Except for hamsters, which can be very territorial, it is best to get these pets in same-sex pairs so that they can fulfil their need to socialize without inadvertently adding to your family.
Cats – Maybe it’s the ears, maybe it’s the whiskers, or maybe it’s the adorable purring, but whatever it is, cats have been a household favorite for hundreds of years and have even been looked to as gods in some cultures. Cats are playful, curious, and sometime a bit too daring hence the reason some say that cats have nine lives. With the exception of feeding and keep a clean litter box, they are exceptionally good at taking care of themselves and are known to be independent. This makes them great pets for busy households or those who may travel often. However, on the flip side, cats can also be extremely affectionate and loving. Cats do have a tendency to nip or scratch those who are pulling or poking at it so teaching your children gentle handling is recommended. While you can get a cat relatively inexpensively from a shelter, they do require regular veterinary care which can be costly. It is important to make a firm commitment to care for the cat throughout its entire life before obtaining one.
Hermit Crab – A hermit crab is most likely not what you think of when you think of a family pet but hermit crabs are an excellent option for a first pet. You may have to travel to the Eastern Shore to find one but they are very cheap (you can get a small crab, habitat, and food for less than $20), they need a very small amount of space (most crab habitats can fit in the corner of a desk), and they are easy to care for like a fish. These pets are not recommended for younger children who may not understand how to be gentle.
Always remember to supervise your child with the pet until you are certain that the child understands how to properly interact with the animal. Learning to have respect for other animals will help your children become more respectful to those around them and treat people with compassion and understanding. And everyone would agree the world could always use a little more understanding.