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Choosing your first family pet is such an exciting decision! This new family member will go through so many adventures with your family for many years, so it’s no wonder you want to find the perfect pet. While adding a family pet can be so joyous, you’ll want to make sure that this animal is a good fit for your family.
Choosing the right pet can teach your child so many lessons like responsibility, trust, patience, and compassion. Choosing the wrong pet can lead to frustration, disappointment, and neglect of the animal. So what type of animal makes a good first family pet, and which animals should you avoid getting your little one? To answer that question, we’ll need to first answer if your kids are ready for a family pet.
Is Your Family Ready?
Having a pet is a huge responsibility, but it shouldn’t solely be up to the adult to care for it. Let’s face it, parents, we have enough mouths to feed every day. When you’re considering adding a family pet to your mix, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
- Are my kids able to handle chores on their own?
- Do you have to constantly remind your kids to do basic tasks?
- Are your kids comfortable around animals and show respect towards their personal space?
- Are your kids interested in having a family pet or are you wanting to surprise them with it?
All of these questions must be answered before introducing a family pet into your mix. If your kids are constantly reminded to do basic tasks, or can’t handle doing chores on their own, then you may have the responsibility of taking care of that new animal. While teaching your children to care for a family pet is going to take a lot of work, it’ll be easier on you (and your kids) if you make sure they can handle basic tasks first.
If your kids are not friendly or do not show respect towards animals, they may not be ready. Maybe your little one is always trying to pick up the neighbor’s cat who doesn’t like to be pet, this is a sign that they do not respect the animal’s choices. Try introducing your kids to friends and family pets and show them how to be gentle and care for the animal.
Whatever you do, do not give a child a pet as a gift if they are not asking for it. Even if they are asking for a family pet, make sure that they understand it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. With a family pet comes new family responsibilities. Pets are not toys.
READ MORE: Rabbit As A Pet: 7 Reasons You Should Own One
Great Animals For A First Time Family Pet
One of the best animals that you can have for a family pet is a dog. Dogs are loyal and full of so much pure love. Dogs are also full of energy which is great when you’re trying to choose a family pet to match that of a young child. Your kids can use their energy and care for the dog by taking their family pet on walks, runs, or even playing fetch in the backyard.
Dogs are also a great choice for a first time pet because they are patient. They’ll wait patiently for dinner while your kids walk room to room looking for the food dish that your toddler has thrown in their toy bin. Most dogs are also well-trained, or take to training very well and more importantly can be potty trained. You won’t have to work with your kids on teaching your dog where to use the bathroom or having to worry about cleaning up an endless amount of poop (at least not from the family pet).
READ MORE: Best Family Dogs And What To Know Before You Buy
Here comes one of our favorite animals to choose from for a first-time family pet! Cats are the type of pet that your kids will be able to snuggle with while also having some independence. Cats are not as needy or attention-seeking as dogs, and often love their time to themselves. But if your kids express their love and compassion enough, cats will be so eager to hop in their laps during storytime for a good pet.
If your kids are not the type to run around the yard for hours on end, then a cat is a perfect family pet. They can still enjoy playtime with yarn, balls, and more in the comfort of a small space. Cats are also a lot quieter than dogs, so if you don’t want to add extra noise to your household with a family pet, then cats are a safe option.
Looking for a family pet that is friendly, easy to care for, quiet, doesn’t require a lot of supplies, and can help your household live a green life? Then a guinea pig may be your perfect family pet! Guinea pigs are total sweethearts and love to be held! The only time they make noise is when they’re hungry or have been hurt, and their little squeal is so adorable that your kids will be so eager to jump up and feed them.
Guinea pigs are also very easy to care for. Their cages are simple to clean, and they don’t require daily walks or many toys. Our biggest plus of having guinea pigs as your first pet is they can help you get rid of kitchen scraps. Guinea pigs love to eat veggies, so the ends of your broccoli or spare carrots are a delight to them! Your kids will love having a picnic with their little pigs while snacking on healthy food together.
(Keep in mind, guinea pigs can get lonely, so if you’re looking to add a family pet you may want to consider adding two to the family, so they don’t get lonely).
Not all kids want a traditional family pet, and a furry friend may not be the best choice for your family if you have allergies. Because bearded dragons are reptiles, they are a hypoallergenic pet! You won’t have to worry about your kids sneezing while handling their family pet. Bearded dragons are also easy to care for, live a long time, and are great with kids!
According to RSPCA, bearded dragons “have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, or even longer.”. While you won’t have to worry about your family pet passing away within a few years, you’ll want to be sure that you are ready for that long of a commitment.
Bearded dragons oddly enough have a similar temperament to dogs but without the work of having to take them on walks. If cared for correctly, your bearded dragon will love snuggling your kids and even playing fetch in the living room!
Whether you have older or younger kids, fish are a great family pet to introduce first. The only maintenance that most fish require is a clean tank and food. Your kids will have the ability to customize their fish tank with an endless amount of decor options, and seeing their little family pet swim around is therapeutic.
The main concern you’ll have with introducing fish to younger kids is that you will be responsible for cleaning their tank. While younger kids can grasp feeding their fish, cleaning a fish tank may be a task for an older child or adult.
While fish don’t live a long time, your kids also won’t have a huge connection with the fish’s personality. So if your little family pet does pass unexpectedly, it’ll be easier to replace them if you’re not ready to have that conversation with your little ones.
Bad Animals For A First Time Family Pet
I know what you’re thinking, “But you just said a dog makes a perfect family pet!”. You’re right, a dog does, but not a puppy. Puppies require a lot more intensive training than an older dog. Your kids will have to potty train them, teach them to stay off furniture, leash train them, and teach commands simply to get them to listen. Puppies are also full of a lot of energy and can tear into furniture if left alone.
Unless you are prepared to train your puppy (and have some of that training spoiled by your kid’s actions), then stay away from choosing a puppy as your first family pet. If you really want to adopt a puppy as your family pet, we highly suggest you enroll them in puppy training school. Having that extra help from a teacher will take some of that stress off you.
READ MORE: Potty Training A Dog: Easy 4 Step Guide
While birds are fascinating to look at and do make great pets, they don’t make great pets for kids. Birdcages can be extremely hard to clean, which can be a daunting task for a child. Birds are also not the type of animal to snuggle like dogs or guinea pigs, so younger kids may have problems bonding with them.
If you do choose a bird for your family pet, make sure you call veterinarians around the area to see if they offer services for birds. Finding a veterinarian that works with birds can be a bit more difficult than you’d think, and you don’t want to run into that situation when you need a vet.
Rabbits are a great family pet, but they can be a bit timid when it comes to being held. If your rabbit is not used to being held, it can frighten your animal and cause a lot of anxiety. If your kids are set on choosing a rabbit, consider adopting one from a family that has introduced their rabbits to being held.
We’ve all made googly eyes at the super adorable sugar gliders that we see in pet stores. Not only are they adorable, but they’re a unique pet that your kids are sure to brag about. But sugar gliders don’t make great first time pets for a few reasons.
Sugar gliders are a huge commitment and take a lot of care. From cages to toys to food, their lifestyle can be a bit expensive. According to PetMD, “sugar gliders seem to thrive on a diet that combines approximately 25% protein (such as cooked eggs and small amounts of lean, cooked meat, commercially available pelleted diets for insect-eating animals, and smaller amounts of gut-loaded insects such as crickets and mealworms), with an additional 25% green, leafy vegetables, and smaller amounts fruit”.
Unless you’re prepared to stick to a strict meal plan to keep your family pet healthy, sugar gliders may not be the best for you. Sugar gliders are also nocturnal, so they’ll be awake the entire night when your kids are sleeping. This can be a disappointment to both your kids and the pet as they both need love and affection.
Beware Of Pocket Pets
Beware of those that are small enough to fit in your child’s pocket when searching for your perfect family pet. Hamsters, reptiles, and other small creatures may tempt your kids to take them on a field trip in their pocket to school one day. This can stress both your family pet and your child out when you get that phone call from the school.
A family pet will teach your kids so many things and having a new family member is exciting for everyone! Be sure to answer certain questions about your kids and the animals you’re thinking of choosing before making this big decision. Pre-planning is key when finding a family pet that is best for you!
WANT TO READ MORE?
If you’re afraid of adding in a family pet because your kids won’t help take care of it, try starting with smaller chores to build up to that big change! Make sure to read Age Appropriate Chores For Toddlers for where to start!
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Photo Credits: Lauren Benson Photography | CDC | Beth Teutschmann | Hermes Rivera | Степан Галагаев | Tim Mossholder | Sophia Kunkel | Paulin
Sources: PetMD.com, RSPCA.org