8 Best Pets for Kids Definitive Guide: Why & How to Choose, 10+ to Avoid

It is best to teach your kids responsibility while they are young and their minds are still malleable. If your kids are getting old enough, perhaps it is time to get a family pet. Chances are, you are reading this because you want to get one for your kid but have not much clue about which pet to choose.

Not all pets are easy to care for, especially for a child. However, you don’t have to worry since we looked into pets that are good for kids. We also added helpful websites to teach you more about some common pets for kids.

Why you should get a pet for your child

There are a lot of reasons why you should get a family pet, especially for your child. The following are some of the physical and psychological benefits that caring for a pet brings to a child:

Some studies show that kids who learn to care for animals tend to get more physical activity compared to those who do not. This especially applies to pets that need to be walked outside or played with, like a dog. Moreover, studies also suggest that early exposure to pet allergens decreases the likelihood that a child would develop asthma.

Having a pet also helps a child develop their social skills. If they freely interact with their pets, they are likely to have an easier transition to interacting with other people. They also learn how to express themselves, be responsible for another living being, and empathize with others. Learning that another living being depends on them can also be an empowering experience that can boost their self-confidence.

Caring for a pet is also therapeutic. Animals like cats and dogs respond well to human emotions and can show affection, which a child might take comfort in. They learn that their pets would not judge them whatever they express and that they can be trusted. Because of these, caring for pets reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure and heart rate.

Lastly, having a pet is helpful for children who experience bullying, or for children who have had traumatizing experiences. Consequently, caring for a pet teaches a child to nurture and be sensitive to others’ needs, thus decreasing the likelihood that they would be bullies themselves.

How to know if your child is ready for a pet

While it is good to expose your child as early as they can to responsible pet ownership, you should wait until your child is old enough to listen to you and follow instructions. Moreover, they should be able to control their force when handling pets. Lastly, they should already have a sense of responsibility toward a pet.

How to choose the right pet for your child

While having a pet is fun, choosing the right pet is important. Remember that you are ultimately responsible for your pet’s life, even as you are teaching your children how to be responsible pet owners. Here are some tips to help you in choosing the right pet:

Consider your geographic location and choose a pet that will thrive in your area’s climate. Also, look into local laws that might limit your number of pet choices. Next, think about yourself, your child’s personality, and your purpose in getting a pet. Would you want one that suits your child’s active personality, or would you want one that is good for cuddles?

In choosing a pet, you should also consider the amount of time, care, and attention you could afford to provide for your pet. If you have a busy schedule, it would be best to choose a pet that does not require much care. At the same time, consider if you could afford your pet’s needs.

1. Dog

Dogs were not deemed a man’s best friend for no reason, and caring for a dog can bring immense benefits to your child. For one, dogs are amazing, loyal companions. That being said, having a dog also decreases a child’s stress level. They also help a child develop an active lifestyle. Since dogs are loyal and protective, your child can feel safer with a dog with them.

If you have a busy schedule, however, you might want to think twice about owning a dog. You need to dedicate a lot of your time when caring for a dog. They also require regular walks, grooming, and trips to the vet, which can be quite costly. Still, caring for a dog is rewarding.

There are a lot of different dog breeds out there. Before choosing one, do your research on breeds that have a temperament, size, energy, and care requirements that suits your household.

In general, choose dogs that are gentle and friendly to kids, like Beagles, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors. On the other hand, avoid dogs that get too protective or dogs that play too roughly, like Weimaraners, Chihuahuas, and Rottweilers.

Consequently, different dog breeds require different kinds of care. For example, some breeds require more exercise than others. Dogs also have different kinds of coats that require different care.

 To help you know more about dogs, dog breeds, and caring for dogs, check out the following:

2. Cat

Cats are another common pets. There is no wonder about this as cats are also excellent companions. They can be really sweet and affectionate, which can help your child draw comfort from them. Since some cats tend to be aloof at times, caring for a cat will teach your child to respect personal space and boundaries.

On the other hand, caring for cats require regularly cleaning their litter, as their waste tends to be really stinky. Moreover, cats shed fur a lot so it is not surprising that a lot of people are allergic to them. This also means having cat fur on your clothes and furniture. Cats also tend to change their mood easily, so they are not ready for cuddles all the time.

In looking for the right cat breed for your child, consider if you need a docile or an energetic cat to suit your child’s personality. Also, it might be better to choose friendlier and gentler breeds that bond well with other animals like dogs. Some popular choices are Shorthairs, Maine Coons, and Burmese cats.

On the other hand, if your child is active and likes cuddling, you might want to avoid cat breeds that tend to dislike chaotic environments and being held. Some examples are Himalayans, Russian Blues, and Turkish Vans.

Also, consider the amount of care that certain cat breeds require. Like dogs, different breeds require different care and therefore some cost more than others.

To know more about cats, cat breeds, and caring for cats, check out the following:

3. Rabbit

Rabbits are cute, cuddly, and smaller than other cuddly pets, which makes them another top choice as a family pet. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about caring for a bunny. They might be small, but it does not mean that they are easier to care for and therefore do not require a lot of commitment.

Rabbits are quiet animals. They are delicate creatures, so they should be handled with care — not best if you have kids who might be rough on them. Moreover, rabbits are prey animals so they quickly react to sudden movements and discomforts. As such, they dislike being held up or being startled. They might react by dashing off, kicking, and even biting. They also dislike chaotic, stressful environments.

What’s good about rabbits, though, is they can be litter-trained. They are also quiet, which is advantageous if, for example, you live in an apartment complex. While they do not require a big cage, they also need 3-4 hours off-cage time each day. This means you will also have to bunny-proof an area of your house. Bunnies can also bond well with their owners and it’s incredibly fascinating to observe their unique personalities.

When choosing the right breed for your child, pick one that has a good temperament, gentle, and sociable, like Mini Lops, Himalayans, and Chinchilla rabbits. On the other hand, avoid rabbits that are not very sociable, and those that require special care, especially if you are a beginner. Examples are Netherland Dwarfs, Belgian Hares, and Anggolas.

To help you know more about rabbits, rabbit breeds, and caring for rabbits, check out the following:

4. Fish

Getting a pet fish for your child is a great idea. Since fishes generally do not require as much time and resources as dogs or cats, caring for a fish is a great way to help your child ease into more responsibilities.

Having a pet fish is relatively inexpensive compared to other cuddly pets. They do not require visits to the vet, nor do they have to be walked outside regularly. At the most, they responsibilities of caring for a fish include regular feeding and tank-cleaning. You would also have to invest in a good tank and other necessary accessories.

Teaching your child to maintain a fish tank is also an awesome way for them to learn about ecosystems, chemistry, and biology. This will help them become more aware of caring for the environment.

Of course, there is a vast number of fish species out there that require different kinds of care. It is important that you choose one that is suitable for low-maintenance and easy to care for. Examples are freshwater fishes like Goldfishes, Betta fishes, and Guppies.

On the other hand, avoid saltwater fishes in general since they are harder to care for and require some experience. Some species you would want to avoid are Angelfishes, Oscars, and Pufferfishes.

The following are some helpful links to knowing more about fishes, fish species, and caring for fishes:

 5. Turtle

If you are considering to get a turtle with an impression that they are easy to care for, you have to think again. Turtles require as much commitment and investment as other kinds of pets. On average, they have a 40 to 50-year lifespan, so caring for a turtle is a lifetime commitment.

There are two kinds of turtles: terrestrial and aquatic, and you would need a large space for both types. You need a big tank or a pond for an aquatic turtle. On the other hand, you need an outdoor or indoor space for a terrestrial turtle depending on the climate. Turtles also have a specific food, temperature, and environmental requirements depending on their species.

Still, turtles are awesome pets. They can sure teach a child a lot about responsibility. They are also quiet, and the initial set up is relatively cheap. Turtles are also not to be underestimated as they are intelligent creatures.

Recommended turtle species for beginners are Red Ear Sliders and Box Turtles. On the other hand, avoid turtle species that get too big in their adult size if you do not have enough space for them.

To know more about turtles, turtle species, and caring for turtles, you may find the following resources useful:

 6. Birds

Birds are another good pet choice. For one, birds can be kept in a small space. They are also highly intelligent creature so they can be trained. Moreover, birds are sociable and can express affection toward their owners. Birds are also easy to care for since they generally groom themselves. In general, pet birds’ foods are also inexpensive.

Still, like any other pet, caring for birds require commitment. Birds live for a really long time so it is best to tell your kids that choosing to care for a bird is a lifetime commitment. Moreover, birds can be really expressive and loud so if you live in an apartment complex, noise might be an issue. Since birds are social creatures, you need to spend time with them, too.

Ideal birds for beginners or children are ones that do not demand much attention, require minimal care and are sociable. Most recommended breeds are Finches, Cockatiels, and Parakeets.

On the other hand, it would be best to avoid caring for birds that are too big, require much attention and socialization, and have sensitive dietary needs. Some species to avoid for beginners are Cockatoos, Macaws, and Parrots.

To know more about birds, bird species, and caring for birds, check out the following resources:

7. Rodents

Pet rodents can easily be found in any pet store. They are furry, small, and inexpensive, which makes them a great pet. Depending on the kind, they can also be really sociable. What’s more, they do not demand much space in order to thrive. However, you must not get a pet rodent by impulse, as while they may be small, they also require investment and commitment.

Caring for rodents require a cage, appropriate foods, hay, and cleaning. Their lifespan is relatively short, around 2-5 years, so caring for rodents can be a good way to teach children about coping with loss.

There are a number of popular kinds of pet rodents out there so we have gathered essential information about some of them.

7.1.  Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs are hardier than other pet rodents. They also live for five to seven years, which is longer than the average lifespan of a pet rodent. Guinea pigs are also less delicate compared to rabbits.

If you are planning to get a guinea pig, consider that they need daily interaction and exercise. Getting a guinea pig may be also initially costly. Moreover, you need to be keen about cleaning their cage regularly.

There are a lot of varieties of guinea pigs. Some have long, dense fur, while there are also hairless kinds. Before getting one, do your part in researching these varieties to know their needs.

To help you out, here are some helpful resources about guinea pigs: 

7.2. Hamster

Hamsters, like guinea pigs, are fairly low maintenance. Their daily needs include food, water, exercise, a good environment, and social interaction.

Caring for a hamster is fairly cheap, although the initial set-up may cost you some money. It is also important to consider that hamsters are nocturnal creatures so it would be not a great idea to interact with them during the day. Moreover, a hamster’s cage must be regularly cleaned.

The most popular hamster breeds are Syrian hamsters, Dwarf hamsters, and Chinese hamsters.

To know more about hamsters, caring for hamsters, and hamster varieties, check out the following:

7.3. Gerbil

Like other pet rodents, gerbils can keep themselves groomed and fairly clean. However, the responsibility of cleaning its cage still falls on the owner. The startup of having a gerbil may cost some money but owning a gerbil or other pet rodents is still inexpensive compared to owning a cat or dog.

Gerbils can keep to themselves most of the day. However, they thrive even more when they get interaction. They are also more gentle compared to hamsters, but they are more agile than them. Gerbils are also nocturnal like hamsters.

There are only two species of gerbils that are kept as pets out of more than 100 species. These are Mongolian gerbils and Fat-tailed gerbils.

To know more about gerbils and caring for gerbils, here are some helpful sites:

8. Ant

While ants are not your usual cuddly, furry pet, they are endlessly fascinating to observe. Ants do not live in isolation. Keeping them as pets then requires you to keep a colony, or an ant farm.

Your child can learn a lot of things in having ants as pets. Since they live in colonies, they can learn how these creatures interact and they could observe the distinct roles different types of ants play. For example, they could notice how the queen ant is different from worker ants, not just based on appearance but also based on what they do.

Moreover, your kids can also learn more about ecosystems, on how living things interact with non-living things. This could deepen their interest in sciences and at the same time teach them how their actions affect these ants.

Of course, it is especially intriguing to observe how ants build their maze-like nests.

If you are just beginning to keep ants as pets, you might want to start with ants that do not sting and those that do not require special environments. A good species to start with is the Lasius niger. These are the black ants you commonly see.

The following are some helpful resources to know more about keeping ants as pets:

8.1. Starting an ant farm

There are a couple of options when starting an ant farm or a formicarium. The first option is to make one yourself. There are existing tutorials online that can teach you how to make an ant farm from scratch, using materials like plastic bottles. This also means digging for an anthill from which you could start a colony.

On the other hand, you can choose to buy a complete formicarium set-up. There is also an option to buy a colony though you must understand that in the US, it is not legal to ship queen ants beyond state borders.

Formicarium kits come in different appearances, from basic to large. There are kits with sand or space-gel, with the latter being more stable than sand.

Here are some helpful sites on setting up a formicarium:

9. Risks and precautions before caring for a pet

Nothing compares to the learning experience, fun, and fulfillment that comes with caring for a pet. However, like most things, choosing to have a pet also comes with risks. Therefore, before choosing to adopt or get a pet, you as a parent must be prepared to avoid accidents or illnesses.

9.1. Risks of caring for a pet

One of the risks of getting a pet is bites or scratches. This can happen for many reasons, and often it is because of the owner’s ignorance. Perhaps little research is done about the nature and behavior of a specific breed. Moreover, their children might be a little too young to understand how to care for or respect the needs of their pet.

Another risk is allergies, which is especially applicable to furry pets. Allergies may also be triggered by your pet’s saliva or feathers.

Lastly, another common risk is sicknesses borne from the animal. This usually happens when proper cleaning or hygiene is not well-maintained when handling the pet. Also, it could be that the child or the owner’s immune system is already compromised prior to handling the pet.

9.2. Reducing risks of caring for a pet

While there are risks that come with caring for a pet, that does not mean the only solution is to avoid owning a pet altogether. There are steps that could be taken in order to avoid accidents or trips to the hospital.

As has been already discussed, you should observe if your child is ready to care for a pet. They must have developed their motor skills so as not to mishandle the pet. Moreover, they should know how to obey and respect the boundaries of the pet. For example, they should not disturb the pet if they’re asleep, or they should not be too rough with them.

It is important to remember that a domesticated pet still has animal instincts. If it is startled or if it feels endangered, they might scratch, bite, or hurt a person. As a parent, you must always be present to supervise your child if they’re handling the pet.

Another thing to remember is to make sure that family members are not allergic to your chosen pet. For this, it is best to ask for your health care provider’s opinion.

It is also important that all family members keep a good hygiene when handling pets. Always wash your hands after touching your pet. Keep pet food away from human food. Also, maintain the cleanliness of their cage and their feeding bowls or paraphernalia.

Lastly, make sure that your pets are always healthy. Do your homework about the right diet and the best environment for your pets. Know if your pet needs to be vaccinated or regular trips to the vet. Make sure that they are properly groomed as well.

 9.3.  Dangerous pets for kids

Not all animals can and should be kept as pets, especially if your child will be taking a part in caring for them.

In the previous sections, we learned that there are specific kinds of breeds of species that are more suitable for beginners or children. On the other hand, there are also varieties of common pets that are best avoided if you have kids. We can deduce from this that while there are animals that are commonly kept as pets, not all of them are the same.

Of course, wild animals are out of the question. They are best observed in their natural habitat or in a wildlife sanctuary instead of being in a human household. This is best not just for your safety, but also for their survival.

Moreover, you should also think twice before getting a pet that might be too aggressive or energetic. This includes certain breeds of cats and dogs, but did you know that there is a higher risk of getting bitten by a ferret?

Reptiles are amazing pets, but they may carry salmonella. If your child is still too young to understand how important hygiene is when caring for reptiles, perhaps it is best to let go of this choice.

To know more about pets that may not be very suitable for kids, check out the following:


In this article, we briefly talked about common pets for kids. Children could learn so much from caring for a pet and they could get the kind of companionship that they would never get from humans.

However, we also learned that owning a pet is not all rainbow and sunshine. There are accompanying responsibilities and risks to owning a pet. As such, adequate research, preparation, and precautions should be taken before owning a pet. Remember, pets are also living beings.

What do you think? Are you ready to welcome a pet into your family?

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