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Best Beginner Pets for Kids

The journey of pet ownership can be an exciting and valuable experience for a child. By having a pet, children learn life lessons and become more reliable and responsible.

Many pets return children's care and attention with love and affection. However, not all pets are suitable for beginners, especially for young children who are still learning the necessary responsibilities of pet ownership.

This guide will introduce you to the six best pets for children, perfect for those starting their pet-keeping journey.

Pets for Kids: Top 6 Choices

Small white kitten held in adult hands.

1. Cats – Best Small Pets for Kid

Older children might love to have a cat for a pet.

Kittens, while incredibly adorable and playful, can be quite mischievous around the home. Therefore, adopting an adult cat from shelter or rescue center might be more suitable, and it's a wonderful life lesson about the benefits of adoption. 

Explain to your child that they can have the satisfaction of offering a loving forever home to an unwanted cat and potentially saving one of the kitty’s nine lives at least! Then your child gets to enjoy the excitement of the trip to the shelter to choose their new furry best friend.

Although cats are undoubtedly interactive and most enjoy playing games and having a cuddle on your lap, they are much more independent than dogs. Your cat will most likely want to spend at least part of her day or night outside, exploring, exercising and doing mysterious cat stuff. If you have an indoor cat, you’ll need to provide a litter tray, which needs refreshing regularly. Cats, especially long-haired types, need grooming once a week or so to reduce shedding and prevent the coat from becoming matted.

There are a few downsides to cat ownership. Some people are very allergic to cats, making Tibbles a no-go pet option. Also, even short-haired cat breeds shed pretty much constantly, so you’ll need to be handy with the vacuum cleaner. Cats require annual vaccinations, de-sexing, and routine parasite prevention treatments, all adding to the cost of ownership.
That said, a cat is generally very affectionate and will respond to its name, making this choice of a pet ideal for an older child.

2. Betta Fish – Ideal Easy Pets for Kids

Betta fish in a small tank with stones at the bottom

Although goldfish are popular pets for kids, a betta fish is a much better choice for several reasons.

Bettas or Siamese Fighting fish, as they’re also known, are easier to keep than goldfish, and they can live in smaller tanks, too. Also, bettas are very intelligent fish. These beautiful little creatures can learn to recognize their owners, and your child can even have fun teaching their betta buddy a few simple tricks.

Contrary to popular myth, bettas need to live in a tank that’s equipped with a heater, filtration system, and lighting. Live plants are also beneficial in that they help to keep the water clean and safe for the fish. Plants also produce oxygen and use carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, helping to oxygenate the water. Bettas also love to rest on broadleaf plant species.

So, as well as enjoying an interactive pet, your child will learn about the Nitrogen Cycle, feeding their fish correctly, growing aquatic plants, and how to manage water chemistry. Also, kids with pet allergies can keep fish without fear of suffering an allergic reaction.

Guinea pig standing in his cage.

3. Guinea Pigs – Perfect Small Pets for Kids

Children can get a lot of enjoyment from keeping guinea pigs. These cute little rodents are quite easy to care for and seem to love being around people.

Guinea pigs need to be kept in groups or they can become stressed, and your child will have to keep the piggies’ cage clean and tidy. As well as a cage, Guinea pigs need space so that they can play and run around. Also, there are some important dietary requirements that Guineas have that must be catered to, but they’re pretty simple, just some fresh vegetables and hay.

These little critters are perfect for older children, as they enjoy being handled but are not as time-consuming to look after as a dog or cat. If you fancy the challenge, you can also get into breeding Guineas to sell to your local pet shop or to your kids’ friends. That’s another excellent learning experience for children and can even help to pay toward the piggies upkeep.

Guinea pigs are known for their sweet nature and vocalizations, which children find endearing. They communicate through a series of chirps, squeaks, and purrs, making them a delightful, interactive pet. This interaction can help children understand and appreciate the value of non-verbal communication.

4. Sea Monkeys – Excellent Starter Pets for Kids

Sea Monkey swimming

Sea Monkeys are a type of brine shrimp that makes the perfect pet for very young children. The kids get to watch the group of shrimp moving around in their aquarium but these creatures don’t have the time-consuming care requirements of regular fish.

Even better, these tiny animals are inexpensive to buy, require feeding only once a week, and don’t need much care at all. Also, little kids often lose interest in a pet, and Sea Monkeys only have a lifespan of up to two years, so they’re an ideal, hassle-free introduction to pet ownership for your little ones.

Two rats cuddling on a blue blanket in its cage.

5. Rats – Good Pets for Kids

Pet rats are perfect pets for kids. Rats are extremely intelligent animals that are also highly social. You can teach your rat to ride around on your shoulder and they can learn simple tricks, too. Some children even fit their pet rat with a harness and leash and train him to walk around the backyard!

You’ll need a fairly large cage for a rat, preferably with lots of climbing areas, hiding places, and fun toys to keep these clever critters interested and stimulated. Your child must learn how to keep their pet’s cage clean, be prepared to spend time playing with him, and understand the correct diet to keep their furry friend in tip-top condition.

Contrary to popular belief, pet rats don’t smell, provided that you keep their cage clean. However, like all small furries, rats can suffer from diseases and health conditions, and they don’t have a very long lifespan.

Pet rats also have the unique ability to form strong bonds with their owners, making them perfect companions. They recognize their caretaker's voice and often respond to their name, further enriching the bond between the child and the pet.


6. Tortoises – Unique Pets for Children

Tortoise standing on a head of lettuce.
 If you're looking for a long-term pet, a tortoise is an excellent choice. These creatures can live for over 100 years, and being non-furry, they're ideal for households with allergy sufferers. Tortoises come in many species, each with unique care and dietary needs.

A tortoise's slow movement pace and gentle nature make them calming pets, helping children to cultivate patience and empathy. Watching a tortoise roam about can be a soothing experience. Just remember, tortoises require a bit of research before adoption to ensure you can provide the best possible care.

Final Thoughts

Owning a pet is a wonderful, educational, and emotionally rewarding experience for children. The pets mentioned in this guide make good pets for kids of different ages, ideal for novice owners. However, keep in mind that all pets require a certain level of care. So, make sure to research thoroughly before welcoming a pet into your home.

Whether you are seeking small pets for kids or easy pets for kids, the choices outlined in this guide provide a great starting point. Remember, the bond between a child and their pet can be a life-enhancing experience for the entire family.

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