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Best Beginner Pets for Kids

  • 5 min read

Pet ownership can be a wonderful experience for a child. Not only do children learn many valuable life lessons, but caring for a living creature is also a great way to teach kids about reliability and responsibility.

Also, many pets are extremely affectionate and loving in return for a child’s care and attention, and the joy they bring is priceless.

However, not all pets are right for beginners, especially for young children still learning the responsibility necessary for pet ownership. Read this guide to discover six of the best beginner pets for kids of all ages.

The 6 Best Beginner Pets for Kids

Small white kitten held in adult hands.

1. Cats

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

Young kittens are incredibly cute and fun to play with, but they can be very destructive around the home, too. So, you might want to consider adopting an adult cat from a shelter or rescue center. It's a valuable life lesson that teaches children 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

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

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 for.

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.

4. Sea Monkeys

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

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.

6. Tortoises

Tortoise standing on a head of lettuce.

If you want a chidrens’ pet that can double as a family heirloom, a tortoise could be the perfect choice! How so? Well, these prehistoric looking creatures can live for over 100 years in captivity, even longer in the wild environment, depending on the species. Also, if you have allergy sufferers in your household, a tortoise is the ideal non-furry option for a pet!

There are many different species of tortoises that are suitable to be kept as pets, and they all have slightly different care and dietary requirements. So, you need to do plenty of research before you buy one. Generally, the easiest species to keep are Hermann’s and the Turkish spur-thighed tortoise.

Tortoises can live indoors and outdoors, depending on the climate where you live and the animal’s natural environment. In wintertime, many species of torty hibernate until the weather warms up and there’s plenty of plant matter for them to eat.

Final Thoughts

Owning a pet is a wonderful experience that most kids love. Pet ownership is educational and emotionally rewarding for children and can be life-enhancing for the whole family.

All the pets mentioned in our guide make a good choice for novice owners, and there’s something here to suit kids of all ages. However, before taking the plunge and giving in to your kids’ begging for a pet, it’s important to stress that any creature requires a certain degree of care. So, think very carefully before agreeing to taking on a pet and be sure to research the species thoroughly before you buy.