Is An Exotic or Unusual Pet Right For A Child?
12 September, 2016
Guest Blog by Amber Kingsley
Throughout the ages we’ve seen a boy and his dog or a cuddly kitten with a cute little girl, but there are dozens of different pet choices when it comes to children. Many parents will start off their youngsters with animals that don’t require as much care as a canine or cat, like tropical fish or brine shrimp, also called sea monkeys.
Picking a pet is an important decision that requires a great deal of thought and a tremendous amount of responsibility for the new caregiver. Even if you were to choose a cat or a dog, there’s so many different breeds to consider. Let’s look at some less-than-traditional choices when considering a companion animal for a child.
Tortoises: There are many pros and cons when it comes to choosing one of these shelled creatures as a pet. Some tortoise species can live more than fifty years in captivity, which is a tremendous commitment. On the plus side, since they don’t have fur or dander, they’re an excellent alternative for those who suffer from allergies.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents that there is a very slight risk of exposure to salmonella through a tortoise’s feces, so children should be aware when cleaning up after them. Other than that, tortoises make a good pet for children since they don’t require much care.
Birds: Our feathered friends make great pets, but they’ll require more care than a tortoise or fish and they can be noisy at times depending on the species and how many of them are in a cage. For starters, it’s better to get a relatively inexpensive bird like a parakeet or a canary for a child.
Larger, more intelligent birds like cockatiels and cockatoos may be more suited for an older kid. In any event, handling a bird can be difficult for very young children, so you probably shouldn’t get one for a kid younger than ten or twelve depending on their maturity level.
Reptiles: Though girls who are made of sugar and spice and everything nice might not enjoy having a snake or lizard, boys seem to warm up to these cold-blooded creatures. Obviously you shouldn’t get a small child a boa constrictor, but there are many small snakes that make excellent pets. Iguanas and lizards are also popular choices and some girls also enjoy them as pets.
When it comes to handling and caring for a reptile, again these aren’t necessarily good animals for very young children. Depending on the child, they probably shouldn’t get a pet like this until they’re at least ten years of age.
Rodents: Similar to dogs and cats, these four-legged, fur-bearing critters are fairly intelligent and can be very affectionate. Mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils all make great pets, but to reduce the risk of being bitten, they should be acquired when they are young and gently handled often. Hamsters are solitary creatures by nature, but when considering other rodents, think about getting a same sex pair for them to be better off socially.
Since these animals are quite small, a tiny toddler could easily injure or kill one of these creatures without realizing they’re doing them any harm. If you have very small children, you might want to start them out with something like fish to introduce the process of pet ownership to them. Once they realize they must be fed every day and their water looked after, perhaps you could move on to another type of animal that requires more care, love and affection.
Make sure to put plenty of thought into this important choice and ensure that your child is well aware of all the responsibilities that come with pet ownership before purchase (or even adopting!)
Travel junkie, Amber Kingsley, is a freelance writer living in Santa Monica, CA. Her art history background helps her hone in on topics that are of interest to readers. She is a dog enthusiast and loves spending time with her pomeranian, Agatha.