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best pet for kids by age

What is the best pet for kids by age? 

Glad you asked! Choosing the rigght pet for a child based on his or her age helps ensure that that first pet experience is a successful one for all involved.

Most experts agree that kids under age 6 are generally not capable of understanding a pet's needs and caring for it properly.

So if you get a pet for a young child, realize that it is truly your new baby. Don't go into the situation with false expectations. That's not fair to the kid or the pet.

That said, the right pet can enrich your child's life. Pets offer children, unconditional love. Step on Poochie's tail, yell at him, even take him to the groomer - and you're still his favorite person in the world. Go figure.

Here are suggestions for the best pet for kids by age to get you started.

Best Pet for Kids Ages 3 to 5

Good beginner pets are those that don't require a lot of nurturing or special care. They don't require grooming, walking, or even petting.

Just the basics: food, water, and shelter. They also offer the least payback in terms of returning love and affection. 

Most freshwater fish are good for this age group and are inexpensive to buy and maintain after the initial investment of a goldfish bowl or tank and accessories.

Aquarium fish care and maintenance involves simply feeding once or twice a day and cleaning the aquarium once a week.

And if you keep the aquarium away from direct sunlight, algae will grow more slowly.

For younger kids, best pets for kids include inexpensive, durable fish, such as goldfish and betta fish. You don't want floaters to start your child's pet career. 

To start, go for a solitary goldfish or beta in a simple bowl. If that's a hit, you can move on to an aquarium.

Lighted aquariums can even function as a nightlight in a child's bedroom.

Kids Ages 6 to 9

Rodents, such as rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, and hamsters, are some of the best pets for kids in this age group. They're small, furry and cuddly.

They happily stay in their cages when the kids aren't playing with them. Other advantages? They're quiet, not very messy, and relatively easy to care for. They are usually inexpensive to buy and maintain.

Rats and mice are two different species with two different personalities. Rats are unusually intelligent and friendly, despite their nasty looking tails.

Mice are cute and fun to watch in the cage, but they can be a bit squirmy and nippy for holding and loving.

If you want a love bucket, get a rat. Hold them at the store and if the rat or mouse is a nipper, request another one. Also, the younger you get them, the easier they are to tame and bond with.

At this point, kids can begin taking more responsibility for the care and feeding of their pet. This is also the time to stress important pet hygiene and safety rules. (Read more about preventing zoonotic diseases here.)

Once these grade-school-age kids begin showing they can handle the added pet-care responsibility, when they're a bit older, they can move on to a larger pet.

(See Pet Chores for Kids by Age to get ideas on what pet responsibilities kids can handle at various ages.)

Kids Ages 10 to 13

These tweens are morphing into little teenagers, who can handle the responsibility of feeding, exercising, and cleaning up after their animals. Best pet for kids in this group includes reptiles and snakes and cats.

If your kid is going to have a lizard or snake, be sure there's an adult in the house who's willing to handle it. You've got to have that backup person with pets.

In other words, Dad is probably the go-to guy on this one. Put the reptile in an aquarium with a locked top. You don't want Timmy taking it out without your supervision. 

Research reptiles and their living requirements. Some require live (shudder) food. If you are determined, however, at least get a snake that has been trained to accept frozen mice instead of the live, running-around variety. Then all you have to do is heat (to room temperature) and serve.

Some reptiles, like iguanas, grow to five feet in length and can be hazardous to other pets. Some (such as pythons) can grow to 13 feet long and be dangerous to everyone. Don't forget to ask how large the reptile will be in adulthood. 'Nuff said.

In my prejudiced mind, cats are the perfect pets. They are sweet and cuddly. They're not messy - indeed, they are fastidious and will look at you in dismay if you neglect to clean their litter boxes regularly.

Of course, they have their drawbacks. They shed. A lot of people are allergic to them. And if you don't provide other places to scratch, such as a cardboard or carpeted scratching post, they can shred furniture and floor coverings.

Teens 14 to 17

This is the time to allow teenagers to have a pet bird or fish aquarium. Because you're there to ensure these pets get the care and feeding they require, it can prove to be a great learning experience for everyone.

If you buy a bird that has been hand-raised, it should bond readily with its new owner and be quite tame as long as it is handled regularly and gently.

Cockatiels and parakeets are particularly good choices. The smaller birds, such as finches and canaries, are mainly for watching not petting.

Once you've matched a child by age with the right animal, these 9 Pet Safety Tips for Kids can help ensure everyone in your home stays safe, healthy and happy under the new arrangement. 

You might like these

  • All About Dogs as Pets for Kids

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  • How to Remove Carpet Pet Stains

    It’s inevitable. Even the best pet makes a mess sometimes. Here’s how to remove carpet pet stains as painlessly as possible.

  • How to Prevent Zoonotic Diseases

    No messing around here, it's very important to keep your pets clean. It's an easy way to prevent zoonotic diseases from being transmitted to your family.

› Best Pet for Kids by Age