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easy pets for kids

Easy pets for kids are those that don't require a lot of nurturing or special care.

These are good starter pets. 

Easy to care for pets include fish; reptiles and snakes, rodents including rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters; small birds; and cats.

Here's what to know about these easy pets if you're considering bringing one (or more) of them home for your child.

Freshwater Fish

Most freshwater fish are inexpensive to buy after the initial investment of a tank or bowl and the related accessories.

When choosing a species, keep in mind that some fish are hardier than others.

For small kids, go for inexpensive, durable fish, such as goldfish. You don't want floaters to start off your child's pet career.

For a successful start off, 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 nightlights in a child's bedroom. 

Maintenance for the fish will simply involve feeding once or twice a day, and cleaning the fish bowl once a week. 

If you keep the aquarium away from direct sunlight, algae will grow more slowly, and it won't need to be cleaned as often.

Reptiles and Snakes

Little boys - and some little girls - love lizards and snakes. Most moms don't. 

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.

Research reptiles and their living requirements before choosing one as a pet. Some require live (shudder) food. 

If you are determined, however, at least get one 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.

Avoid large snakes, such as pythons that might ingest small children. 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 can be dangerous to everyone. Don't forget to ask how large the reptile will be at adulthood. 'Nuff said.

Even though reptiles are relatively sturdy, they are still living creatures. Never let young children handle them unsupervised.

Make sure you choose a reptile that is tame and does not try to bite. Good lizard choices are a bearded dragon or a gecko. Good snake choices include a corn snake, rat snake, or a king snake.

Lizards need places to hide, things to perch on. Tropical or desert reptiles will also need a heat source.

This will not be cheap.

The bearded dragon, for example, requires a 10-gallon terrarium with a screen top the first year, and a 40-gallon terrarium as he grows (very, very fast) up to 18 inches.

Many reptiles are omnivores, which means they not only eat fruit and vegetables but steak and mice as well.

This is not a simple matter of dropping in some pellets each day.

Reptiles don't need a lot of exercise (though if you released one near me, I would get a lot of exercise) and they don't need a lot of attention. 

Figure on about 15 - 30 minutes a day to feed them, and about an hour a week to clean the tank.

Rodents are Easy Pets for Kids

Rodents - rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters - are sweet, easy-to-care-for pets, especially for younger children. Small, furry, and cuddly, these rodents happily stay in their cages when the kids aren't playing with them.

Rats and mice are good pets for kids.Rats make easy, loving pets for kids.

Other advantages? They are quiet, not very messy, and easy to care for. They usually are inexpensive to buy and maintain.

First, you should know that mice are not baby rats. Two different species. Two distinct personalities.

Rats are exceptionally intelligent and friendly, despite their nasty looking tails.

Mice are cute and fun to watch in the cages, but they are 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.

Male or female? Good question. Male rat urine can be a bit smelly, plus males will mark territory with a drop of urine - a drawback if you let him out a lot. 

On the other hand, males are a lot calmer and more loving. If you change the litter at least once a week, they are easy to take care of, and the smell should not be an issue.

You'll need a special place for the rat cage. Shavings can be messy. And the cages take up a lot of room. Each rat requires a minimum of two cubic feet. So if you had a rat couple, that would mean a cage 2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet.

Rats need to be let out to run around at least a few minutes each day. You (or the kid) will need to supervise this outing, as they like to nibble through telephone cords and electrical wires.

And of course you don't want them getting lost in your walls or closets, either. Rats live two to four years; mice one to three years. 

  • Hamsters: These guys need extra Vitamin C. They can bite, and they're more vocal than most rodents. They are best kept alone. They are nocturnal, and may be a bit sleepy during the day, and more active than you would like at night. They live for 2 or 3 years.
  • Gerbils: These are small but fun pets. Not as intelligent or cuddly as rats. They are happier in pairs, so get a couple. They live for 2 to 3 years.
  • Guinea pigs: Guinea pigs make sweet, gentle easy to take care of pets. Get a pair of guinea pigs. The guinea pigs will need a large cage and a special diet of hay, vegetables and Vitamin C. Guinea pigs can live 5 to 7 years.

Small Birds

Birds are usually not suitable pets for kids under the age of 8. Kids below this age aren't gentle enough to properly care for them.

Young kids dart about and alarm birds.

Small birds, however, make excellent pets for older children.

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 you handle it regularly and gently.

Small birds are easy to take care of pets because they are generally confined to the cage and cannot wreak too much havoc. 

You only need to change the papers in the cage each day and replenish its food and water. You'll need to do a more thorough cleaning about once a week. 

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


In my prejudiced mind, cats are the perfect pets. They are sweet and cuddly. They're low maintenance - you can go away for a weekend and leave out food and water for them. 

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.

They are relatively long-lived (about 15-20 years), and if you keep them indoors, they are usually healthy animals.

Don't get kittens for small children. Cats between 1 and 3 have all the kitten attributes, but are a bit hardier and can quickly get away from rough little hands.

Be careful about introducing a new kitten into a house with another cat, or dogs as well.

Before You Agree to a Pet

Before you agree to a pet, have a serious talk with your child. Discuss the costs, and what the responsibilities of the pet entails, and who will need to do what.

Discuss who's going to do what and when (see Pet Chores for Kids by Age). Discuss consequences for neglecting a pet, and follow through with them.

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  • Choosing a Pet

    No pet should be an impulse buy. Do some research before choosing a pet so you'll know what you're getting into.

  • All About Dogs as Pets for Kids

    It's hard to find a pet more loving and loyal than dogs. That said, it's only fair that you know all about dogs if you're considering adopting one.

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› Easy Pets for Kids