• Buying or adopting a pet for your child is a big step. It’s important to know how to pick out the perfect companion before you head to the pet store.

    A first pet is an exciting and demanding challenge for a young child. Most children love animals, and the thought of them having their own pet can be very enticing. It’s important to remember though, that most children have never been responsible for something as demanding as a live pet, so even though they may promise to feed it and groom it regularly, they may not live up to their guarantees. Because of this, there are certain pets that make better companions than others for small children. Here are examples of these sorts of pets:

    Guinea Pigs, Hamsters and Gerbils: When you’re thinking about a first pet, it’s often good to start small. Small pets such as guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils make good companions because they are easy to handle, easy to keep track of, and non-threatening to a child. Guinea pigs make especially good pets for very young children because they are docile, rarely bite, and are easily handled. Hamsters are also calm creatures, but are mostly nocturnal. Gerbils are the most active of these three small pets, and may get aggressive if threatened. If your child gets one of these pets, make sure he or she knows how to handle the animal. Also, make sure the animal cage is safe and secure where your child can observe it without being able to tamper with it.

    Rats: Rats are examples of small pets that kids can enjoy as a first pet, as long as they don’t make your child squeal. Despite their reputation, rats are calm, gentle, clean and friendly. They are easier to handle than mice because they are larger, but they also use urination as a territorial marker and may bite when threatened. For this reason, rats make better first pets for slightly older children. Rats work well in pairs, so take that into consideration when buying your child’s first pet.

    Fish: Fish are great pets for kids because they are interesting without being interactive. As long as you place your aquarium tank in a location where it is secure and can’t be tipped or tampered with, you don’t have to worry about your child doing harm to his pet. One downside though, is that fish require a good deal of technical maintenance to keep their aquarium tank healthy, which you will have to do yourself. Fish make good pets for very young children as long as you are willing to shoulder the bulk of the work.

    Cats: Cats make good pets because they don’t require much training, they can live independently for long stretchesif needed, and an adult cat they won’t easily be injured by your child. Unfortunately, their litterboxeslitter boxes need to be cleaned often daily and they tend canto scratch, which can beis painful if they’re not declawed. An older, more responsible child would make a good first-time owner for a cat.

    Dogs: Canines require a good deal of care, and dog training can be incredibly intensive. For this reason, a dog is not a great first pet to put a child in charge of. Dogs are incredibly affectionate, though, and make great, protective companions for a child, as long as there is plenty of adult supervision and care. If you get a dog, you will find yourself doing most of the care and dog training.

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    Remember that small pets are quick and may escape if handled improperly.