Choosing a Pet: The 5 Best Pets for Children

young girl with dog

“The dog was created specially for children. He is the god of frolic.”
-Henry Warren

When I was a child, I put “puppy, kitten and small zoo” on every birthday and Christmas list I ever made. Children love animals, and many of them spend months and even years pleading with their parent for a pet. For their part, parents are often unconvinced that their children will be able to properly care for a pet. Choosing the right pet for your child can be challenging, and the truth is that there’s no universal perfect pet. Instead, it’s important to take into account your child’s age, responsibility level, and unique personality. There are good pet choices for almost every child, and here are five of the best.

Small Furry Animals

Small animals like guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits are popular classroom pets. because they are inexpensive, many parents assume that they are great pets for children. These animals can make wonderful pets for children who can’t care for dogs and want a furry pet. They are also ideal choices for kids who love dogs and cats but suffer from allergies. But small animals aren’t without problems. These animals are generally best for older children who can play gently. Small animals also require weekly cage cleanings and annual veterinary care.


Dogs are the classic pets of childhood, and for good reason. Dogs provide unconditional love, can teach children responsibility, and can even protect your child in an emergency. Dogs require supplies which can include a crate, potty pads for dogs, toys, treats such as Greenies dog chews and an assortment of collars and leashes. A dog, then, is only a good pet for a child when the parent also likes dogs. No child is responsible enough to provide all of the care a dog needs, and dogs also require veterinary care and the proper food. If you’re considering getting a dog for your child, the dog should be a project for the entire family. When dogs are family pets, they can substantially enrich life, but a dog left to the care of a child will be an unhappy dog.


Cats can make excellent substitutes for dogs if you’re unable to provide daily walks and training sessions. Cats adopted as kittens will bond strongly to their owners and are generally friendly with children. Although they are generally less expensive than dogs, cats require annual veterinary care as well as spay and neuter costs. Cats are also unlikely to respond to training and are generally uninterested in long play sessions with children. These animals make good pets for children who want an animal they can occasionally cuddle but who don’t need a permanent best friend.


Reptiles are frequently overlooked as pets for children. Parents’ unease with slithery animals may cause them to preclude these animals as potential pets. However, reptiles can make excellent pets for older children. They require minimal care and, although they can bond with their owners, do not require daily love and attention. Reptiles are ideal pets if you’re not terribly interested in spending a lot of time with your child’s pet, and if your child is old enough to properly handle her reptile. Generally speaking, reptiles are not good choices for children under 10.

Exotic Pets

Exotic pets include a diverse array of animals including sugar gliders and chinchillas. These animals are excellent substitutes for dogs because they bond strongly with their owners and are highly intelligent. Much like dogs, however, these pets should be taken on as a family project because they require daily care. Even very young children can learn to properly handle small exotic pets as long as they receive careful adult supervision.

When contemplating getting a pet for your child, remember that you’re getting a pet for yourself too. If your child is unable to care for the animal, responsibility will fall to you, so choose an animal with whom you are comfortable. Pets can bring lots of love into a family and provide valuable opportunities to spend time together training, playing, and caring for your pet. If you treat your pet as part of the family, you’ll have years of happiness and fun times together to look forward to.

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