Getting a pet is a big decision and choosing the right small pet for children might take time. Every animal is different, some might need attention, some are very active, and some are easy to handle. Here are some basics of the most popular small animals to have for kids or a first time pet owner! Small pets generally require lower maintenance and space. But most of them need to be handled carefully and a quiet environment.
1. Guinea pigs
Guinea pigs are small and sociable animals. Rounded body shape, short legs and no tail. They typically live for 5-6 years but some may live longer. It is a nice first pet for children, but it is best to take responsibility with kids to ensure they are properly handled. Guinea pigs are active and sociable, they can be up for 20 hours per day and sleep for only short periods of time. They should be housed indoors and maintain a room temperature of 59°F-68°F. They like quiet and calm environments. Their bedding should be safe to eat such as dust-free hay for warm bedding. Guinea pigs are herbivores. They only eat fruits, hay and vegetables.
Rabbits are another good option if you are looking for social pets. Long ears, leges eyes, and short and fluffy tails. They are usually reddish brown or gray in color. They can typically live for 8 to 12 years. Rabbits are great house pets but are fragile, so younger children might not be suitable to handle them alone. Pet bunnies like to hop in the air or dance when they are happy. The ideal bedding for rabbits are fleece/ cage liners, they like a soft and comfy setup that can keep warm for their resting area. Rabbits have no traction on slippery surfaces as they don’t have paw pads like cats or dogs. They also need two compartments for resting and exercise. When you set up the environment for rabbits, make sure it is not slippery for them. Rabbits love fresh fruits and vegetables. And the main part of their diet is fresh hay, grass and water.
Hamsters are great pets for school-aged children because they require low maintenance. They are also good at interacting with people and their environment. But they usually live for 2-3 years only. Hamsters are typically stout-bodied, with small and furry ears, short legs and wide feet. They are active, even at night. They will be awake and running around their habitat at night. They also love chewing and stuffing their cheeks with food. And when they rest, they like to burrow and hide. Wood shavings are a common bedding setup for hamsters, some would recommend using unscented facial tissues and paper towels. You may also add on bedding like hammork in their cage for resting. Hamsters love leafy greens and fruits such as pears, carrots and cabbage.
Chinchillas have short forelimbs and long, muscular legs. They have large, black eyes and bushy tails. Chinchillas can be very agile and quick so may not be ideal for younger age children. Chinchillas also have a lifespan of around 12-15 years, they tend to live much longer than pets such as guinea pigs. They need a living environment that has enough of horizontal/vertical space to run or jump. They also like wooden/ cardboard to chew, make sure to avoid plastic toys. Similar to Guinea pigs, they need dust free hay bedding to keep them warm. They like to sleep for long periods of time during the day, and are active in the evenings. Chinchilla’s diet consists of high quality grass hay, fresh vegetables and fruits with no seeds.
5. Rats & Mice
Rats are active and good for pets for kids who are older. Rats need daily contact with their owner. The heads of rats range from blunt with aquiline noses to long and pointed. Wild rats and pet rats are brought up differently, pet rats are usually quite clean and well behaved. Rats are on the same resting schedule as humans, awake during the day and resting at night. They are best living in same sex pairs, so they have peers to play fighting. They also like climbing, burrowing and gnawing. Make sure there are enough rooms for them in the cage. Paper pellets, straw and shredded cardboard are common bedding for rats. Rats like to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Rat pellets or rat cubes are ideal for them too. Avoid feeding them seed/grain.