Tips for Choosing Good Small Pets for Kids

Rats are easy to care for, needing fresh water, rat chow (sold in pet stores) and some toys, such as an exercise wheel. Because rats are so social, they do best with the companionship of another rat, but make sure to get rats of the same sex or two rats will quickly become six to eight. If you can get over the “creepiness” of the naked tail – which in many cases makes them more, not less attractive to kids – rats can make excellent pets for children.

Not Great for Kids: Iguanas and Box Turtles

Because reptiles naturally carry salmonella bacteria, which can cause illness in humans, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends reptiles not be kept in households with children under 5, pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems.

Despite their being commonly found in pet stores, there are few pets more inappropriate for children (and many adults) than green iguanas. Iguanas are beautiful animals, but the 6-inch long lizard seen in the pet store rapidly becomes the 6-foot long adult iguana. There is no aquarium large enough to house an adult animal. Iguanas have elaborate care requirements. They do not produce their own body heat, so they require a supplemental heat source as well as additional, full spectrum lighting to provide the vitamin D that is required to keep them healthy. And feeding adult iguanas is not just a matter of throwing in some iceberg lettuce once in a while; iguanas need daily feeding of a wide variety of high-quality greens and vegetables, as well as calcium supplementation.

Children like to be able to handle their pets, and iguanas are not very happy to oblige. Reptiles in general do not like to be handled; they are not social animals and are often stressed by human handling. And while iguanas can become tame over time, the effort required to make them so is much greater than with other reptiles and certainly much higher than with most fuzzy pets. Adult iguanas, particularly males, can be very aggressive during some parts of the year.

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