Tips for Choosing Good Small Pets for Kids

Meanwhile, box turtles are also routinely found for sale in pet stores and are a common children’s pet. Although box turtles are very docile and will tolerate handling, their care requirements are much more challenging than children, and most adults, realize or can accommodate (unless the turtle is kept outside year round in an area that falls within its natural habitat). Box turtles require a fairly large cage, sufficient heating, high quality food, calcium supplementation, full spectrum lighting and a hibernation period of four to six months.

Of all common children’s pets, box turtles have by far the longest life span, possibly living up to 100 years. Your child’s box turtle would still be hale and hearty when the first grandchildren arrive – a time commitment most people are unwilling to make to a pet.

Better Bet: Corn Snake or Leopard Gecko

Although reptiles are not recommended as pets in households with children under 5, some reptiles can make excellent and easy-to-care-for pets for older children. Even children with the strongest allergies to fuzzy pets can own a pet reptile because they are totally non-allergenic.

One of the easiest-to-care-for reptile pets is the corn snake. Corn snakes are native to the southeastern United States, but are very commonly bred in captivity and come in a dazzling variety of colors and patterns. The adult length of a corn snake is around 4 to 5 feet, and their circumference is about that of an average garden hose. This is in contrast to some snakes, such as Burmese pythons and Colombian boa constrictors, which start out as small baby snakes but soon reach gigantic and totally inappropriate sizes. Corn snakes can be easily housed in a 15- to 20-gallon aquarium with a secure wire top, but they do require a heat source, such as a heat lamp or under-tank heating pad on one side of the cage. Corn snakes need to be fed an appropriately sized mouse once a week (this may be off-putting to some families).

As far as handling is concerned, corn snakes are generally very docile and tolerate handling well. Parents should not allow unsupervised handling of any reptile by children under age 12, and all children should be taught to wash their hands afterward.

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