Tips for Choosing Good Small Pets for Kids
If the lack of legs and mouse feeding is undesirable, consider a leopard gecko. Leopard geckos are large (approximately 8 to 10 inches long as adults), ground-dwelling geckos that make excellent pets for older children. A pair of adult leopard geckos can be comfortably housed in a 15-gallon aquarium with a screen top. As with other reptiles, leopard geckos require a heat source on one side of the cage in order to digest their food properly. Leopard geckos cannot climb glass like other geckos, which makes them much less likely to escape. The primary diet of leopard geckos is crickets and mealworms, in addition to a calcium supplement.
Adult leopard geckos are very gentle and easily handled, but again, kids under age 12 should always be supervised when handling their pet. Everyone, including adults, who handles leopard geckos must wash their hands afterward. Although their care is significantly different from fuzzy pets, and they require some precautions, there are few other pets that can impress as much as a corn snake or leopard gecko at show and tell!
Not Great for Kids: Rabbits
Many rabbits are given as gifts on Easter, only to be turned in to an animal shelter weeks later. Although rabbits have many good qualities, they have several detractions as pets. Rabbits (with the exception of the very dwarf varieties) can get quite big, requiring large housing. As a prey species, rabbits are easily frightened by loud noises and sudden handling-conditions that are givens with kids. In these situations, rabbits can bite or inflict serious scratches. If the animal is allowed to run loose in the house, and rabbits do need time outside their cages for exercise, they can be very destructive chewers.
Better Bet: Guinea Pig
One of the best overall pets for children in nearly every department is the guinea pig. Guinea pigs are easily tamed, love to be handled, don’t require large housing, and are easily cared for. As with all pets, gentle handling is required, but guinea pigs rarely bite or scratch and can become very attached to their owners. When petted, guinea pigs make adorable “purring” type noises that delight adults and children alike.
Cages to house guinea pigs can be easily and inexpensively purchased at a local pet supply store, but make sure not to purchase a cage that has a wire mesh bottom (generally used for rabbits) as guinea pigs have small feet and can hurt themselves in this type of cage. Guinea pigs are easy to feed, requiring only pressed alfalfa pellets, alfalfa hay, fresh water and a variety of different fresh vegetables to supplement their diet.
Make It Good
Pets and children are an excellent combination. Owning and caring for the right pet is often one of the best, and most memorable, parts of childhood. Pet ownership leads to a wealth of educational opportunities, as children are often excited to read and learn about their new friend.