Having a pet can be a great experience for kids. Evidence says that children who grow up with dogs have better empathy and more confidence. But, of course, that’s not the end of the story. Pets, as all dads know very well, need quite a bit of work. And despite the protestations of your children, that work will inevitably fall to you.
With that in mind, it’s worth thinking about which type of pet would be best for both your kids and for you.
Fish are the quintessential starter pet for children. They’re easy to look after, they don’t create any havoc around the house, and they don’t require much mucking out. What’s more, there’s a dizzying array of different types of fish to choose from. You can build up quite a collection if you know where to look. Many people go for gold fish because that’s the done thing. But gold fish are actually quite difficult to look after. They need aerators, heaters, filters and, sometimes, chemicals.
Siamese fighting fish are far hardier creatures that don’t need any of this expensive kit. So they may, in fact, be a much better choice.
Reptiles are cold-blooded, long-lived creatures that will probably outlast both you and your kids. They’re a long-term commitment, and they’re not fuzzy or particularly friendly. But with that said, they do offer benefits as pets. Again, thanks to their slow metabolism, they’re easy to look after. And, typically, pet insurance costs are low. It’s worth mentioning too that many reptile species, like the tortoise, are non-allergenic. Unlike if you bought a cat, you won’t be sneezing every time you get back from work.
Ducks can make excellent pets. They’re easy to look after, relatively hardy and can be kept outside at all times. There are only a couple of downsides. If you use a static pond instead of a natural pond, it can be a lot of work to clean it out. Plus, there’s also the fact that if you keep ducks on the same bit of grass in your back garden, they’ll strip it bare. The best solution is to lay down a layer of sand, and then place the duck pen over that. Sand will absorb all their muck, and it’s easy to clean with fresh water. Sand is also good because it protects their flippers which are easily damaged. Remember, ducks are highly social animals. So to be happy you need at least two, and usually more!
Like the other animals in this list, rodents make good starter pets. But they come with a warning. Rodents have very short life spans. For instance, the world record lifespan for a mouse is four years. Most mice don’t live much beyond their second birthday.
If you get a rodent, keep them in same-sex pairs, except if you buy a hamster. Guinea pigs are rodents too, and the good news is that they tend to live a little longer than smaller animals. Of all the rodents, rats probably make the best pets, thanks to their increased intelligence.