Having a pet to care for can be a wonderful thing for a child. It’s even been suggested that having an animal in the house can reduce incidences of childhood allergy and respiratory illness. Looking after another living being will teach responsibility, empathy and compassion and can increase confidence in your young people.
A dog is a wonderful animal for physical and social development but they do require dedicated care, training, frequent exercise and can bring a lot of dirt into the house. Cats are still cuddly but more independent but both have to be cared for properly if you go away on holiday. A gerbils is an excellent starter pet and has a decent life span for a small animal, but they can nip. Rabbits are popular but do need proper handling and can be aggressive.
When I was young I had a goat, and I used to walk her on a lead and cuddle up to her in her house. I learned to milk her and looked after her kids. We also had chickens and ducks, but although they have the benefit of providing eggs, they do need space, and will not just use one spot to go to the loo, they will go everywhere.
Ferrets are sociable but they are maybe not the best choice for smaller children. Older kids and adults can even train them to walk on a lead, but they do smell quite strongly. I would choose a rat over a ferret, they are cleaner and more intelligent, can be trained to perform tricks and will happily be carried around all day inside your clothing.
If you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, African land snails are easy to keep and eat a nice easy vegetarian diet. My current favourite though is the Royal Python. Snakes are a pretty low maintenance pet and have a definite “cool” factor, though you do have to feed them defrosted rodents, which might not be to everybody’s taste. They need proper housing and infrequent handling but are really docile and feed every week or so. They teach patience and kindness (and hygiene, because they can carry salmonella, so hand washing is essential) and are quite fascinating to learn about. They live for 20-30 years, so with proper care they will be around for a while.
With any new addition to the household though, please do thorough research first and ideally source the creature from a rescue centre or reputable breeder. Make sure it’s a family pet,that you can all share responsibility for, and that especially in the younger years your child is supervised at all times when handling it. Choose carefully and you will have many years of happiness, love and companionship.
Written by our regular contributor Catherine.
All views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Room To Grow.