If your child has been asking you repeatedly for a pet but you live in an apartment or small home that isn’t the right fit for a dog or cat, there are other alternatives to fit the bill. Pets are a wonderful way to teach your growing child responsibility and to nurture a love and empathy for animals. If you have limited space, there are many small animals that will fit right into your home, as well as your child’s heart.
Guinea Pigs are sociable, even-tempered, and many of them love to cuddle. They are not as active as other rodents and make a variety of cute sounds that your child will enjoy.
They live about two to five years, and their cages require weekly cleaning.
Hamsters require very little room and will nest with a variety of items including tissues, cardboard, and commercial nesting material. They are active at night and enjoy exercise wheels.
They are good climbers and will often chew through plastic tubing, so glass aquariums are a better idea than plastic habitats. Their cages should be cleaned weekly, and they are a good choice for kids over eight.
These brightly-colored birds are inexpensive to keep and fun to watch. Some can be taught to talk, and all of them make noise.
When handled young and often, they can be quite sociable and will perch on your child’s shoulder. However, they can be messy and very noisy at times. Their trays should be cleaned often, and they require fresh water several times a day.
Ferrets are highly active, extremely curious, and very social animals. They can live up to eight years and can be quite affectionate. However, they do have a strong odor that will require deodorizing.
They also tend to get into things, so you’ll have to ferret-proof your home to make sure it doesn’t do any damage or escape.
Snakes and lizards can be fascinating to observe, but they are best for older children who can handle the responsibility of daily feedings and keeping the tank maintained.
They require a certain balance of heat and light and often need to be fed live food, such as mice and crickets. They should not be handled a great deal, as many species can carry salmonella.
Frogs and salamanders can be an educational pet choice for your child, and they require less maintenance than reptiles. Frogs eat live crickets and sometimes commercial pellet food.
Their cages must be kept secure to prevent escape. They will need both land and water in their tanks to remain healthy, and children should wash their hands thoroughly if they handle the animal, as they may carry salmonella.
If your older child has outgrown goldfish, consider a small tank with a variety of tropical fish. The water must be heated and have the proper alkaline levels, but when properly maintained, these creatures are a beautiful and calming presence in any child’s room.
Your local tropical fish store can assist you with feeding and how to maintain the tank on a daily basis. Many species can live up to ten years or more with the proper care.