Are you wondering which pets for children other than cats and dogs would make an adorable addition to the team? And would you say you’re more of a Finding Nemo type or more of an Angry Birds type-of-parent? Whichever you are, when choosing pets for children here are some things to consider.
While you’re at it, check out how children growing up with pets can bring many benefits to them and their families. There’s so much to love!
Before choosing pets for children: What to consider
With any new family member (be it pet or person) you want to create an environment that ensures Christmas dinner – and everyday life – will be a smooth affair. So, before you go the whole hog, here are some things to ask yourself.
- Do you or your children have allergies (think about doing a test visit with your pet of choice)?
- Do you want a pet that lives for 5 years? Or 25 years?
- Do you have a large grassed area as your backyard or an apartment balcony?
- Does your child have time to spend bonding with your pet daily, or would you prefer a more meditative companion?
Happy purr-y guinea pigs
Originally from South America, guinea pigs (or cavies) make super cute companions for kids. They need a diet rich in vitamin-C made up mostly of fresh fruits, veg and grass. So, in addition to a cosy hutch, you would need enough lawn for these cutesies to munch, roam and play on.
Guinea pigs live for 4 – 7 years and, being very social animals, two is better than one. Females have up to eight pups per litter, and can conceive again within one hour after giving birth! So, keep your new family members from becoming new family dynasties by purchasing either males only or females only.
As far as intimacy goes, cavies are perfect pets for children. Once a child earns a guinea pig’s trust, it will happily allow petting and grooming while sitting on their lap. These pets voice their appreciation with happy purrs (yep, they purr like cats when happy!).
They’re even known to squeak or whistle when they’re excited! Cuteness.
Horses sense emotion
Horses can be one of the most rewarding pets for children as they can form deep bonds and can live well into their thirties. Naturally perceptive, instinctively wary and sometimes stubborn, they have high levels of empathy and can sense your emotions. If you’re afraid of them, they’ll sense it and if you do something they don’t like, they’ll let you know.
This teaches your child to listen to the horse, to stay alert and watch their body language – while working calmly and confidently. It can take some time for a horse to learn to trust someone, so your child will also learn patience and commitment.
Because of this, horses are often used for therapy. Riding and interacting with your horse has been proven to reduce stress and build confidence, and once you’ve formed a bond, your horse loves unconditionally and without judgment.
Horses have the following housekeeping requirements:
- A sheltered paddock with standing room and space to lie down
- A large field to canter, gallop and graze upon
- Social interaction with other horses
- Constant access to fresh water
Domestic and wild horses show affection by nuzzling or touching their noses and sharing breath. They do this with each other but will also extend this affection to humans that they love.
Time to saddle up!
Small birds, big personality
Unpredictable environments and rough handling can cause birds stress, which can be fatal, so birds are the ideal pet for children from around 7 or 8 years of age and upwards. By this age, they understand how to be gentle, and handle their bird with care.
Compared with dogs and horses, birds are low maintenance pets – but they are social creatures who still require daily attention. It’s important you research the bird before you bring them home. Each breed has different social needs, can tolerate different noise levels and needs to be cared for and trained differently.
So, which are the best bird breeds for children?
- Finches and canaries: These small chirpy birds are best for children who don’t want to handle their pet birds. While they’re social creatures who should be kept in pairs (or more), they don’t need human interaction like other breeds and are best left in their cage. Your kids will love their beautiful songs as they brighten up your home.
- Budgies (aka parakeets) and cockatiels: Colourful and full of personality, these clever birds are easy to care for. They respond well to gentle handling and can learn to talk, whistle, and do tricks! They also need playtime out of the cage with you in a safe environment, so not a good combination to have with cats. These beautiful birds will teach your kids to be calm and patient.
Birds are a great investment as pets for children. And while parakeets and finches can live for 5 – 10 years, cockatiels and canaries can both live for 10 – 15 years.
Family-friendly fish as pets
Perfect for a busy family, fish are versatile pet for children that require minimal attention and space. However, each type of fish needs different water requirements (pH and temperature). So, if your child is interested in science – getting the chemistry right might be a great learning experience!
Freshwater varieties like goldfish and Siamese fighting fish (aka Betta fish) are a good start. But do your research first – because not all fish live nicely together.
Siamese fighting fish live for 3 – 5 years in captivity and need at least 20 litres of water in a heated tank. And because goldfish in a bowl usually live for 2 – 3 years, this is often their perceived lifespan. However, with the proper diet and water conditions, the average lifetime of a goldfish can be 10 – 15 years. The oldest goldfish on record lived to a grand age of 43 years!
Our research shows that following cats and dogs, fish are the third most likely pet to be taken with on holiday. Fancy that.
Back to the classics – cats and dogs as pets for children
If you’re still not convinced, maybe it’s time to go back to the classics. Choosing cats and dogs as the best pets for kids may just be the best way forward for your family.
Companion Animals in New Zealand Report, 2020 shares that Kiwis are parents to 1.2 million meowers and 851,000 woofers. That’s 75% of all New Zealand pets – making cats and dogs a firm favourite. And with our low-cost cat insurance and dog insurance plans, your kitty and pooch will be well protected besties.
Pets for children – over to you
Have you had any hair-ball moments choosing pets for children? Or maybe one with a happy furry-tail ending? We’d love to hear your story! Send us a note below and post a pic on our Facebook page.