Best small pet for children
Small pets come in all different shapes and sizes and sometimes it’s hard to know which one is right for you and your family. Our advice is here to help you with your decision so that everyone, including your pet, is happy...
Gerbils as pets
Gerbils are great fun to watch. They are burrowing animals by nature and they spend hours digging for pleasure which can be captivating! Because they’re quick and agile, young children can find it quite difficult to hold them without squeezing too hard so they’re generally more interesting to watch than to handle.
Gerbils are fascinating but if you have young children and want them to be able to handle their pet, it might be better to consider another small animal.
Hamsters as pets
Hamsters are fun and active pets. They are nocturnal which means they can be a disappointing pet for children because they’re fast asleep during the day and then they emerge just when it’s time for bed. If they are disturbed from sleep they may bite and their eyesight isn’t great so they’re easily startled by sudden movements.
It’s also important to know what kind of hamster you’re getting – while dwarf hamsters like company and can be kept in same sex pairs or groups, Syrian hamsters are solitary and need to live alone.
Mice as pets
Mice are natural explorers and can provide hours of fun to watch as they climb rope and dash through tunnels. Mice are usually friendly and they rarely bite but, because they’re so small and quick, it can be difficult for small children to hold them. To pick a mouse up hold the base – not the tip – of their tail gently but firmly and then lift their back end and slide your hand under their body.
Rats as pets
Rats absolutely love social interaction and they can make great pets for both adults and children. They get very depressed if they are left without attention.
Rats need more cage space than mice, hamsters or gerbils and they also like to have a few levels so you’ll need to make sure there’s enough room. Aquariums don’t make suitable homes for rats.
Guinea pigs as pets
Guinea pigs can make good companions for adults and children. They are fun to watch and have a varied vocabulary. Once you get to know them it is possible to tell when they are happy, sad, excited or angry. They are not happy just to be left in a hutch at the bottom of the garden but need shelter from all extremes of weather and a run where they can graze freely, safe from predators. It’s vital that they are with another of their own kind. Gentle by nature, guinea pigs can be a good firsttime companion for a child (as long as there is considerable parental interest).
Consideration needs to be given to their fairly long lifespan, which can be up to seven years. If you are buying them for your children, please consider whether they will still be interested in seven years time. Many animals end up in rehoming centres such as Blue Cross because children reach an age when their priorities change.