Don’t have the time or space or time for a dog? Maybe your shelter ran out of canine companions when adoptions went crazy during the start of COVID-19. Don't worry. There are still plenty of friendly palm-sized options for your kids that are compact and easy to care for.
Some of the most popular small pets for kids, such as hamsters and guinea pigs, might look similar but are very different in how they interact and live. Fish are an obvious answer, but have you considered these options below for your next family addition?
While hamsters are fun and active pets, they’re nocturnal, which can make for a disappointing pet for small children. Hamsters are relatively low maintenance and can entertain themselves with a wheel, tubes and toys. Just watch out for their tendency to bite.
They need a sturdy cage to call home, nicely padded with wood shavings. But besides that, they’re simple to maintain and can be a good opportunity to teach kids about dependency and caring.
Gerbils are easy to take care of but not very hands-on, which is an important consideration when kids are involved. They can be held but they’re super fast so will require some adult supervision.
Surprisingly, rats can make great pets. They’re smart with a laid-back nature and actually enjoy human companionship. Their intelligence means they can also learn tricks, such as retrieving objects and navigating mazes. Unlike most other rodents, they don’t really mind being handled which is great for children who want to be involved.
Rats are also easy to care for, just need regular cleaning and a standard rodent diet of food blocks.
Guinea pigs may be in the same rodent family as hamsters, but couldn't be more different. These rodents are gentle and have an expressive personality, which makes them less likely to bite.
Their bigger appetite can make guinea pigs messier than say, a hamster, so you might have to clean their cage more frequently as well. Stimulation is essential with these furry friends and your piglet will be happier living alongside a friend to prevent loneliness.
Have you ever seen a baby hedgehog before? They have to be one of the cutest things. Although they aren’t super cuddly companions, if handled from birth they will grow up to be sociable. A downside is that although it’s pretty straightforward to take care of these spiky creatures, they’re prone to health problems (and vet bills).
Hedgehogs also require a different diet containing vegetables and special food with protein because they are omnivores, some cat food usually does the trick. If you’re considering getting a hedgehog as a pet, make sure to check your local state laws - it's illegal to own them in certain states like New York City and California.
Chinchillas are an exotic option for kids who want to observe their pet rather than have direct interaction with it. Chinchillas don’t require much maintenance, but they do need quite a large cage with a lot of toys to stimulate them.
These animals are extremely intelligent creatures with a happy disposition. Unlike their small-pet counterparts, chinchillas need to be provided with a dust bath instead of a water bath. So be prepared to sweep up after their enthusiastic bathing sessions. (Probably not ideal for kids with allergies either).
Like hamsters, chinchillas are nocturnal animals and so might not be the best companion for small children with an early bedtime. With a lifespan of around 12 to 15 years, chinchillas tend to live much longer than other rodents. They’ll also need a friend, this means you’re undertaking a considerable commitment for these desert dwellers.
Though reptiles such as lizards, snakes and frogs are pretty low maintenance, setting up the right environment for them can be a difficult - and expensive - task. Reptiles need a particular environment to thrive, which should be kept optimal with a heat lamp.
These cold-blooded folk also need plenty of foliage, preferably something similar to their native habitat. Hiding spots are also appreciated. Reptiles eat live prey, if feeding live creatures or bugs to your scaly friend sounds awful, a reptile may not be the best pet for you.
If you're new to the reptile world, you should perhaps consider a leopard gecko since they don’t need much attention. Docile, these small lizards are easy to tame.
While not the most interactive pet around, insects are super easy to care for depending on which you choose. Stick insects, praying mantis, hissing cockroaches and crickets will be happy with just a warm tank, some foliage and regular snacks.
Introducing your children to these invertebrates means that they’ll grow up to appreciate any animal, be it a doting dog or stick insect. They’ll also grow up without fear of various insects and spiders as they move into adulthood.
Though some small animals are definitely more low maintenance than larger animals, you still need to take time to prepare your home for them. For more guidance on what the best pets are for young kids, head over to this blog. If you’ve got a companion your kid adores and is easy to take care of, send in your photos! We’d love to see how your pet makes your family complete.