A friend wrote this to me: My children want a pet. They are not old enough to care for one ther own. I do not wish to have the added responsibility of a pet. What would be a good compromise while teaching my children to learn how to care for a pet someday?”
Let’s think this through. There are some good choices and some not-so-good choices!
Dog–Don’t do it! Stand firm! A dog is a responsibility and one that I have found a child is not ready for until he/she is…hmmm…about 21 years old…or in their own house…whichever comes first.
Cat—one cat can truly be a joy and low maintenance. We have had up to four indoor cats and that becomes a full-time job. I suggest a “porch kitty” who uses the potty outside. I’ve had a four-year-old responsible for feeding the porch kitty and it went well. One indoor cat is okay, too…but you *will* be the one to care for the litter box (Tidy Cat Scoop Crystals Blend and a covered litter box are the way to go!) and this is probably more than you’re willing to do.
Hamster–Pray first. A good hamster (as was Mika Oprah Jackson) is a wonderful pet. Mika never bit anyone and never tried to escape. She was fun to watch and her up-keep was minimal. The kids learned to be gentle and to watch her closely and they could feed her. I did clean the cage but it was a ten-minute job and easy. A bad hamster is horrible…and they’re out there. Like I said, pray first.
Guinea Pigs–Guinea pigs are really a good choice! They squeak when their food or water containers are empty which is very helpful. Their upkeep is similar to a hamster. We’ve had friendly guinea pigs and aloof guinea pigs but none of them have been mean.
Fish–at first glance, a fish seems like a good choice, but not-so-much! They die. I’ve killed over a dozen. Their tanks are hard to clean…only the Mom can do it. You may consider a beta if you’re really set on a fish.
Ducks–okay, we’ve done this one. It was fun, but I don’t recommend it. Too many reasons to list!
Birds–birds are kind of fun but their cages are messy and the seeds fall out of the cage. Also, it is way too much adrenaline rushing through the system when you discover the bird has escaped!
Hedgehogs–yes, I owned one. No, I don’t recommend it. They never do become friendly and their spikes *hurt*!
Ferrets–been there, done that. They are expensive. They are cute. They smell really bad. They are a lot of work.
Rabbits–I really love my rabbits and so do the children. Our house rabbit has a small cage in the house and most of the time the door to the cage is open. She hops around the house and goes back to the cage to use her litter box. They are not expensive and their up-keep is minimal. I think the main down-side to owning a house rabbit is they will chew on electrical cords. Also, male rabbits are the best pets and the most friendly but around six-months-old their urine can start to smell bad if you don’t have them neutered. Around six-months-old a female rabbit can become testy if she is not bred.
Chickens–if your city/town allows it, a few back yard chickens can be quite an adventure! They are messy but they produce eggs! They are friendly and interactive.
And that concludes my pet advice…until you ask me about food, grooming, vaccinations, litter box, etc….