There are many different small pets available. There are so many choices that it can be hard to find the right one for your lifestyle. Do you need a pet that is patient with children? Must it be able to be left alone for a day or two at a time? Or, do you want a pet you can take with you everywhere? Learning about the different small pets before you buy one will ensure a long and happy relationship.
The most common question about small animal pets is, “Is it good with kids?” The answer depends both on the pet and the child. A quiet, gentle child may get along great with a fragile pet, while a more excited child could frighten it. You know your child best, so please consider the ages mentioned here a guideline.
Under the age of five:
Very young children like a pet they can hug and cuddle. They tend to pet harder than they mean too, so a pet for an under five must be patient and sturdy. Small animals recommended for this age group include rabbits and guinea pigs.
Rabbits are good choices for ages 3 and up. Choose a larger dwarf or full-sized breed as tiny dwarf bunnies are too fragile, but the bigger dwarfs will be great friend to a child. Look for Mini Lop, Mini Rex or Dutch. Bunnies rarely bite, and, if their nails are well-groomed, should not scratch, either.
Guinea Pigs of all breeds are gentle and sweet. Look for short-haired breeds, as grooming a guinea pig with short hair is easier than ones with long hair.
Ages 6 – 10:
From 6 to around 10 kids become more able to control their grips, and are able to care for smaller, more fragile pets. For this age look for a pet that is unlikely to bite, and enjoys lots of attention. Small pets recommended for the 6-10 age group include rats, gerbils, and Syrian hamsters.
Rats are wonderful pets. They rarely bite or scratch, and can be easily trained to do fun tricks. Rats live longer than hamsters, which is a big plus. Rats come in several types, all of which are equally affectionate. Hooded rats are the most common pets as they come in many colors, and are inexpensive. Dumbo rats have bigger ears than Hooded rats, but are otherwise the same. Rex rats have adorable curly hair, and hairless rats are bald! All make excellent pets for children.
Gerbils are smaller and faster, so they are best suited for the upper end of our age range. They are very gentle, and tend to have fewer odors than many small pets. They have long furry tails that can be injured if grabbed roughly, so they are best for a gentle child. Whether running about in a ball, or through a maze, or just riding around in a pocket, they are wonderful pets for kids.
Syrian hamsters, also called teddy bear, black bear, panda bear and golden hamsters, are popular with this age group as well. Larger than the dwarfs, adults tend to have friendly, if somewhat lazy personalities. All of the different names refer to color, and hair length. They are all the same animal. Hamsters can be delicate as very small babies, but by around 10 weeks they are an easy to care for, sturdy little pet. They tend to be more active at night, so their home should not in a bedroom, as they will keep a child awake. Hamsters as pets are easily cared for, and fairly inexpensive. Their only major drawback is a short lifespan. Very few Syrian hamsters live past the age of four.
Ages 11 – 19:
From around 11 through the teenage years small pets with more difficult care are appropriate. Many children this age are looking for a friend that is cool as well as friendly. Pets recommended for this age range are often unusual and interesting.
Ferrets are very popular with teens. They are natural clowns, who love to show off and play. They are adept thieves of anything shiny, and prefer to spend a lot of time playing with toys. Training a ferret is relatively easy, and they enjoy walks on a leash or riding around on a shoulder. Ferrets as pets require more cleaning and grooming than the pets previously mentioned and can be predatory towards other small pets, making them best for teens and adults.
Roborovski hamsters are also popular with this age group. They are the tiniest of the pet hamsters. They are absolutely adorable, and very friendly. They do not bite, but they are very fast, and easier for a young child to lose. For an older kid or a teen, they are the perfect pocket pets!
Chinchillas are also great for this age group. Chinchillas are very clean, and essentially odorless. They bathe in ground pumice to keep their coats clean. Chinchillas do not bother many allergy sufferers. They can jump quite high, and are fast, but if well-supervised love to explore a Chinchilla proofed room. Chinchillas cannot get fleas, and do not need nails trimmed. They enjoy running on a wheel or in a ball. They also love to perch on shoulders like a bird.
Many adults also enjoy the company of small animal pets. In addition to the usually hamsters and mice, there are some very interesting and unusual small animals recommended for adults or supervised children. Some of them have very specialized requirements, but if you can meet their needs, they are all great pets.
Sugar gliders are very high maintenance. They need hours of attention daily, and freshly prepared foods. Often carried everywhere with their owners in bonding pouches, they make up for their extra needs with huge cute eyes, tiny size, and playful dispositions. Gliders are too fragile for most children, but make a great pet for and adult or teen looking for something different.
Another popular pet is the Hedgehog. They are not as poky as they look but, similar to the Gliders, have very specific food and care needs that must be met. Hedgehogs are insectivores, even when eating commercially prepared foods; they still need to be fed some bugs and other supplements. One used to you, they enjoy handling and gentle petting, laying their quills flat so they won’t poke you.
There are, of course, many other small animals that can make fine pets, but these are the most popular and recommended. Choosing a small animal pet is a commitment of anywhere from 4 to 14 years, so doing your research first is very important. You’ll never regret, though, opening your home to a pocket pet friend.