Who doesn’t love pets? Nobody, that’s who. And kids especially love animals, so why not getting a family pet? Pets are wonderful companionship, they teach kids about responsibility and they are fun to keep around. It really seems like a no-brainer, you should go to the local shelter right now to pick up a puppy. Except buying a pet is a major life decision that will affect your family in the long term. Before coming home with a furry new friend, consider the kind of pet that your family will benefit for and do your research. Here are some alternatives that you might consider if you are not ready for a cat or a dog.


1. Hermit crabs

Hermit crabs are probably not your first choice, or anyone’s. But these are wonderful and cute critters that are perfect as a first pet. They require minimal maintenance and pretty simple housing, so they won’t take too much of your time. Besides, they are interesting pets and most kids are fascinated when they change shells. This is also great for teaching kids responsible pet ownership, as they have to pay attention to the crab’s behavior, because they require progressively larger shells.

2. Small rodents

Hamsters, gerbils and mice are as cute as they come and they make excellent first pets for children. They are fairly low-maintenance, since all they require is food, water, a wheel for exercise and a clean cage. Having children help with cleaning the cage and making sure they keep the food stocked is an excellent way to teach responsibility. Small rodents can be socialized with five minutes of holding a day, and they are extremely mild tempered. Your biggest worry will probably be making sure the kids don’t squeeze they beloved pet a little bit too much.

3. Small birds

Small birds are pretty, they sing and they don’t require too much attention, as long as their cage is clean and they have enough food and water. Be careful when choosing the kind of bird for your family, though. Parrots and some larger birds require a lot of attention and they are extremely long-lived, which makes them quite a commitment. Good birds to start with are canaries or society finches. Be sure to buy the finches as a pair, though, or they might get lonely. Another thing to keep in mind when considering birds is that they usually hate loud, sudden noises, so they are probably better suited for older children.

4. Fancy rats

Domesticated “fancy” rats are one of the best starter pets for children (or anyone!). They can be really cute and easy to care for, and they rarely bite. They require minimal upkeep, only a clean cage and daily feeding. What makes rats an interesting choice, though, is that they are very affectionate and social. Rats love to play with humans and they are insanely smart. so smart that they can be trained and learn tricks.