Benefits of Small Pets for Children

A leopard as a pet for a younger child - how can that possibly go wrong?

Every child want's a pet. Fact. It's up there with ice cream and cartoons - ask a kid if they'd like any of these three and the answer would be "Yes, Yes, YES!" But is having a pet such a good idea? A dog needs a lot of looking after and hands-on attention from its owners, which is something younger children are incapable of doing, but a smaller pet such as a rabbit, chinchilla or hamster is simple enough to be cared for by a child.

Pet Ownership Aids a Child's Development
Children see pets as their fuzzy little friends, but pets have been shown to be very beneficial in a child's development.

  • Social Skills. Children who interact and play with animals are more likely to be comfortable socially interacting with other children and developing relationships with playmates. They are less prone to being shy or introverted.
  • Caring for a pet helps development in children
  • Care and Compassion. Children can be careless and play rough, but a small pet requires a delicate touch. By getting used to treating small pets with care, children demonstrate similar kindness and compassion towards those around them.
  • Responsibility. Looking after a pet is often the first act of responsibility a child is given. By learning to be responsible for a pet children often become more responsible about themselves and their actions.
  • Emotional Growth. A pet is often the first non-mother/father relationship a child will have. Children learn how to accept and emotionally bond with non-family members. The responsibility of caring for a pet also increases self-confidence.

Keeping a Small Pet in the House

Small pets offer the advantage that they don't need to be taken for walks in the park and children can care for them in the safety of the home. They won't make as much mess as a dog - that's one less thing for you to worry about - by chasing around or chewing up the furniture, and they require much less food and veterinary attention.

  • Get a Good Cage. They might be small pets but that's no reason to keep them in a cage the size of a shoebox. Of the many cages on the market the Critter Nation is definitely one of the best. Spacious for pet comfort, it has many features to make caring for small pets simple.
  • Proper Diet. Diet varies from species to species, but most rodents (gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs) will need a quality mix food (seeds and pellets) and small pieces of fresh vegetables.
  • Good Bedding. Sleep is important to a small animal so timothy hay or aspen shavings should be used for bedding.
If this will be your first time owning a small pet the ASPCA has plenty of information on small pet care that is invaluable.
By John Bone
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