Are you considering adopting a small pet for your children? While small pets can make wonderful companions, it’s crucial to remember that they are sensitive and delicate creatures. Small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and hamsters are prey species and thrive in a peaceful environment with plenty of hiding places in case they feel threatened.
When thinking about adopting a small pet for your child, it’s essential to consider the needs of the individual animal and how well those needs align with your family’s expectations.
Here are 7 important factors to consider before adopting a small pet for your child.
1. Not All Small Pets Are Suitable for Small Children
Small pets are, well, small. And the smaller the pet, the more fragile they tend to be. Pets like hamsters and mice can be easily injured, even with a light squeeze. It is crucial to consider whether your child is old enough to handle small pets safely. Reckless handling can lead to accidents that would be traumatic for both your child and the pet.
Even larger pets such as rabbits or guinea pigs are not immune to injuries caused by improper handling. They have delicate spines, and even minor adjustments that go against the natural curve of their spine can have serious consequences.
Before adopting a small pet for your children, make sure they are mature enough to understand how to interact responsibly with their pets.
2. Some Small Pets Are Solitary, While Others Need Companions
Pets such as guinea pigs and rats are social animals that need to live in pairs or groups to be happy. On the other hand, hamsters are solitary animals and can become extremely aggressive if housed with another hamster.
That’s why it’s important to think about how many pets you are willing and able to care for before adoption. If you prefer the simplicity of caring for a single pet, a hamster would be a better choice compared to other social species.
The mental math games are all about the ability of thinking and solving a problem in your head. It builds that critical thinking in a child’s mind and makes him able to deduce solutions to different problems.
3. Consider the Costs of Keeping Small Pets
Larger pets like rabbits and guinea pigs consume more food and are generally more expensive to care for. Considering that guinea pigs require companionship (and rabbits benefit from it too), you’ll need to provide for at least two guinea pigs.
In terms of food expenses, hamsters are the cheapest since they eat smaller quantities. However, they still require high-quality food instead of the cheapest brands that are filled with fillers or low-quality ingredients.
Rats and mice fall somewhere in between when it comes to food costs, depending on the number of pets you have. Many rat owners start with 2 or 3 rats and end up with 10!
Regarding pet supplies, cages vary in price, ranging from $50 (homemade C&C guinea pig cage) to $300.
Keep in mind that small pet store cages usually do not provide enough space for your pet. Most cages sold in pet stores are much smaller than the ethical minimum set by animal welfare organizations.
Besides the food and the cage, you’ll also need toys, enrichment, bedding, food dishes, and water bottles/bowls. And if your pet gets sick, vet bills can be costly.
4. Small Pets Need More Space Than Expected
Before adopting a small pet, think about where you’ll keep the cage and how much room you have in your home to accommodate your new pet.
As mentioned earlier, the small cages found in pet stores are not spacious enough to comfortably house your pets. These cages do not meet ethical requirements and would make your pet unhappy and stressed. A stressed-out pet is more likely to lash out on their owners, bite, or be skittish.
Here’s how much room some of the most popular small pets need:
– Guinea pigs: 10.5 sq. ft for 2 guinea pigs (add 3 sq. feet for every additional guinea pig)
– Rabbits: rabbits do best as free-roam indoor pets but if you can’t free roam them 24/7 a day, they need a 4.5-6 feet long cage (depending on the rabbit breed) and plenty of out-of-cage time.
– Rats: you can use this Rat Cage Calculator to see the size requirements
– Mice: aim for at least 65 x 45 x 40 cm / 26 x 18 x 16 inch
– Hamsters: a hamster cage needs to be at least 775 square inches
5. Some Small Pets Like Human Company More Than Others
When you introduce a new pet to your child, you want them to bond and enjoy each other’s company. However, some small pets are not really interested in human companionship and can be hard to bond with.
Rats are known to be one of the most friendly small pets. Most rats enjoy and actively seek human companionship. There may be exceptions if a rat was not handled from a young age, which can make them less sociable. However, with patience and attention, even less social rats can become more comfortable with human interaction.
Mice, on the other hand, are generally less cuddly and don’t show as much interest in human interaction. They are also very small, so young children should either avoid handling them or be supervised by adults.
Pets like rabbits and guinea pigs can be good lap pets, but it’s a hit or miss. Some like to be held and cuddled while others hate it. What kind of pets you’ll get is a lottery. If you decide to adopt rabbits or guinea pigs, it’s important to respect their boundaries and avoid forcing them into uncomfortable situations.
If your rabbits or guinea pigs don’t end up being very cuddly, your children can still sit on the floor with them during out-of-cage time and give them gentle pets on the back.
Hamsters tend to sleep throughout the day and become active later at night, usually around 10-11 PM. So if your children are already asleep at that time, they might miss out on interacting with the hamster.
6. Your Child Might Lose Interest in the Pet
Parents often adopt small pets to teach their children about responsibility and caring for others. The idea is for the children to be responsible for feeding and cleaning up after their pets.
However, children can sometimes lose interest in the pet over time and may not continue to care for them properly. As a result, the responsibility of caring for the pet is likely to fall back on the parents. Considering the other household duties you already have, this additional responsibility may become overwhelming.
Therefore, I suggest only adopting a pet if you are confident that you will be able to take care of it and provide daily attention, even if your child loses interest.
7. Some Pets Require Lots of Cleaning
Guinea pigs are some of the messiest small pets out there. Since they constantly eat, they also poop 100 times a day. They cannot be reliably litter trained like rabbits who only do their business in a litter box. So there’s going to be lots of poop to clean on a daily basis.
While rabbits are generally less messy since they can be litter trained, they love to sink their teeth into everything they see. This means you’ll need to rabbit-proof your home – hide any wires, don’t leave phone chargers out, protect wooden chair legs or anything else your bun might destroy.
Rats also tend to use the litter box in their cage which needs to be changed daily or every few days, and their cage needs to be cleaned weekly. The same goes for mice, although some people may find the odor of male mice bothersome. I recommend visiting and handling male mice before taking them home to see if the smell bothers you.
Hamsters require the least cleaning – if they’re housed in a suitable cage that is at least 775 square inches and with several inches of bedding for burrowing. Being adjusted to living in desert areas, hamsters don’t pee a lot and they tend to poop in one place which makes it easy to spot clean the cage. Deep cleaning the cage is only necessary once a month, but it’s important to leave some of the old bedding in for the familiar scent. Removing all familiar scents from their home will stress your hamster out.
I hope this information helps you decide which small pet would be the best fit for your children. Remember, if you feel that your children are not yet old enough or responsible enough to safely handle small pets, it’s better to say “no” than to deal with the consequences later.
1. What are the key factors to consider before adopting a small pet for my child?
Consider your pet's demands for food, shelter, socializing, exercise, grooming, and veterinary care, and be sure you can afford, are willing, and able to provide them.
2. How do I ensure the safety and well-being of both my child and the small pet?
Make sure your pet has a secure place to hide away from youngsters, such as a box or an elevated bed that the child cannot access. Instruct the child(ren) on how to approach animals properly and to never approach or touch any animal that does not belong to your family.
3. What are some suitable small pet options for children of different ages?
Small birds, reptiles, turtles, rodents, and guinea pigs make excellent children's pets. You can entrust children with the task of providing food and water for their animals, but be sure to observe them to verify that they are not overfeeding their pets and that they are really doing so.
4. How can I teach my child responsibility and proper care for their new pet?
Remember that the greatest approach to teach your children to be responsible pet owners is to set a good example yourself. Even if you have a hectic day, find time to walk the dog or brush the cat, bringing your child's attention to this fact in a positive way.
5. Are there any specific challenges or considerations when adopting a small pet for a child with allergies?
When adopting a small pet for a child with allergies, it's important to consider hypoallergenic options like certain dog or cat breeds or non-shedding small animals. It's also recommended to consult with an allergist and ensure proper cleaning and hygiene to minimize allergen exposure.