The best first pet for your child

Most children will at some point decide they want a pet of their very own to love and take care of – even more so if you’re a pet lover yourself and they’ve grown up around family dogs or cats or any other furry, feathered or scaly friends!

A childhood pet is a wonderful experience and a great way to teach your child about responsibility and compassion for others. A well chosen pet can provide years of joy, as well as plenty of valuable life lessons too.

Before you even start thinking about what pet to choose though, it’s important to talk to your son or daughter about what being a pet owner involves – about the poop scooping, the vet visits, the feeding, the cleaning and so on, so that they are aware it’s not just all about cuddles and fun with their new friend!

It’s also a good idea to set some ground rules about who will be doing what in terms of pet care – unless you’re particularly fond of scrubbing out hamster cages or cleaning out old hay in the rabbit run, make sure your child knows that their pet is a lifelong commitment, even when they’re busy with homework, after school clubs and seeing their friends!

If you’re confident that your child is ready to be a responsible pet owner, it’s decision time! Chances are they may already have an idea of the pet they’d like, but if not (or if you’d like to gently guide them in a different direction!), here are some ideas:


Rabbits are cute, cuddly and friendly, so it’s no surprise they’re such a popular pet choice for children. They are also one of the most demanding small pets though, requiring regular vaccinations against viral diseases and they should also be neutered (especially if living in groups) – so be sure to research the cost of rabbit neutering and vaccinations as part of your potential outlay – small pet insurance is worth looking into too.


Rabbits need good quality food and plenty of access to hay or grass. Outdoor rabbits will also need a quality hutch that’s safe and secure from both the elements and foxes.


Hamsters are possibly the most popular ‘first pet’ for children because they are smaller, and solitary creatures, so don’t need a huge amount of space. They do need plenty of love and attention though, especially if your child hopes to bond with their new friend – most hamsters are very friendly, but regular handling is the best way to build trust.

There are lots of other rodents that make great pets, but it’s important to remember that hamsters are the only ones that really like to live alone – for other creatures, you should ideally look for a young same sex pair to add to your family.

Rats are a surprisingly good pet for children – they are incredibly intelligent and love human company, but they do require extra attention on the keeping clean side of things, or their cages can get smelly quite quickly.

Guinea pigs are another brilliant option – they love cuddles and are very friendly. Gerbils are less fond of cuddles and much harder to catch, but they are fascinating little creatures and kids love to watch them burrowing through tunnels.

Insects, Reptiles & Other Unusual Pets

Perhaps your child isn’t bothered about a fluffy cuddle loving pet – maybe they’ve set their sights on a lizard, or even a small snake?


Assuming that everyone at home is happy with the idea of having such a creature in the house, they can make wonderfully interesting pets, but definitely require the correct set up and a certain amount of specialist knowledge – talk to your vet about exotic vets and they should be able to put you in touch with a local expert to find out more.

Whatever pet your child decides on, be sure that you encourage them to take full responsibility for their new friend, whilst of course offering support and guidance to help them become part of the next generation of fantastic pet owners taking care of happy, healthy pets.

Do your kids have pets at home? We’d love to see photos – share them in the comments, or on your practice Facebook page!