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Good Small Animals For Children

Children like to have pets, but cats, dogs, and other animals may not always be convenient or appropriate for your family. Plenty of small animals will fulfill their lovable pet roles, though, making them ideal for children learning to care for a pet in the first place. We’ve compiled a list of small animals that make great pets for children. They are affordable, relatively low maintenance (all pets require care and attention), and small enough to live in many environments, including small apartments. These small animals are also good introductory pets that will help teach your child about responsibility and caretaking. Learning about each small animal’s individual traits will help you decide which kind is best for your family.


They can pretty low maintenance and easy to take care of. However, smaller breeds may be temperamental and possibly aggressive, so it’s recommended to get a larger, more adaptable breed first. Compared to guinea pigs, for instance, hamsters may not be ideal for a child who is eager to touch and play with their first pet. Hamsters tend to be less tolerant of being mishandled than some other small animals. As such, they may be more appropriate for an older child who has perhaps already had a guinea pig.  The life span of a hamster is around three years.

Guinea Pigs

One of the gentler, more adaptable rodents, guinea pigs may be perfect for a small child who wants to pet their guinea pigs but may not have great motor skills. Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs tend to be more tolerant of being held and display sociable skills. They are also less likely to bite when mishandled. On the other hand, they are a little more high maintenance than hamsters, eating more, and living double the amount of the typical hamster. They are also known for living well with a companion, so it might be a good idea to get two guinea pigs at once.


Yes, rats. Rats are often overlooked or downright dismissed as a small animal, but they can be great pets.  Rats are one of the more gentle rodents, tend to be quite sociable and easy to handle, and are tolerant of being handled. Quite smart, they are able to learn tricks, such as going through obstacle courses. To keep them happy, it’s best to provide them with plenty of stimulation in their cages, which may include anything from tubes of paper towels to mazes and tunnels. They tend to have short life spans, though, similar to a gerbil.


Like guinea pigs, gerbils also tend to be gentle and are relatively low maintenance. Their life spans are much lower than guinea pigs and hamsters, though, so that might be a factor when considering if it’s the right rodent for your child’s age and temperament. They can also be quite fast and jittery, so may not be ideal for petting and holding. One of the more remarkable features of a gerbil is their activity level, as they tend to be very active inside its cage. A small child may find watching the action inside the cage quite amusing in itself.

One factor to bear in mind with gerbils is they tend to be quite sensitive to humidity, which can lead to respiratory problems and a shortened life span. If you live in a humid climate, you may want to consider whether a gerbil would be right for your family.


Like gerbils, chinchillas might be ideal for children who enjoy watching animals do their thing inside a cage without needing to hold them as much. While they are gentle and sociable, chinchillas also tend to be skittish, especially in the early days when they are still getting used to their new environment. Over time, however, they can enjoy being petted and handled, and rarely bite unless they are mishandled. Chinchillas are known for being great jumpers and climbers, so you would want to make sure they get plenty of stimulation with toys and structures that allow them to explore and indulge their instincts. They also require careful attention to temperature and humidity levels, so you may want to invest in a humidifier. They cannot get wet, for example, and only thrive in mild temperatures. They tend to have long lifespans, ranging from ten to twenty years.


They are super adorable, energetic, and can be very affectionate. Rabbits may just be the perfect pet for your child, depending on their age, temperament, and ability to give the rabbit the kind of care they need to thrive. Learning how to handle the rabbit is as important as choosing the right breed, such as a Mini Lops, Dutch, or Himalayan rabbits. These breeds tend to be especially social and affectionate with children. Keeping in mind that rabbits need both an enclosed space for sleeping and access to an outdoor area for play, it’s important to ensure that your bunny is both safe and properly stimulated. Unlike some other small animals, rabbits are not the most low-maintenance kind, so you should be prepared for picking up where your child has left off. When properly taken care of, rabbits can live up to ten years or even longer. They also do well with a companion, so getting two rabbits might be a good idea.

When deciding on which small animal is ideal, one important consideration is your child’s age. Ask yourself whether the small animal can hold your child’s interest for long, or whether the lifespan is too short. Short lifespans could possibly introduce the concept of death early, so you might need to be prepared to explain and deal with loss. This, of course, could offer a valuable learning experience for your child, but it is something to bear in mind when choosing a pet. Once you have chosen the right small animal for your child and family, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing your child’s delight in learning about and bonding with another species – one that is small as they are in comparison to you and other adults.

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