Pets for Kids

What age would you consider it appropriate for a kid to be fully responsible for a pet? Alternatively, what level of maturity would you want a kid to have before giving them a pet?

Would you consider allowing a younger kid to have a pet if you share the responsibility, e.g. the kid feeds and plays with the pet, but you clean the litterbox/walk the dog/change the bedding?

What would you consider to be a good starter pet?

Are there any pets you would flat-out refuse to give to a child, regardless of who’s responsible for them, your child’s specific level of responsibility, or any other factors?

A list of pets to think about for this question, pulled from pets recommended for kids
  • Cat
  • Dog
  • Hamster
  • Gerbil
  • Mice
  • Guinea pig
  • Pair/group of rats
  • Rabbits
  • Ferrets
  • Goldfish
  • Betta fish
  • Gecko
  • Turtle
  • Tortoise
  • Snake
  • Dragon (bearded)
  • Chameleon
  • Anole
  • Parrot
  • Parakeet
  • Cockatiel
  • Hissing cockroach
  • Tarantula
  • Chicken
  • Goat
  • Horse

Pre-existing cat - Excellent starter pet. Relatively interesting and allow a child to learn life lessons sharpish (@Stephen pun not intended). If you’re not a squeamish parent then definitely go for this pet.

Squeamish parent - “Oh, poor pumpkin! What did the mean cat do to you?”

Real world parent - “Poor hun. What did you learn?”

@KiannaMcDowell - Do you have any pre-existing combination animal/childcare experience?

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No childcare experience. I’ve had pets before: cats, hamsters, and hermit crabs. The hamsters and crabs were my responsibility, but the cats were joint with my mom since they were household pets and not just mine. Also, Mom had fish and I sometimes helped with feeding them and cleaning their tanks. But this is purely hypothetical. I saw discussions on the subject elsewhere and figured the people here might have some insights.

With regards to the pre-existing cat, that is my IRL experience raising my daughter and my parents raising me. Cats are usually rather docile unless you poke them incorrectly. If you do, you get scratched. When scratched, you feel pain. When you feel pain, you learn effectively. I am definitely one for the “Fall over and learn” type of education for children that do not involve traumatic events.


It can be a bit hard to judge what will end up being traumatic, though. I’ve been working to get over a lifetime fear of dogs (even the tiny ones) because my grandparents’ giant golden retriever jumped on me (presumably in a playful way) when I was two.

Cats are a lot smaller than the pint-sized inquisitors poking them. Unless my cat tries to have their way with my child four times their size, I judge it non-traumatic. All my comments are for pre-existing cats only.

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How about a carnivorous plant, like a Venus Flytrap?


I think a dog might make a nice first pet. Because not only do you have to feed it. But you have to wash it and make sure you take it on walks and play with it. Or make sure they go to the bathroom.

But my older sister got her first dog in unvieristy. But she became the family’s dog instead after my sister adopted 2 other dogs. But since the dog was so young when brought to the family that Mom had to do all the work-taking on walks, feeding her, etc.

But my sister had a same kind of fish-don’t know what kind of fish- in her first year of univeristy but it died…

I think its what a parent might allow in the house. Like my Mom wouldn’t allow rats or mice but espcially Rats in the house. If I was a Mother- I wouldn’t allow for spiders in the house. It also might depend on the enivroment (aka “living space”- in an apartment or in a house? Is there room for a tank/Cage anywhere in the house?)

The good news is that some cats are also extremely tolerant of kids and will delay those sharpish lessons until they have a learning effect.

I had a huge, fight-minded black cat when I was young. My youngest cousin, as soon as she could walk, would carry him–and by that I mean grab him underneath his arms and just drag him around (at the age of five she was still less than a head taller than he was long). He put up with it for four years before he scratched her.

Yeah, her mom was ticked (her mom was and is not a reasonable person), but no one let her take it out on the cat.

So yeah, pre-existing cat is good.

I’d also argue a pre-existing dog IF you know the dog. A dog my grandfather had when I was an infant–a terrier named Maynard after a commercial my grandpa found funny–hated children. He still saved my life when I had my first asthma attack: it was the middle of the night, and I just stopped breathing. Cue dog going apesh*t with barking until my family noticed. That said, be careful with non-kid tolerant dogs and young kids.

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Sorry for the double post, but hey!

For a given definition of “pet,” carnivorous plants are fun. You probably won’t get a Venus flytrap specifically though, at least not without breaking some laws: they grow only within a 75 mile radius of one specific North Carolina town. It’s a felony to take one.

There are quite a few pitcher plants on the market though!

Edit: carnivorous plants are surprisingly difficult to keep alive though, so they’re not a good “beginner” anything.

Hey, if rocks can be pets, so can plants. :stuck_out_tongue:

Pretty sure that only applies to going out into the wild and taking one. There are commercially-grown ones. Home Depot sells some. Not sure how easily you can get one overseas, though.

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I didn’t realize there were Fly Traps on the market specifically. I’ve never seen one, but after a quick google search, they exist! And hey, you’re right–you’re feeding and watering the dang thing, it is for all intents and purposes a pet!

There are also a lot of pitcher plants on the market out there (mostly Asian species) and a few other types like bladderworts, so there are choices. The problem with them being a first “pet” is that they need very specific soils, those soils must be acidic to a specific degree, they need a LOT of variety in their insects (and no non-insect meat like hamburger–too much fat and protein), and while they are not very tolerant of direct sunlight (with exceptions–the fly trap MUST be kept outdoors to stay healthy) they need a LOT of indirect sunlight and usually thrive in high humidity environments…

I had an Asian pitcher plant as a kid, by the way. It was fun, until one of the cats used its pot as a toilet and it promptly died (seriously, there is a very narrow pH range for each species. Cat pee will kill them, but so will anything short of distilled water.) I would still recommend having a good amount of experience raising non-carnivorous plants first. These things are too specialized for a beginner.

I’ve had a few Venus Flytraps over the years as garden centers in the UK and NZ have often stocked them, as long as you make sure they’ve constantly got water and are in a sunny part of the windowsill, they can live for several months. A couple of mine have even grown flowers. I’ve never been able to find any Sundews in stock though, those are pretty.

But yeah, you’d probably need to do a lot of specialized maintenance to prevent a “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about! I’ve had a hundred of these things, and I’ve never had one live more than a week or two.” situation.

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Get a small goat.

Hear me out, hear me out, hear me out.

So I’ve just sat here for like 25 minutes reminiscing about our small goat and. . .under no circumstances should you get a goat.

It’s like having another child, but they are louder and eat more. I feel like a good starter pet is a dog, can’t go wrong with a dog, a proper pupper.

Here is my goat as a reference as to why you should not get a goat.

Everyone in my family just starts with a family pet. A dog or a cat where the kids learn to be more responsible over time.
‘you have to feed Mr Fluffy Bunnykuns the third’ 2 times a week, then ‘you need to go on a walk with him every other day’ etc.

If you want a pet for a kid, for the love of all that is pink and fluffy in this world, get a pet that can get away from the kid when the kid gets too wild with it; Kids don’t know their strength, they don’t know how fragile pets are;


I’ve heard some people have pet chickens, I have no idea how high-maintenance they are, though.

A pet is a long term commitment to take care of a other living creature. I would not let a child be fully responsible for it. Never.

Having a child doing pet related chores and giving them responsibilities, sure that’s good - but never expect for them to take full responsibility. A younger child will lose interest, a teenager will be teenagery, then the responsibility is back to the parent. If the parent cares foe the pet, fine - but how many people would sell/kill the pet instead :frowning:

Having something cute and fluffy that doesn’t want to be held and cuddled with (guinea-pig, chinchillas, most bunnies) is suboptimal, the kid might get too frustrated and/or the pet too stressed if it is still being handled too much.

Dogs and cats are beloved family pets for a reason, they can communicate, interact, play and cuddle with kids and enjoy it!


There was a story in Related about a child wanting a pet dog, so their family had a point system. The child scored points for chores and points for exercise, and they had to score a minimum amount for chores and exercise. The reasoning is that the child would be responsible for the dog’s upkeep and taking it for walks. By scoring well for both over a period of a month or so, the child showed their commitment to keeping a high-maintenance pet.

Does anyone else remember this story?


Is it this one?


That’s the one… thanks!