Safe First Pets for Your Children

Safe First Pets for Your Children

It is a classic image. A boy and his dog. A girl and her cat. Whatever the pairing, the implication is pretty obvious: an animal companion can be a boon to your child’s upbringing. However, to run counter to what certain novellas might have us believe, not all animals are equal. While all pets have their merits, some may simply not be safe first pets for your children, whether that safety is for your child or for the pet itself.

Each animal, after all, has their own requirements and temperaments. These may make them unsuitable for children, or require more supervision from you as an adult to prevent accidents. Before you consider a pet for your child, you must consider the needs and nature of your pet.


Dogs are a common and popular choice as a first pet for a child, to the extent that having a family dog is considered quintessential to the idea of a complete nuclear family. Certainly dogs have a lot to recommend them as a family pet as well. They are intelligent, loyal, active and highly social creatures, and can quickly become your child’s very best friend outside of school or their playgroup. However, care must be taken when selecting a dog.

First: avoid the temptation of buying a puppy. Sure, they are exceedingly cute, and you can also have the bonus of having a pet that grows alongside your child (albeit at a much faster rate). However, puppies require much attention and care themselves, which is something most children just can’t provide. This often means that you, the parent, will be spending more time with the puppy than the child, which sort of misses the point. Otherwise, the pet is not safe for the pet’s sake – it will not be receiving the care it needs to grow healthily and happily.

It is fairer for both parties, therefore, to adopt an already grown dog from an animal shelter. Most shelters will be able to recommend a suitable, child-friendly dog for you to take home. Breed is something you should not fuss too much over – any dog can be great with kids with adequate training, and this even includes unfairly maligned breeds such as Rottweiler’s or Bulldogs. However, some breeds are better than others. If in doubt, seek the recommendation of the animal shelter.

Also, bear in mind that you should still watch your kids as they play with the dog. Accidents can happen even with the best behaved and best-trained canines, so ensure that you keep an eye on them to ensure any play remains friendly and safe. Make sure your child is aware of your dog’s needs and requirements, and that they keep to them. However as a rule of thumb, dogs make a very safe first pet for your children.


Much like dogs, it is better to buy a fully grown cat than a kitten. Kittens require too much care and attention for your children to provide, and they may become frustrated with the burden. However, a fully grown cat can be an excellent first pet for your child.

Cats are very independent and capable of taking care of themselves in most cases. This is in a stark contrast to dogs, which require much effort and a lot dedication to care for. Cats do not require walks, do not need as much attention, and are more relaxed as a pet. This makes things much easier for your child, who will only need to make sure they are being fed and that they are getting attention when they want it. However, this quality can also be a little double-edged.

The problem with cats is that they might be a little too independent. While they can be very affectionate, cats are also fairly aloof. Constant petting and attempts at play, when they’d rather be left alone, will often irritate them, at which point they may lash out at over-eager children as a warning. Beyond that though, cats are also an excellent choice as a first pet, if only because they require very little from the child.


This includes mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits. All are very easy for a young child to keep, requiring very little care to keep them happy. At most, your child will just need to remember to keep their water and food constantly stocked and that their cages are cleaned out regularly. Frequent handling will also promote friendliness, but do be careful of them nipping at your child when frightened (especially hamsters).

Rats in particular are a fantastic and safe first pet for your children as they are (despite popular belief) very clean, very intelligent, and enjoy human companionship, as opposed to more solitary and timid creatures such as hamsters or rabbits. Guinea pigs are also a highly recommended choice.

Lizards and Other Reptiles

Reptilian pets should be avoided for children, as a rule of thumb. Despite what many believe, reptiles are very hard pets to keep because they are so sensitive to their environment. Some species will only need a temperature change of one degree to drop dead, if not become seriously ill, which makes them highly unsuitable as a first pet for your child.

That said, there are advantages to having a reptilian pet. The most overlooked one is the fact that reptiles are hypoallergenic. This means that while a dog or a rabbit may have your child wheezing, they can spend all day with a lizard and be none the worse for it. In general reptiles are also quite placid as well, which makes them great for handling, but do ensure your child takes care when doing so, and never let them do it while you are not watching.

If your child insists on a reptile, then we recommend starting with either a Horned Dragon, a gecko, or a tortoise. All are great starting reptiles that are relatively tolerant of children and easy to keep, and tortoises have the added advantage of being very long lived. Chances are they’ll live long enough to be passed on to your great-grandchildren.

Accessory Pets

This is a relatively unflattering categorization that refers to any pet that requires little to no attention from your children. This is something like a fish tank or an ant farm. These are exceedingly low-maintenance pets for your kids, which makes them ideal if you just don’t think they could handle something a little more labor-intensive.

They are boring, it cannot be denied, but they are also extremely safe and relatively idiot-proof, which is why many parents consider them ideal as a first pet. If nothing else, it helps teach a child the very basics of caring for the needs of another creature. This can allow you to wean them slowly onto animals that require more effort than a cluster of goldfish.

Christian Mills is a freelance writer who specializes in child care techniques. He reminds parents to be always be safe when it comes to pets and children. In the event of an accident, he advises his audience to know where to find an urgent care center (which includes companies like Night Lite Pediatrics) to handle any problems. If you wish to learn more about Christian you can visit his profiel on Google+.
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