We are so excited to have guest blogger Brittany Lyons on the Sprig Toys Blog today! Here are her tips on helping your family choose the right pet for you! See the bottom of the post for a little more about Brittany!
Are your kids begging for a pet, but you haven’t the faintest clue where to start? Finding the right pet can be a challenge, and there is no ‘right’ answer to which animal is best. Instead, you should keep in mind the age and personality of your kids, how much space you have and, of course, what everyone in the family wants. Here are some thoughts to help you find the pet that’s perfect for you.
1. Dogs. Many people instinctively think of dogs when the subject of pets comes up, and their popularity is well-earned. Dogs are playful and, if you get the right breed, can be trusted to interact safely with your children. They’re a great excuse to exercise as they have to be walked daily, and there are many different options in terms of size and temperament. Of course, this can also pose a problem, because it means more potential wrong choices. For small children, a large dog with a non-aggressive temperament is the best; small dogs and toy breeds are easy for children to injure, and more aggressive breeds might hurt your kids. The best dog breeds for children are Labradors and golden retrievers, because they’re friendly and easy to train. If you want a smaller dog, consider a beagle—they’re cute, trainable and seldom aggressive. However, keep in mind that dogs are high-maintenance pets. They need to be walked at least once a day, and some breeds (like poodles) need to be groomed and trimmed regularly. Plus, some breeds have common health issues, so it’s important to do your research ahead of time, especially because in many jurisdictions dogs have to be licensed. Dogs also have to be trained to eliminate certain bad habits, such as chewing on your shoes or barking all the time. If you get a puppy, be careful with your kid’s toys! They make perfect chew toys for a growing pup.
2. Cats. Cats are pretty, and they mostly look after themselves. They will generally not over-eat the way dogs do, so you can just put food in their dish and not worry about feeding time later. However, cats vary greatly in personality, with some quite affectionate and loving, while others are more standoffish or downright mean. The personality of a kitten cannot be predicted and some simply cannot deal with small children, while others love them. Because it is so hard to predict, would-be cat owners should consider adopting an adult cat whose personality is fully developed, and is also larger and less likely to be injured. A cat can provide hours of entertainment, but, like dogs, they often can’t tell the difference between their own toys and your child’s. Make sure to remove any that are more fragile and might be damaged by those sharp little claws.
3. Rabbits. Rabbits are more popular in Europe than in the United States, and some localities class them as livestock. Even so, bunnies are one of the pets children ask for the most, due to their cute and cuddly appearance. But if you’re considering a rabbit, bear in mind that they do not do well locked in a hutch all the time, and benefit greatly from a run on the lawn, or a long hops with a harness and leash. And if you don’t interact with them regularly, they can become quite surly, and those little legs can pack quite a punch! Although rabbits need relatively little maintenance, their cage or hutch needs to be cleaned regularly. When it comes to diet, rabbit pellets do not provide everything your bunny needs, so it’s important to give them hay and fresh vegetables as well. Yes, they really do like carrots. They also like toys; contrary to popular belief, rabbits like to dig, so putting a rabbit in a sandbox with your kid and some toys is a great way to spend the afternoon.
4. Tortoises. If somebody in your household has a fur allergy, then how about a pet with no fur? Although many reptiles can be kept as pets, tortoises are often the easiest, because they are so laid back. They eat leafy greens, and will cheerfully munch on the weeds you just pulled out of the garden. Small tortoises can be kept inside in a pen, but larger ones like to live outdoors, although this is a bad idea in very cold places. Their pen must be cleaned daily, and they need a bath, too! All tortoises like to hide in boxes and sit in water bowls, so always give them a water bowl large enough to sit in. Although they are not the most active pets, this only means you can have fun putting them in different settings, and trust them to stay put. They are essentially breathing dress-up dolls for your kids! But that doesn’t mean they can’t move—a tortoise can really run when it’s scared, so be careful not to put it in an unfenced yard. Also, small tortoises can carry salmonella, so it’s very important to wash your hands after every use.
5. Hamsters. Out of the various ‘pocket pets’, hamsters are the most popular. If you live in a very small apartment, a hamster is a great option as they take up very little space. They can be brought out of their cage to play and then put away when you’re done, or allowed to roll around the living room in a hamster ball. Hamsters are generally tolerant of a bit of mauling, providing children are taught to handle them correctly (they do not like to be dangled!). They’re far less hyperactive than other small pets, and thus more suitable for small children (rats and mice do not make good pets for very young children who have not grown out of the tail-pulling phase, as pulling their tails can injure them badly). Because hamsters are so small and tolerant, your children will enjoy come up with creative ways to play with them. They will easily fit in a boat or in the seat of one a toy car, which can means hours of imaginative play!
Finding the right pet for your children can be a challenge, and there are many more options not covered here. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the pet you pick is well-suited to both your children and your home environment. There is no right choice for everyone, but there is the right choice for you.
Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.