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Pros and Cons of Pet Types for Kids

By: Suzanne Zweigart

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Not all pets are for everybody, but there are certain species that will thrive with the love and attention of children – or in spite of it. Below are a few pros and cons to consider when selecting various species of pets:

Gerbils, Hamsters, Mice, Rats and Guinea Pigs

Pros

  • They are relatively inexpensive.
  • They are also easy to house.
  • They are all entertaining and fairly easy to maintain.
  • They require little attention as long as housing is cleaned regularly, and they are given fresh food and water regularly.

    Cons

  • These small creatures have relatively short life spans.
  • They are escape artists.
  • They like to chew on things.
  • They can bite.

    Rabbits
            
    Pros

  • Rabbits have the same pros as for gerbils, hamsters, mice and rats.
  • Rabbits live a little longer than smaller pocket pets.
  • Rabbits can be somewhat litter box trained.

    Cons

  • If not held properly they can kick to the point of breaking their backs.
  • They need to be spayed or neutered.
  • They like to chew on things like electric cords.
  • They may bite if handled inappropriately.

    Chinchillas

    Pros

  • These animals are very gentle, amusing and interactive.
  • They are easy to feed, care for and maintain.
  • They are moderately inexpensive.
  • They can live up to 20 years (average is more like 10 to 12).

    Cons

  • They need messy dirt baths.
  • They are prone to heat stroke in warm weather.

    Fish

    Pros

  • Most fish are relatively inexpensive and low maintenance.
  • Most species are fairly easy to feed.
  • Aquariums can be either simple or complex.

    Cons

  • Depending on the age of the child, parents often need to take care of the aquarium and make sure that the water is kept at the proper pH, temperature and nitrogen level.
  • There is not a lot of one-on-one interaction between fish and child.

    Reptiles

    Pros

  • Reptiles can be fascinating to watch and are often a big hit due to their similarity to dinosaur ancestors.
  • Small reptiles such as anoles [small lizards] are inexpensive and can be maintained with minimal work.
  • Once the terrarium is set up, it is relatively easy to maintain.
  • Many reptiles are easy to feed.

    Cons

  • Larger reptile species can be aggressive and have a dangerous bite.
  • Reptiles such as snakes and some geckos require live prey such as rats, mice and "pinkies" (baby mice).
  • Many reptiles carry the bacteria salmonella that can cause severe intestinal upset in humans.

    General Note There are many species of reptiles and almost as many individual dietary needs. It is important to research the species of reptile you intend to purchase so that you can properly meet its needs. It would be a disturbing lesson for a child to learn that his pet died because it simply starved to death.

    Birds
            
    Pros

  • There is a huge variety of bird sizes and personalities from which to select.
  • They can be trained and many can talk. They are very interactive.
  • There is a great variation in cost depending on the size and type of bird.
  • A bird's dietary needs can be easily met with pellets and home food.
    Cons

  • Larger birds need more attention and time.
  • Some parrots can live for 50 years.
  • Some birds bite. The larger ones can inflict serious damage.
  • Some birds are very small and fragile.
  • Their cages must be cleaned daily, and they must be given fresh food and water daily.
  • Psittacosis is a disease birds can carry that children, the elderly and immune-compromised people can acquire.

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