Pet obesity in the U.S. increased in 2017, affecting 60% of cats and 56% of dogs, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). APOP’s tenth annual survey revealed opinions of pet owners and veterinary professionals on several pet food issues such as the benefits of corn, dry versus canned foods, whether or not pet food has improved, and the best sources of pet dietary recommendations.
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
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.
These small creatures have relatively short life spans.
They are escape artists.
They like to chew on things.
They can bite.
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.
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.
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).
They need messy dirt baths.
They are prone to heat stroke in warm weather.
Most fish are relatively inexpensive and low maintenance.
Most species are fairly easy to feed.
Aquariums can be either simple or complex.
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 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.
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.
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.