It’s important to teach your children to be responsible and caring, and giving them a pet of their own is one great way to do just that.  Unfortunately, it can be tricky figuring out what pet is right for you and your child.  There are many things to consider before you head to the pet store.  Talk with your child about what kind of pet they might like and how much work he or she is willing to take on.

Fish:  Fish make great starter pets because they don’t have to be walked or brushed.  Daily maintenance is as simple as sprinkling in a little bit of food.  Keep in mind that the tank will need to be cleaned weekly, which includes a partial water change.  Bettas, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are great choices because they don’t require a lot of room or extra equipment.  Goldfish are also a great choice because they are hardy and inexpensive.

Cats:  Cats and kittens make wonderful companions because they can be both cuddly and playful.  They may work well for a family that doesn’t have the room or time for a dog, and they can take care of themselves while the family is at work or school.  Their litter box must be cleaned daily, and the cat will require regular veterinary care.

Dogs:  Always a popular choice, dogs are friendly, playful, cuddly, and protective.  They can even learn tricks, a process which may engage your child for hours at a time.  They do, however, require plenty of exercise, training, and veterinary care in order to be healthy and happy.  Study up on what breeds are usually best with kids.  If you choose to adopt a dog from a shelter, ask if you can have a trial period during which you bring the pup home and see how well he interacts with your family.

Guinea Pigs:  Rodents in general are good pets because they don’t require a lot of space.  Guinea pigs are particularly friendly and are far less likely to bite than hamsters.  Most of them enjoy being cuddled, brushed, and played with.  Because they are such social creatures, it’s best to have more than one.  Their daily diet includes a mix of timothy hay, fresh vegetables, and pellets. Their cage will need weekly cleaning.

Reptiles:  If you or your child has allergies, a reptile may be the right pet for you.  They don’t require a lot of time to socialize or be cuddled, so they are also a nice choice for a busy family.  Make sure that you have room for a large enough terrarium (many snakes and turtles will do best in 55 to 75 gallon tanks) and that you can meet their requirements for heat and water.

Make sure that you do your research beforehand so you know how much maintenance will be involved.  You must be willing to take over care of the pet if your child refuses to do so.  Understand that small children may only be able to do some of the required work, and that you will have to do the harder parts until your child is old enough.  Consider what type of pet will work best with your schedule, lifestyle, home, and budget.  A pet that has been well thought out will be happy and healthy, and your child will be happy, too.