"Mommy! I promise I'll take care of the doggie!" Please don't be another parent who falls prey to this one-liner. Yes, puppies are cute, but they are also a heck of a lot of work. And there's a good chance YOU will be the one walking, feeding, washing, and training the dog. If you're looking for a pet that your child will actually be able to take care of herself, leave the dog for later and start with one of these more low-maintenance pets.
1) Goldfish or Betta Fish
Ah, the humble goldfish. Starter pet for kids everywhere. A cheap bowl, some rocks, and 29 cents for a fish and you're done. You might even really splurge and get a fake plant. Besides dropping some food flakes in the bowl every day, you'll have to clean the fishbowl every one to two weeks. Even simpler? Get a betta fish which looks cooler and doesn't require a filter or a bowl as large as a goldfish.
2) Hermit Crabs
The hermit crab often gets overlooked as an official pet, but they can be a super easy way to introduce your child to the idea of responsibility and pet ownership. Despite their name, hermit crabs can be quite active, investigating their surroundings, climbing on rocks, and, of course, changing shells. You'll need a glass or plastic terrarium, a light, some sand, and a few rocks. In addition to special pellet food, hermit crabs enjoy chopped up fruits and vegetables. You'll also want to have two to three larger shells for the crab to move into as he grows.
Cocktails to canaries, finches to parakeets, birds are another low-maintence pet to consider. Buying a bird can have a larger start-up cost for the cage and bird itself, which can vary from $20 up to $100+ for unique varieties, but once you've picked your peeper, you'll only need to change the water, add in food, and replace the newspaper at the bottom of the cage. Most birds don't need daily exercise, but they do enjoy company. And of course, don't forget, birds are a lot noiser than either a goldfish or hermit crab.
4) Mouse, Rat, or Hamster
A small mammal like a mouse, rat, or hamster can be a nice introduction to a furry friend that your child can actually handle and play with. You'll need a cage, water and food containers, a hideaway house or tunnel, chew toys, and bedding material. Rats, mice, and hamsters need to be fed daily, have opportunities for exercise with a wheel, ball, or playtime out of the cage, and have their cages changed weekly. More work than a hermit crab or goldfish to be sure, but still much less than a dog. Do keep in mind that these animals are naturally noctural, which means potentially less play with your child during the day and more squeaky wheel at night.
5) Leopard Geckos
Geckos are a great introduction to reptiles if your child is pining for a lizard or snake. Unlike those, leopard geckos stay small (only seven to ten inches) so you won't need to constantly upgrade his digs. Once you have a terrarium, light, water bowl, and rocks or branches, you're set. Geckos eat live crickets and mealworms, so you or your child need to be comfortable with this, but adult geckos can be fed every other day and even left alone for the weekend. No pet-sitting required.
What was your first pet?
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