“Mum, I want a pet!”

Most children want a pet to cuddle and play with at some stage. And many parents want to support this, as living with an animal can positively affect their child’s development. But not every animal is suitable for children, particularly small animals, which wrongly can end up in children’s rooms. The animal experts from Maxi Zoo explain which animals are suitable for children.

An addition to the family in the form of a pet should always be carefully thought over. Buying an animal means accepting responsibility for a living creature with certain needs. Children have to learn that animals are not toys that can be thrown into the corner when they lose interest, and parents must understand that for preschool and primary school-aged children, they take the main responsibility for a pet, and that only small tasks can be assigned to little ones. A young person is first able to look after an animal completely on their own at around age 13.

What animal for which child?

As a rough rule of thumb, the smaller your child, the larger your pet should be. Dogs and cats are more capable of setting boundaries and expressing themselves than small animals, who suffer in silence if not cared for or handled properly.

Here is a short overview of the most popular pets and their suitability for children.

Dogs are faithful, tough companions with which children can play and experience a great deal, and in the fresh air too. Well-trained four-legged friends are fine with even small children. Just make sure you select a family-friendly breed.

Cats can be cuddly, but also very self-willed. They love their independence and will make it clear when they have had enough. Smaller children can thus learn how to handle an animal respectfully.

Birds cannot be cuddled, but are smart and teachable. Older primary school children can take on regular tasks such as feeding or cleaning the cage.

Rabbits and guinea pigs are very popular with children. But they are almost defenceless if are cuddled or chased too much. In addition, they need lots of room to move and are group animals, so should be kept at least in pairs. They are therefore only recommended for families with plenty of space and responsible children.

Hamsters are nocturnal and are not suitable for small children who go to bed early in the evening for this reason alone. Disturbing them during the day while they are sleeping shortens their life expectancy!

Rats and mice are very adaptable, are low-maintenance, don’t need a lot of space and are periodically active during the day. Some let themselves be picked up and even stroked. They are therefore a suitable pet for families with younger children.

Fish are mostly interesting for older children and teenagers who want to observe tranquil underwater life and who are also able to commit to looking after the equipment.