A young boy pets a cat on the couch.

A walk through a children’s bookstore will confirm that animals feature in the majority of stories. Kids love animals. Why? Experts think that the bonds between kids and animals are integral to emotional development. They help kids explore their feelings, gain confidence, and make sense of the ever-changing world around them. As a result, many families lean towards pet adoption, but it’s not always easy choosing between the best pets for kids. That’s where we come in.

Baby Steps

Every pet adoption becomes the responsibility of the adult in the house. The pet of choice may “belong” to a child, but every pet in the house depends on the parent(s) to provide daily care, including but not limited to optimal nutrition, exercise, environmental enrichment, comfort, security, and overall wellness. It’s no secret that pets cost money, and it’s essential to assess if the family can financially balance an animal’s needs.

Little Ones

As such, many parents look at fish or pocket pets as introductory animals. For children 8 and under, fish are phenomenal for establishing a sense of responsibility. Kids can easily clean tanks, feed fish, and enjoy imagining their underwater world. 

Rodents, such as hamsters, mice, gerbils, and guinea pigs offer another world to young children. They are smart, social, and playful and could be worth every penny to keep them happy and healthy. However, this is a big step up from fish ownership. Cages require routine cleaning and sanitation, and they must receive daily interaction and careful handling. 

Slow Graduation

Some lizards and reptiles can make great pets for kids. Like the pocket pets described above, they must be handled carefully. Because of the risk of spreading illness, like Salmonella, enforce a strict hand washing routine after handling. 

Leopard geckos, bearded dragons, ball pythons, skinks, corn snakes, and small tortoises can provide incredible educational value. Constricting or venomous snakes, snapping turtles, and fast-running agile lizards are not ideal companions for small kids. Likewise, you have to consider the heat and humidity needs of these animals, and meet all of their health requirements (like live bait). There is a bit of a learning curve here; perhaps older or teenage kids are more successful at their care. 

Common Pets for Kids

Of the most common pets for kids, cats and dogs reign supreme. They do have safety and comfort requirements that kids can certainly assist with, such as keeping gates closed, ensuring window screens are secure, and helping to feed and groom them. However, they may be the most expensive over time.

Unless a child is allergic, a cat or dog could make a wonderful companion. Depending on their age and the pet’s personality/disposition, a parent should supervise all interactions. Cats and dogs can be triggered by grabby hands, shrieking voices, and erratic behaviors. It’s critical to avoid dangerous situations between kids and pets.


A typical reason behind re-homing or surrendering pets is that the match wasn’t a good one, or defied expectations. It isn’t always easy or clear to define what will be a good fit, until it’s clear that things aren’t working. With that in mind, try to foster animals to gauge your child’s interest and responsibility. 

As always, give us a call at (630) 428-0500 with any questions or concerns about pet adoption and lifelong care requirements. We’re always here for you at Springbrook Animal Care Center