in an article about a first pet for a child, an illustration of a child in a high chair surrounded by animals

What Is the Perfect First Pet for a Child?

Kids love animals, but picking one for them to take care of isn't a decision that should be taken lightly.
January 30, 2022
8 mins read

What age were you when you got your first pet? Did you think you were ready? What would be the perfect first pet for a child?

Cats and Dogs

Most people would say that a dog is the perfect first pet, while others would say that it is a cat. However, in both cases, the animal in question has many needs and the age of the child should be taken into consideration. If you decide on a dog, then the child will be responsible for feeding them, giving them water, walking them and cleaning up their poop. Then, of course, there are always vet bills. A child cannot take on those responsibilities, so the pet would not actually be their pet, but rather, a family pet.

The same thing would be true if you decide to get a cat. You can get a free kitten — many people are giving them away — but again, they need food, toys and litter for the litter box, among so many other things. Cats, like most other pets, cost money. They need to be neutered or spayed so if they get out of the house, they do not either get pregnant or get other cats pregnant.

Both of these animals are on the higher end of the price range. Children do not tend to have money lying around to pay for the costs that the animals can incur. Yes, both animals are wonderful pets, and will give a child joy in their lives; however, cats and dogs should be family pets, not a pet to help a child learn responsibility. A perfect first pet for a child should help them learn how to care for something other than themselves and get them to understand cause and effect.


Next, we have the fluffy bunny rabbits that many people adore. Rabbits need a fairly large cage that you can sometimes get for free, but not always. Then there is the food they need and the timothy hay that helps them digest and be regular inside. They need water every day and you have to clean the poop from their cage so it does not attract flies. They can be litter trained, but that, again, takes work. If you plan to let the bunny out to hop around, you have to bunny proof the house because they like to chew and scratch at the ground and carpet.

Guinea Pigs

You might think that guinea pigs would be the perfect first pet for a child, but they usually startle easily and are not always the friendliest of animals. They also need a cage, toys and certain foods. They also need to be groomed and have their cage cleaned as well. Some articles say that you should have two guinea pigs so they can keep each other company.


Turtles can be a cool pet to have — they are not really a great animal to be the first pet for a child though. They need work, and a certain environment to thrive in. They can be complicated to feed and keep alive. They can live a long time if taken care of correctly but can spread different germs. You should always wash your hands after touching them.


Birds look impressive and there are so many of them, but I would not recommend them as a child’s first pet because they need exceptional care and vet visits for things like clipping their wings. Some birds can be very loud and annoying and a few will destroy things in their cage or even around the house. Cages can also be expensive, depending on the bird.


There is always the off-chance that your family does not like fluffy pets, but rather, prefers the scaly type. In this case, you can get a lizard or snake. To start a home for either of these creatures, you need, at the bare minimum, special lights and heating rocks. Crickets, baby mice and rats are the normal foods for lizards and snakes. While this is usually cheaper than dog food or cat food, the animals themselves can still cost a pretty penny to take care of. And of course, if they get sick, you need a veterinarian that specializes in exotic pets. Many vets do not see these animals.


Hamsters seem to be a normal first pet for a child, but they are nocturnal and startle easily during the day. They tend to bite and they can be grumpy. Children younger than 10 might not find hamsters to be a good pet since they do not live exceedingly long — the child will usually end up learning about death and loss at an early age.


If you want to go the little furry route for a pet, consider a rat instead of a hamster or guinea pig. They are smarter than hamsters, do not startle easily and are super friendly. They do like to have a companion in their cage, but they can be very loveable and cuddly. You can teach them tricks as well.


Fish: There are so many diverse types with so many unusual colors. Fish are a low-maintenance pet — maybe even a perfect first pet for a child. To start with, you need a container for your pet, and depending on the fish, it might require a bigger tank and a filter. You can decorate the tank with rocks and plants. Fish food is fairly cheap overall. You can start with a small betta fish or a goldfish and work your way up as the child grows.


No matter what pet you decide to get for your child, make sure you look over everything. Take into consideration the child’s age and how much responsibility you want the child to have. Know that the more you help them learn to care for the animal, the more grown-up they can feel. They can take on the important task of overseeing something. Help the child, instruct the child — get a pet that they will love and want to care for.

Angelica Rovinski, Arcadia University

Writer Profile

Angelica Rovinski

Arcadia University
English with a concentration in Creative Writing

I am a single mother of three girls. I enjoy reading, writing, bowling, camping and spending time with my family. My kids come first. I made the Dean’s List last semester.

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