Owning a pet can be very rewarding, but pick wisely because they’ll be a part of your family for life...

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Growing up with pets can be a very rewarding experience for children. Owning one will instil in them a sense of responsibility as they learn how to feed, bathe and take care of their dog, cat, rabbit or gerbil.


Being around animals not only builds up junior’s immunity, this helps them to grow up to be more empathetic individuals.


You have plenty of good reasons to welcome a furry friend into your family, but be sensible. Not every pet is a good fit. Scroll through the photo gallery to find out which ones make great starter pets that seem like they would make a great addition to your family.

Photos: iStock

Guinea pig

Furry and full of vigour, guinea pigs are social creatures, yet timid by nature. They thrive best with a mate, but still have no problems with one-on-one interaction with humans, especially little kids who share similar energy levels as them. Relatively easy to tame and handle, guinea pigs need a moderate amount of space to run around and stay active. You have to pay special attention to their diet though as guinea pigs ― just like humans — are unable to create vitamin C in their bodies, so they need an extra supply of it either through supplements or fresh fruits and veggies. Guinea pigs can live up to seven years.

Hamsters, gerbils and white mice

Full of energy, entertaining to watch and friendly, these pocket-sized cuties are fun to have around. That said, hamsters are solitary by nature, but will warm up to you with gentle regular handling. Caring for them is relatively straightforward, plus, they thrive in small living spaces ― mostly in their cages. Junior can help with cleaning out their cage and making sure the water bottle and food bowl is filled up. Do note though that these small mammals may bite if they feel threatened, but are, by and large, harmless creatures. They also enjoy being in pairs. Thanks to their size, they are portable, in case your kiddo wants to take his beloved pet over to his grandparent’s house for the weekend or to school for a show-and-tell session. The only downside is that all three creatures have a relatively short life span, which doesn’t exceed three years. So, unless you’re ready to broach the topic of death with your child, they might not be the best choice for a first pet.


A fluffy feline might be the right choice if your family is ready for a “bigger pet”, but don’t have the space or time for a dog. Notoriously independent, cats require very little attention, unless they actively seek it. Caring for them is pretty easy as well, especially since they enjoy cleaning themselves. Not all cats have a calm and child-friendly disposition though, so keep this in mind when you’re in the process of adopting one. Just like their canine counterparts, cats require regular health checks and vital immunisation shots. At home, they will need cat litter, which junior can help clean. Most of the time, they are happy just lounging around – cats sleep up to 20 hours a day – but are always up for the odd snuggle or a round of catch the string. Be warned though, cats are predators, so expect dead mice and other kinds of “special guests and items” to start showing up around the house after they’ve been out hunting. 


Highly intelligent, birds such as the parrot, parakeet, canary or budgie make excellent pets. Relatively inexpensive to maintain, they are attractive, sociable, live long and don’t require a lot of space. Because of their intelligence, they can also be trained to do tricks and talk, which will be a great way for junior to spend his time. While they are interactive, they do require daily attention. So, they make good companions not just to kids, but also to retired grandparents who need a bit of distraction in an otherwise quiet day at home.


Fishes are the perfect starter pet for your peewee because of how little time, money and attention you’ll need to invest in them. Get junior started on the road to responsibility by teaching him when and how to feed the fishes himself, plus he will enjoy watching them swim around in circles. Goldfishes, guppies and clown fishes are usually the popular choice because of how cute they look. Most of them can even just live in a simple fishbowl and don’t need an air pump or any fancy equipment.


Cute and cuddly creatures as they are, but make sure that an adult supervises junior when he’s getting to know his pet rabbit. This is because, as gentle and sociable as they are, rabbits also tend to have an aggressive side, which is usually corrected when they get spayed or neutered. Aside from that, rabbits are a joy to have around, that’s if you can keep up with them! They need a healthy diet of fresh veggies and rabbit pellets to stay strong and healthy. When raised well, a rabbit can live up to 12 years.


A playful and cuddly puppy is probably the most classic choice when someone is considering a pet. However, they’re also the most demanding to take care of in terms of commitment, energy and effort. Dogs need at least three long walks a day to expend their energy and prevent them from acting aggressively. They also require regular visits to the vet, some breeds may shed excessively and all of them need to be housebroken. But above all, they need plenty of love and attention. Puppies need even more care and will require some milk bottle-feeding, depending on their age. So, if you have a baby or young toddler in the house, you may want to choose an older dog. By the way, not all breeds are child- or family-friendly. The best ones are Maltese, Labradors and Golden Retrievers and Beagles.

Terrapins and Turtles

The best thing about having a reptile in the house is that they are non-allergenic, which is perfect if someone in the family has allergies. They may seem more aloof compared to the rest of the cute, cuddly and furry animals on this list, but terrapins and turtles still make great pets. Most of them can live up to 50 years. Plus, they are calm, very easy to take care of and so quiet, you won’t even know they’re there. However, do keep in mind that reptiles are known to increase the risk of salmonella transmission.