How to choose the perfect pet for your family

Thinking about caving into demands from your kids for a pet? Find out which animal would make the perfect pet for your family.

If your home is anything like ours, you’ll have battled with requests for pets many times over the years – from the reasonable (a hamster) to the ridiculous (a baby fox – my daughter’s latest obsession).

But what pet would fit in with your family? If you find your resolve weakening, what type of animal should you welcome into your home? Who would best fit your daily routines and available living space? To help you, here’s a quick (fox-free) guide to choosing the perfect pet for your family.

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How to choose the perfect pet for your family

Confused over which type of pet to pick? Here’s a quick guide to potential animal housemates.

1) Why fish may be your perfect family pet

Fish are perfect starter pets for smaller children or for kids who have never owned a pet before. And while the obvious choice is to pick a goldfish, you may find that Betta fish are an easier pick.

Not only are these Siamese fighting fish much prettier, but they’re also easier to care for. Considered to be a low-maintenance fish, they don’t require filters, heaters or chemicals. Just make sure your kids don’t overfeed them!

2) Why reptiles may be the perfect family pet

Reptiles such as tortoises are also very popular family pets – if a little cold blooded and un-cuddly! Some tortoises can live more than 50 years (avoiding any painful pet death conversations) They’re also non-allergenic, and don’t need walking, which is always a plus on a wet winter morning.

Terrapins are a little more high maintenance than tortoises, but with the right research and care can make fascinating pets for children.

3) Why birds may be the perfect family pet

Bird are social, colourful and active, and can make for more exciting pets for children than a fish or tortoise. They also require much more time and patience (and make a lot of mess!) so make sure you can commit to caring for them before you buy one.

Don’t just pick the prettiest breed either – it’s crucial to choose a bird with the right temperament for children. If you are considering a bird, make sure you read up on their care first, and choose a popular breed for children, such as:

  • Canary
  • Society Finch
  • Budgie
  • Bourke’s Parakeet
  • Peach-faced Lovebird
  • Cockatiel

4) Why dogs may be the perfect family pet

Who doesn’t love a cuddly Andrex puppy? But as sweet as puppies are, they make a LOT of mess when they’re young, and often grow up into hungry hounds who need exercise every day without fail.

So before you give into a protracted campaign by your kids to introduce a dog into your family, think carefully. Can you really commit to caring for a dog for the next 14 or so years? Do you have space in your home for one? Are you prepared for daily walks? For clearing up mess? For spending a small fortune on pet food and vet bills? And training a puppy?

It’s also important to research what type of breed would best fit your family. Some of the most kid-friendly breeds are golden retrievers, beagles and Newfoundlands. And where will you find your dog? Do you want to buy a pure breed puppy from a dealer or pet shop? Or adopt an unwanted mongrel from a charity?

Welcoming a dog into your home is a big decision, and not one to make lightly. If you’re unsure, see if you can borrow a dog for a week to get a feel of how it impacts your life, and whether your kids are quite as enthusiastic about daily walks after the initial novelty has worn off!

5) Why cats may be the perfect family pet

If a dog feels like a little too much hard work, you might find a cat easier. Naturally more independent, cats don’t demand a daily walk, and can usually take care of their own toilet activities outside on their own. They will need feeding though, as well as immunisations and regular worm and flea treatments.

If you opt for a pure breed cat, then research the best breeds for children. Burmese can be very affectionate, and Birman is considered to be easygoing.

But most families are happy with a basic moggy. To find one, ask around if anyone you know has a kitten or cat that needs a home, or look in local ads. Or, even better, adopt a cat from a local charity. They’ll know the temperament of their animals well, and will only home a cat with a family if they’re confident the cat will be happy there.

6) Why rodents may be the perfect family pet

An easy first pet for slightly older children is a rodent. It can help to teach them about responsibility – feeding and cleaning their pet regularly – and with a short life span it can help them to learn about the natural cycle of life and death. (It also means it won’t be lingering on with you long after they’ve departed for university in a few years!)

You can take your pick of child-friendly rodents – from mice, hamsters and gerbils, to guinea pigs. Just make sure, as with all pets, that you carefully research their care before buying.

7) Why rabbits may be the perfect family pet

If your kids like the idea of something bigger than a hamster or guinea pig, you could think about a rabbit. Usually kept outside in hutches (although some people keep them indoors), they’re a great introduction to responsibility for older children, enabling them to get involved in feeding and cleaning.

Rabbits are a little more high maintenance than some pet options, so ensure that you’re signed up to everything owning one entails before you bring a bunny home. They also need plenty of space for exercising.

Pick your breed carefully too; some rabbits will stay cute and tiny, while others can grow to be HUGE. Un-neutered male rabbits can also spray to mark their territory. (As a rule, rabbits aren’t recommended for young children.)

8) Why insects may be the perfect family pet

Last but definitely not least, are insects. If you can get over your fear of creepy crawlies, they can make interesting pets, and a good talking point at school.

At the more tame end of the scale, you can buy butterfly kits with everything you need to hatch your own butterflies. (I did this last year with my kids and I found it as fascinating to see a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis as they did.)

If you want to go a bit more insect-y then there’s a vast array to choose from – from stick insects and scorpions to giant millipedes and tarantulas. Just make sure that the critters don’t escape. Trying to round up dozens of stick insects on the loose in your home isn’t fun.