Pella Chronicle

October 20, 2011

Great starter pets for kids


The Chronicle

Pella — Parents know the day will come when their kids ask for a pet. While kids will likely want a puppy, parents might want to consider a starter pet to get kids used to the responsibility of being a pet owner. The following pets are easy to care for and make great first pets.

Ants

Remember when your class had an ant farm? How intriguing it was to watch those little critters work, traveling from one end of their enclosed glass case to the other. Ant farms have become the forgotten pet, but they still make great starter pets for kids. Ant farms must be treated with care, and kids often enjoy seeing their own little world of ants thrive and grow. Parents will like that ant farms don't cost much to maintain, and kids will learn some valuable lessons.

Goldfish

Goldfish are very low maintenance and their colorful appearance are attractive to kids. Start with a small fish bowl and one goldfish. Children learn about maintaining a feeding schedule and how important it is to keep the fish bowl clean. Parents should always be present to monitor the feeding and never let small children carry a fishbowl without assistance.

Hermit Crabs

Some might think hermit crabs are a bit too anti-social for kids, but hermit crabs are actually friendly and enjoy climbing on hands, arms and even the furniture. While they do spend significant amounts of time burrowing in sand, hermit crabs are very social, and it's best to buy several at a time so the crabs can make friends and play with one another in the tank. Hermit crabs are inexpensive and a 10-gallon aquarium with a lid and sand makes a great home. Keep plenty of spare shells in the tank as hermit crabs naturally move from "home to home".

Hamsters

Hamsters are another low-maintenance option that make great starter pets for kids. Encourage kids to be gentle with hamsters and work with kids to teach the hamsters tricks. Hamsters can actually perform a handful of tricks, including climbing bird ladders, sitting up and turning in circles. Kids will also enjoy watching their hamster move throughout critter trails and hamster balls. A hamster that is one to three months old is ideal at the time of purchase. Look for one with bright eyes and a thick coat, which typically indicates a healthy body. Hamsters are solitary animals, meaning one will be happy on its own. If you get more than one, do not buy breeding pairs, as hamsters mass reproduce rather quickly. Two same-sex hamsters can live together happily, but one can live alone just as well without a friend.

Kids love having pets and most parents anticipate the day when children ask to add a friend to the household. When that day comes, recognize the importance of starter pets that instill responsibility and accountability in kids before they move on to more demanding pets like a cat or a dog.