This is a collaborative post.
If your kids are constantly asking for a dog but you’re not ready for such a big challenge yet, one of the best solutions could be to try out a smaller animal first. Along with making sure that your children will show love, care, and devotion to their animal, you’ll be able to see how the overall family dynamic responds to the new addition.
If you have the time, budget, and ability to care for an animal, there’s nothing wrong with going for a smaller one first. We’ve listed four of the best small animals to make part of the family.
Can’t get a dog yet? Learn more about the best animals for young children here
Small animals for young children: Our four top picks
In the UK, hamsters make an incredibly popular small animal choice for adults and children alike. There are 24 species of hamster in total, but the most popular varieties include the Syrian hamster and the Russian dwarf hamster.
These small, fluffy, and adorable animals are easy to look after, and they won’t grow big either. Depending on your hamster’s temperament, it could also learn to like being fed treats by hand or even trained to do tricks. However, it’s worth remembering that hamsters are extremely solitary animals and must be kept alone.
With careful and slow introduction, cats and dogs can coexist peacefully – and even become friends too. Starting out with a cat means that you and your family could gradually get used to the new demands of a furry friend.
These animals make a wonderful choice for any owner, and they’re so popular that over one in four UK households has a cat. No two cats have the same personality, but you’ll be guaranteed free entertainment every day. Compared to dogs, cats are a relatively low-maintenance choice.
You won’t need to give them formal training, nor will they need taking outside several times a day. However, you should always be prepared to give your cat the love, affection, and care it needs and deserves.
3. Guinea pigs
Guinea pigs are wonderful animals to own and care for, especially if you have children. Most are very friendly and don’t mind being handled – and if you build an enclosed space within your home or garden, they might also like to play and roam around there too.
They’re a low-maintenance choice for first-time animal owners. You’ll be doing everything right if you give them a spacious enclosure and buy nutritionally complete guinea pig food. You should also provide quality, fresh bedding for them, changed around once a week.
Known as ‘hogs,’ guinea pigs are social animals and like to be kept with a friend of the same sex. There are so many adorable guinea pig breeds to get to know before you choose one. When they’re happy, they make a sweet high-pitched noise called wheeking, so you’ll know if your efforts to care for them are paying off.
Fish are the obvious choice for anyone looking for an animal that requires little to no maintenance. Your only responsibilities will be occasionally feeding the fish, along with cleaning their tanks.
Experts recommend cleaning the tank and changing 10-15% of the water around once every two weeks, but this will depend on the size of your tank and how many fish you have. Furthermore, once you get a dog, you won’t need to worry about any issues with your fish and dog not getting on as long as the tank is out of reach!
Whichever animal you choose in the meantime, it’s important to know that you’ll need to understand its boundaries if and when you do get a dog afterwards. Learn about prey drives, and make sure you keep any small and vulnerable creatures out of harm’s reach. Animal ownership involves being dedicated, responsible, and caring.