The 4 best first-time pets for children

Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Pets serve as companions, friends, and have psychologically positive effects on your child. But what are the best ones?

Giving your child a pet can be a wonderful thing. It teaches them to take responsibility, to care for other living beings, gives them a constant friend and companion, and will generally make them happier.

But with the variety of animals out there, it may be difficult to choose one. We’ve compiled a list of the most child-friendly pets to give you an idea what to look out for. Note: Hamsters do not make this list because they are primarily nocturnal animals – and hopefully your kid is asleep at that time!


Depending on the dog breed, their temperaments and personalities vary greatly, meaning that you’re bound to find the right one to fit into your family. They’re loyal, friendly and playful, meaning that they’ll give your child – and yourself – plenty of lovely moments together.

They’re also not particularly independent animals, meaning that a dog will teach your kids a great deal about responsibility. But it also requires a lot of commitment, both in terms of time and money. They need exercise, grooming and training, as well as plenty of attention, making them a project for the whole family. Do be careful of getting one when your kid is still very little though. When touched or poked in the wrong way by a little child, they might attack in self-defence.


If you’d like a more independent option, then go for a cat. They can be just as affectionate – provided you let them do it in their own time. They’re furry, cuddly, and you can let them roam the neighbourhood on their own, as well as let them spend the afternoon alone at home. If you want more cuddly and present options, there are some indoor cat breeds.

But they also require food, water and care, meaning that your child will still need to learn a lot about responsibility, as well as learn to respect the privacy of other living beings (your cat will thank you in the long run!). Just make sure you don’t get one when your child is still an infant, since the cat might be rather displeased about the competition for your attention – and might even attack when touched in the wrong way by an unaware child.

Guinea pigs

Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs are active during the daytime and need a lot less time to run around, making them a better option for children. They’re fluffy, small and have a lot of personality – and once they’ve warmed up to your kids, they’ll like a good cuddle as well.

The downside is that they’re not particularly domestic. They’ll leave their droppings everywhere and their cage needs a good clean once a week, meaning that they need a lot of attention, alongside getting fresh food and water every day. Also, they tend to get lonely, so be sure to get them a companion.


Rabbits are less fragile and timid than guinea pigs, but they also require more activity. This can be a blessing if your child likes to let the animal run around occasionally – but make sure they don’t do anything naughty, such as chewing cables or carpet floorings.

Also, as with the guinea pigs, their cage needs to be cleaned once a week. They don’t like to be held, which your child might find difficult to understand at a young age. Nevertheless, they’re an excellent option for a first-time pet.