Somethings just don’t seem to mix. Oil and water, small children and expensive glassware, toddlers and pets. But whether it’s because you need a pet after too many years without a four legged (or finned) critter in your life or because you just feel it’s time to give your toddler some responsibility, there are some pets that work better with toddlers than others.
Reptiles don’t shed and aren’t free range. This makes them a good choice for parents with toddlers. While some reptiles are social and enjoy interaction, many species are just happy to lie under a sunlamp or climb their furniture (rock and branches). That makes them a low maintenance pet that’s easy to take care of when you toddler is over at grandma’s or simply loses interest. They’re also hairless and allergy friendly. Just make sure you teach your kiddo to wash his or her hands carefully after handling their lizard or snake. Also be sure to check the lifespan and eating habits of your new addition. Turtles can live hundreds of years (not a great choice for a toddler) and some reptiles only eat live prey. Choosing a lizard that’s happy to eat lettuce and veggies may be wiser than one that needs crickets.
Rodents might be a good option if you still want a fluffy, cuddly friend, but aren’t looking for the long-term commitment of a cat or dog. As a bonus, most rodents only live a couple of years. This can make them a good starter pet that you won’t need to care of for over a decade. While many children gravitate towards the large, fluffy hamsters and guinea pigs. You may want to keep mice in mind. Mice are often more friendly than hamsters — getting a pet that bites will guarantee your toddler never takes responsibility for it. And mice have less dietary restrictions than guinea pigs. They can also be kept in a smaller cage. Rats may also be a good option if you live outside of Alberta.
Fish can sometimes seem like the ideal, low maintenance pet, but fish can actually require a significant amount of time and energy. Aquariums are pain to keep clean, overfeeding your pet can lead to its quick demise, and fish are frankly not very interesting after an hour or two. However, if you’re living in an apartment that doesn’t allow other critters, fish may still be the right pet choice for you.
While no one wants to be potty training a puppy and a toddler at the same time, that doesn’t mean all pet options are off the table. Some reptiles, rodents, and fish can all make good first pets for a young child. Before purchasing an animal, it’s a good idea to do a lot of research and think long and hard about whether you can provide an animal with a good home for its entire life. If you can’t commit to that, we recommend sticking to stuff toys and house plants.