First and foremost is the welfare of the animal. A pet can be enriching for a child, but the responsibility remains clearly with you! Children and pets can be fine, but they don’t have to be. Every animal is an individual, so no animal species can be defined as generally suitable for children. But you can get a rough overview here:
In contrast to their reputation, rabbits are not cuddly rabbits and as flight animals do not like to be lifted. This can also be dangerous if the rabbit starts to wriggle and falls from the arm or is squeezed too hard. Larger species are usually quieter and cannot be lifted so easily.
Rabbits are excellent to observe, they have great social behaviour and are very curious. Therefore they should always be kept at least in pairs. Children can build great playgrounds and enclosures for them. They need a lot of space and want to dig and hop. A cage is anything but species-appropriate. Rabbits usually suffer silently, so you need a lot of sensitivity. The pen must be mucked out daily and food and water must always be available.Rabbits are generally active at twilight, but can also be active at night and therefore must not be caged there either.
If children sit calmly and patiently with them, the human body is used as a climbing opportunity. Cautious stroking as long as the rabbit wants it is possible, if the rabbit has confidence. Attention, because unfortunately the rigidity of shock is often misinterpreted as enjoyment. Rabbits can live to be 12 years old and want to be well cared for throughout their lives.
Like rabbits, guinea pigs are not cuddly toys. They are very sociable and sometimes “talkative”. By the way, a rabbit is not a suitable partner animal for a guinea pig and vice versa. They are different species, each of them needs a partner animal of its own kind.
Hamsters are active at dusk and at night and want to be left alone during the day. With a little patience, many hamsters become tame and can also be taken on the hand, but they are not real cuddly animals. If the hamster feels threatened, he can also bites sometimes.
Hamsters can be kept alone as loners. However, they need variety, exercise and sufficient employment opportunities. With 2-3 years hamsters unfortunately do not become very old.
Mouse & Rat:
These animals can become very tame and are happy to be kept busy. Since the life expectancy of them is unfortunately not very high, children learn to cope with death and mourning. Rats are better suited for small children, as the little mice are not only very fast, but can also be easily bruised.
They are very curious and docile, want to be kept busy and love to discover new things. So children can build toys and hideaways for them. The small animals also like to climb around on us humans, the nimble mice usually don’t like to cuddle and be strokeed, rats depending on their character.
The stable has to be mucked out regularly, as rat urine in particular has a stronger inherent odour and the clean animals otherwise feel uncomfortable. Mice and also rats are group animals and need conspecifics in order not to wither away. The twilight-active animals are very intelligent.
An aquarium has a relaxing effect, can be set up very nicely and the inhabitants can be observed well. The children can feed the fish at a young age and learn responsibility. In relation to other pets, an aquarium is less complicated, because the fish do not have to be kept busy all day. Nevertheless it must be cleaned regularly and the water must be changed. If the water quality is not right, it will soon no longer be a beautiful sight and the fish may fall ill.
In captivity, these sensitive animals need a sufficient volume of water, conspecifics with whom they get along and a facility that is as well adapted to their original habitat as possible.
Fish may be “mute” (they communicate in sounds that are only audible to humans with certain instruments), but the pump does, of course, make noise. Also, fish do not like booming basses and loud music, so the location should be well considered. They can hear and recognize you as soon as they approach, by your walk.
A bird has to fly, cage keeping is anything but species-appropriate. It needs as much free flight as possible. Also, birds must not be kept alone, because the social animals need at least one partner, if not several conspecifics in flocks, depending on the species. Hand tamed birds can give a lot of fun and pleasure. Remember that every bird likes to warble a little song and cannot be muted (males more than females).
Fumes from Teflon pans are toxic to birds, as are galvanised objects (e.g. aviary wire) and lead. Most birds defecate in certain places, which you can put paper underneath, but a bird is not really clean. An alternative would be to build a birdhouse, put it in front of the window and watch the birds in the wild.
These are usually kept in artificial little worlds, in terrariums. Creating the right humidity, temperature, UV light and furnishings is often very difficult. The sensitive animals need ideal conditions and are not kept in small terrariums in a species-appropriate way.
Some lizards become trusting, but are far from being cuddly animals. Most of them want to have their rest and can rather be observed and fed. Even the popular turtle needs an outdoor enclosure and lots of space. The animals do not like to be carried around and stroked. You often do not see pain or discomfort immediately. Their body language is often misunderstood, for example, closing their eyes does not mean relaxation, but rather rigor mortis, caused by high stress.
The majority of reptiles are salmonella carriers. These do not make the animals sick, but can transmit the salmonella to humans. Washing hands after touching the animals is a must especially for small children.
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Cats are among the most popular pets. Unfortunately they have the reputation of being less “elaborate” than dogs, but this is not the case. Cats are intelligent, curious and want to be challenged mentally as well as physically. Many cats like to come to cuddle, others are more for themselves. Children should respect the cats’ quiet and retreat times.
If a cat is too turbulent, her claws can be extended, so children must learn to understand their body language and take it seriously. Noise is also not appreciated by most house cats.
In the presence of an adult even small children can enjoy the closeness to the cat and with increasing age help with feeding, grooming and co.
Some cats are sociable and should be kept at least in pairs. It is a pleasure to watch the cats playing. They are also good listeners and their purring has a calming effect. So cats can be good animal friends for children.
Dogs can bring a lot of joy into the family, but they also mean a lot of work. Depending on the character of the animal they need a lot of exercise and occupation. As social animals, they do not like being alone and should be well-behaved. Likewise, children must respect them and learn the correct handling, because no, a dog does not have to put up with everything! If his body language is taken seriously and his needs are met, most dogs are great companions for children. Similar to the cat, some dogs prefer to be petted more than others. Nevertheless, children benefit from a life with a dog. However, it is your job to make sure that the dog gets enough rest. Especially for dogs that are not used to children, the unpredictability, noise and strange movements of children can lead to fear and stress. The dog should therefore be used to children and well socialized. Dogs are very time and cost-intensive, need enough space, movement in nature and mental activity. Also consider which breed or crossbreed of which breeds will move in with you. Herding dogs are often less compatible with small children.
All animals want to be kept busy, well fed and allowed to live out their needs. They need sufficient space, which is not smoky or similar and free from sources of danger, such as poisonous plants. They can be taught certain tricks by positive training and need a place of retreat. All animals take us humans as we are, are good listeners and comforters of souls.
The right place where small animals have their retreat is also important. An animal should not be in the children’s room, because it is often noisy there, smells of deodorant etc. are added in teenage years, nocturnal animals disturb the children’s sleep and you don’t have a good view of the animals. At the suitable place it is as quiet as possible, there is fresh air and enough space.
Animals of different species can live in the same household, but for this purpose the animals have to get used to each other slowly, the best way is to get to know each other in a place that is new for both of them. For example, if your dog has a strong hunting instinct, a free-hopping rabbit is less suitable as a roommate. So pay attention to the respective needs and practice everything that is important for a harmonious living together in advance. You should also make sure that each individual has a place to retreat.
Children and pets can therefore live together in harmony and benefit from each other if both sides respect each other.
How trusting, cuddly or active an animal is cannot be predicted and depends on the individual character. It is important to respect the needs and to offer the animal a life appropriate to its species. Children often quickly lose interest in the tasks associated with the animal, but it still needs to be cared for. Children may and should be involved in the tasks, but an adult has the responsibility. The whole family should therefore be in agreement when it comes to the decision to accept an animal family member.