The kids come to you one day and say, “can we have a pet”? – What do you do or say?
Depending on their age/s some pets may be more suitable than others. From an early age we had a cat and then a dog but in between we brought home mice, guinea pigs, I think a rabbit (in Victoria) and my sisters had budgies and fish.
For many years we probably had the birds, fish, cats and dog/s at the same time although in those days, cats and dogs were more outside pets than indoors.
Memories of little Charlie the budgie flying around the family room and landing on our shoulder while we watched telly were good. He was a cool budgie that did talk and was pretty social and tame. Lisa decided to breed with him and bought a yellow female who was less fun and less social and she bit a lot, even Lisa. Charlie learned a few choice words.
Another of my sisters had some fish – some were successful, some not so much as a few floated to the top and some just disappeared.
So what are the best low maintenance pets for kids? They say they will do everything but many of these pets can live a long time and kids get new interests in their lives – who is left to care for this low maintenance pet???
Best Low Maintenance Pets are:
- Goldfish – You will need a bowl, a few rocks, perhaps a fake plant or two and some fish food. You will need to show them how to clean the bowl out every week or so (advice can be given at pet stores about what to use to clean it and how to go about it safely).
- Hermit Crabs – Contradicting their name, to a degree, the hermit crab can be quite an active little fella and can often be seen checking out his new habitat, climbing on the rocks and, naturally, changing their shells. You will need a terrarium, a light for warmth, some rocks, sand, some special pellet food and some larger shells for the little guys to grow into. They are also happy to tuck into some fruit and veggies.
- Birds – From cockatiels, to budgies, parrots and parakeets. Each has their own individual needs so do your research before bringing the new-feathered friend home. Birds tend to have a higher start up cost with cages (you will want to get a bigger one over a small one). Once set up, birds don’t require a great deal of work – change water, top up seed, change paper at bottom of cage but they do love company. If possible, its great if you can give them some “out of cage” time but this requires care. Cats, dogs out and windows shut or screened so no escapes. Con- they do make a lot more noise than a goldfish or a hermit crab!
- Mice/rats/hamsters – many of us are a bit uncertain about these as pets but they are often a great way of introducing a pet and the kids can cuddle them.You will need to set up a cage, some hidey-hole spots, some bedding, chew toys, an exercise wheel, and food and water containers. Cages need to be cleaned out weekly and they need feeding each day. Do your research into best foods to keep them healthy. More work than probably a bird and definitely more than the crabs but less than having a dog!
- Leopard Geckos – now these little guys I hadn’t considered but after doing some reading, it could be an option if the kids were more interested in reptiles than birds or fish. You will need a terrarium, some rocks and branches, a light for warmth and water. They feast on live crickets and mealworms so someone is going to have to get pretty cosy with feeding them. Adult geckos can be fed every second day and you can go away for a weekend and they will be fine doing their thing till you come back.
Most states in Australia will let you home a rabbit. Queensland is not one of those states but for those down south, they are legal should the kids want the “Easter Bunny” as their pet of choice
They require a fair bit of attention so not overly low maintenance.
Ideally get them a hutch you can keep indoors to keep them away from predators. Hutches should have suitable bedding and be cleaned out daily of soiled bedding (straw, hay or shredded paper). Hutch cleaned out totally each week to avoid buildup of ammonia, which can attract flies.
If you plan to have the hutch outside, it needs to be in an area that is rain proof; with mosquito/fly screens secure and with good ventilation and out of direct sunlight as rabbits can be susceptible to heat stress.
Rabbits also need daily exercise so time out side the cage each day is a must. If you don’t think you and the kids are up for all this extra attention, steer them away from the rabbits.
Note: Often low maintenance can mean low entertainment value- we often see that goldfish and hermit crabs are not the kids pet of choice as they don’t really “do anything” . Risk is kids quickly bored and guess who is left to do all the work – the parents. Birds can live a long time as well with many domesticated birds living, on average, over 10 years. Many have average lifetime of 15+ years- kids could have moved on by then to uni or overseas holidays .
Reptiles are becoming a more popular option however there are a few extra steps to becoming a reptile parent – you cant just buy one in the local pet store! This will be next week’s blog for those who are into the pythons, lizards and bearded dragons. Stay tuned.