The jury is out on what constitutes the “best” pet for children. On one side of the fence are those who say that it is the independent cat; perfectly happy to allow themselves to be observed from a safe distance, and occasionally deigning to allow a small sticky hand to give them a pat. On the other side of the pet fence are the dog lovers, who claim that no childhood is truly complete without the lapping tongue of a four-legged pal. Of course, there are those people who suggest that the best pet is no pet at all, but let’s ignore those people, shall we?
For apartment dwelling children, smaller pets are the best, and are, often times, the only choice. Fish are beautiful and relaxing to watch, but do not really give the whole pet experience. Small birds can be trained to sit on a gentle finger, but are susceptible to colds and drafts and are messy beyond belief, something you might consider if you are a true neatnik. The rodent family offers many different types of options, some better choices than others. Rats are smart, if you can get past the fact that they are, well, rats. They can also be surprisingly affectionate and are rather easy to care for. Not ready to swallow your loathing of rats? Guinea pigs are another option to consider- less rat-like, the sweet natured guinea pig can be a really great first pet for most children to start with. The only thing to remember about them is the need for daily vitamin C to prevent scurvy.
If space is not a consideration and the entire family is in agreement, then a dog is a good choice as well. Remember that there are many factors to consider when choosing a dog breed, but there are several that will fit in with virtually any family. These include the gentle pug, the intelligent beagle and the ever-popular Golden Retriever. Of course, all families are encouraged to check their local shelter for their new family member first.
And, in the interest of fairness, there is the cat. Often given a bad rap for being too aloof, the cat is a very good pet, especially for those families that are involved in lots of activities. Properly fed, a cat will not really pout and mope if he is left for long periods of time- he will content himself to curl up on your bed until you get home. No matter what pet the family chooses, make sure it is a safe, loving choice for everyone, including the child that will bond with it stronger than anyone else in the household.