The pet guide- Choosing the perfect first pet for your child

Cailin | September 25, 2019 | News

Its fantastic when children begin to show an interest in animals and want to learn more about them; part of why I think our animal workshops are so important is because its essential that we teach children to love and respect animals especially now as more and more animals land on the endangered species list.

However as great as it is that your child is now excited to delve into the world of animals it can also be extremely daunting and you may be left with many unanswered questions

What is affordable?

What animals are safe?

Will they get bored of them?

Will I be left to clean up after them all of the time?

Are they going to be noisy?

Will they smell?

Providing your child with their first pet is the perfect opportunity to teach them about responsibilities in a fun way but of course it is more than understandable that you don’t want them responsibilities falling back to you when they become bored of their new pet.

Growing up as an animal lover my parents allowed me to have many different pets throughout my childhood and now that my knowledge and experience has grown massively on all of these animals I believe I’m fully equipped to answer these questions based on what I can remember from owning them as a child and the information I know about them now.


My first pet was a Goldfish, which I believe to be an extremely popular first pet purely because they’re easy, inexpensive and cause no risk of harm to children. Though these are all great points, the excitement of a goldfish is more than likely going to last a day. They are not an animal that can be handled and it can be quite a difficult task to properly clean their tank, so you would most definitely end up left with the dirty work! It is essential to have an animal that can be interacted with to ensure that your child doesn’t get bored of their new pet.


My second pet was a budgie; birds can be another popular choice, their vibrant colours and ways of communicating can be exciting to children, the challenge of getting your bird to say their first word is definitely one that I enjoyed for a large period of time. However many birds do not enjoy being handled and do require a large amount of space and they certainly are noisy! I also needed help cleaning the cage, as I was unable to catch my bird by myself. As much as I enjoyed having one as a pet I still longed for a pet that I was able to hold.


My first hamster was incredible, I absolutely loved him, I was able to clean his cage without any help, I was able to handle him on my own and even taught him how to do little tricks. He certainly taught me about responsibilities, as I was able to look after him without any help. Referring back to the questions at the beginning, they’re definitely inexpensive and safe as long as you show your child how to properly handle them and help them with taming to ensure that their hamster doesn’t pick up biting habits. They can become quite smelly if not cleaned out regularly but if you show your child how to clean out the cage they’ll be able to do it by themselves very easily.


Growing up I never had reptiles and when I look back now I am glad, as now I understand how to create enclosures which closely resemble their habitats as well as being able to provide my reptiles with the correct heat and lighting; something that I certainly wouldn’t have been able to maintain as a child without the help of my parents. However if your child is specifically asking for a reptile, great contenders are cornsnakes and leopard geckos. These are all extremely docile reptiles with easy to maintain set ups, you would definitely need to be in charge of sourcing and maintaining the correct heat and lighting but as for cleaning the cage there’s no reason why your child cant do that on their own!

What I think the perfect first pet is

Despite never having one as a child; whenever asked what is the perfect first pet this undoubtedly will always be my answer “A Guinea Pig”. They are the perfect size, extremely easy to tame and love being handled. Whether you choose to have a hutch or a cage both are very easy to clean and you can teach your child how to do it fully on their own (However I would vouch for an outdoor hutch if you want to avoid any unwanted smells inside the house). As for noise, they are a very noisy animal, but in a very fun way. They are extremely talkative and can teach your child about the ways that animals communicate with each other as they learn what all of their noises mean. They are highly social so it is important to buy more than one, they are slightly more costly than a hamster but they do normally live twice as long. As they are always happy to be handled it is a lot less likely that your child will get bored of their guinea pig. The reason I favour them over rabbits is due to the fact that they are much easier to tame; rabbits can scratch a lot during taming and are a lot stronger than guinea pigs making them more difficult for younger children to handle.

These are all my own personal opinions based on my own knowledge and experience and in the end only you know what is best for you child. All that is important is that you do as much research as possible based on the pet that you choose but to also enjoy the experience as much as your child undoubtedly will, as in my opinion there is nothing more exciting than picking up your first ever pet.

Still not sure? Why not book a Wild Science party for your child’s next birthday and see which animal they interact best with! For more information contact us at or call us on 020 3372 4300