Home > Kids and Pets > Small Mammals and Kids

Small Mammals and Kids

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 27 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Small Pets Small Mammals Children Rats

Small pets can be great for children, offering companionship and entertainment, while at the same time providing the means for children to learn about responsibility. However, think carefully about introducing a pet into your family - even a small one requires care, time and attention and before you give in to the begging of your child, make sure he or she understands that the pet is not a stuffed toy which can be abandoned when other fun beckons: impress upon your child the commitment necessary to take on a pet and that they are responsible for the health and happiness of their new furry friend.

That said, you must be prepared to take on the brunt of pet care and management - even older children will often have to be reminded of their responsibilities and ultimately, it is up to the adults to supervise and teach children the safe and correct handling of pets.

What Kind of Small Mammal is Best?

The type of pet you choose is very important. To some extent, this is dependent on the age and maturity of your children. It can also depend on your circumstances - for example, if you live in a downtown apartment with no garden, rabbits or guinea pigs would not be suitable whereas mice and rats or even birds might be better.

Below are some guidelines as to age-appropriate pets:

1-2 years - Fish would be ideal, especially as small children are fascinated by the colours and movement

3-5 years - Children this age can start to learn to be gentle when holding and handling small animals, although they will require constant, close supervision at all times. They will also need to be reminded of hygiene issues but they can start to help with cleaning duties.

6-9 years - By this age, children can clean out the cages (with supervision) and feed their pets. They can also start to interact more, for example, teach a pet rat tricks.

9+ years - Older children can look after small mammals more or less independently although they will possibly still need reminders and occasional guidance.

Whatever you choose, make sure your children understand the basic rules of hygiene, such as washing hands before and after handling the pet. In addition, animal droppings, old food and soiled bedding should be cleaned and/or replaced fresh daily.

Rabbits

Rabbits are one of the most popular pets, due to their cuddly appearance. However, depending on the individual and the handling it has received from young, rabbits can also exhibit territorial aggression, dislike being handled, kick, scratch and only interact on their terms - much like many cats. Remember that they will need time out of their hutch for exercise and also lots of stimulation and interaction.

Note also that rabbits can become aggressive towards each other upon reaching sexual maturity, particularly males. Some people believe that guinea pigs can make good companions for rabbits whereas others believe they should only be kept with company of their own kind. Unlike other small animals, rabbits have similar requirements to cats and dogs, such as being vaccinated annually and neutered. Rabbits live an average of 7-8 years but can reach 10-12. Re-homing centres are often an excellent source of finding a suitable pet with a nice personality.

Guinea Pigs

Also known as 'cavies', these rodents can be shy and scare easily. However, they are larger and more robust than rats and mice and also slower in movement, so they make ideal first pets for young children. They are very sociable and should be kept with company, although if you keep a pair, make sure it is of the same sex!

They live for 4-7 years.

Rats

Despite many people's aversion to rats, these engaging little rodents make very loving and entertaining pets. Highly intelligent, they can be trained to perform tricks and they enjoy being handled. Unfortunately, they can be predatory towards mice so do not keep these two types of mammals together. Again, if you are going to keep a pair, make sure they are of the same sex.

They live for 2 -3 years.

Mice

These cheeky, mischievous, curious little rodents make enchanting pets. However, mice - particularly males - do give off a distinctive musty odour which can be very off-putting so remember to take that into account when considering a mouse as a pet. Again, always make sure that a pair is the same sex. Never pick up a mouse by its tail, despite what you might have seen in films and cartoons.

They live for 3-5 years.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • gabby
    Re: Introducing a Kitten to Other Cats
    i have an eight year old female cat& i recently got a 3 month old kitten& my older cat keeps hissing and spitting and…
    25 July 2019
  • Paige131
    Re: Introducing a Puppy to Other Dogs
    Hi i have a 8week olf puppy he has had no vaccinations yetbis it ok to take him to my mums where her dogs are fully vaccinated.
    19 July 2019
  • Sylveon
    Re: Keeping Mammals in an Aviary
    Hi I only just discovered this page! I just wanted to ask could there be possible parasite risk between rabbits and birds? As I…
    6 July 2019
  • Osar
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Where can I find the law/by law about my dog entering a local river. There is private fishing (no access to public) and a long stretch of river…
    5 July 2019
  • BOO/100
    Re: Pet Injuries That Can be Treated at Home
    My small dog has a rash on his undercarriage with small red spots I have been bathing this with Apple cyder vinegar…
    3 July 2019
  • Sprinkles
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    I live beside someone who has 3 dogs. This person doesn't work but disappears for over 10 hours or all night and doesn't come back until…
    14 June 2019
  • sherrie
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    our calico cat was in a fight last monday morning and we had to take her to the vet. We had to put her down because she had a deep…
    12 June 2019
  • Kiwi
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    We recently moved into an apartment that has lots of outdoor cats I don't know if these are ferel cats or pets my cat Kiki likes to go…
    26 May 2019
  • Rani
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Hi I live with my in laws and they have recently bought a dog, hes a big alsatian. I have 4 kids 6,4,2 and 8 months. It's hot and they want to…
    23 May 2019
  • Jillybags
    Re: Keeping Mammals in an Aviary
    So it's ok to have 2 bunnies and ( say ) 4 budgies, lovebirds or cockatiels in the same outdoor aviary ? They'll have plenty of…
    21 May 2019