Having trouble deciding on the best first pet for your child? Take a look at our selection of the top low-maintenance pets for kids…
Sea-monkeys are the ideal first pet – watching them grow from egg to full grown monkey is both fun and educational. Feed them once a week for the first two weeks, and then increase to every other day. What could be easier?
2. Stick insects
Put a stick insect in a tank with a bundle of privet leaves and it will exist happily with little further attention. Just watch out for them multiplying – females breed copiously all by themselves. They’re great for kids, who will enjoy the challenge of trying to tell the stick from the stick insect.
These are super relaxing to watch – perfect for the child who finds it hard to calm down. Feed twice a day and watch them thrive. There are loads of quirky aquarium shapes to choose from, so they can also be a stylish addition to your home.
Snakes are a slightly more grown up pet, but surprisingly easy to care for. Start with a corn snake; they’re small and happy to live alone if regularly handled. Be aware that their preferred food is defrosted mice – but on the upside, they only eat once a week.
Cats are very independent. While they love a cuddle, they’re equally happy doing their own thing, plotting mischief in the garden. Unlike dogs, they don’t need regular walks – just lure them back any time with the promise of food.
6. Flea circus
It might sound a little Victorian, but a flea circus is a great project for an enterprising child, and the internet is full of instructions on how to make your own. They are also available to buy ready made – though parents may prefer the mechanical kind to one containing actual fleas.
Fancy rats may be a surprising pet choice to certain squeamish adults, but they are affectionate, intelligent animals that most children will find adorable. All they’ll need is basic rat or rabbit food and little toys to play with. Rats love living in pairs and will curl up in a ball together to sleep – cute!
Is your child’s favourite colour blue, green, or yellow? Get them a budgie to match it and you’ll be the most popular parent in the world.
9. Guinea pig
Guinea pigs are super sociable and sleep for only a few hours each day – the perfect companion for a little person who has a lot of love to give. They don’t need too much space, and are small enough to handle easily.
Grown ups may take a dim view of snails nibbling at the garden, but they are quiet and low maintenance pets that can be fascinating for young children to watch. Keep them in an airy container filled with moist soil and feed them scraps of veg from the kitchen.
Much like guinea pigs but smaller, hamsters are the cutest companion for your child. Just make sure they have an exercise wheel and plenty of chewable toys to keep them happy.
12. Hermit crab
Does your child love to stand out from the crowd? Well, they’re sure to be the only kid in the class with a hermit crab for a pet. They don’t require too much interaction but are are great fun to watch – fill their aquarium with toys for them to climb over and hide inside.
P.S. A House For Hermit Crab also makes a great bedtime story!
13. Adopt a zoo animal
Perfect for the child who is insistent they want a lion for a pet: provide them with their very own King of the Jungle from the safe distance of the nearest zoo, then stop by to visit on birthdays and special occasions. Wildlife charities often run similar schemes and money goes towards maintaining animals’ endangered habitats, so whether your child is particularly smitten with dolphins, pandas or tigers, they can make a real contribution to their survival.