So, in Part 1 of this article we covered a couple of the small pets that may be considered when you’re looking for your child’s first pet. Welcome back for Part two where we’ll move on to some slightly larger animals that may also be considered.
The rabbit is a highly intelligent animal that benefits greatly from being given toys and free time to roam and play outside of the cage. Rabbits are gentle and almost never bite, but when picking up a rabbit, watch out for the back claws – they may kick and accidentally scratch. Rabbits are very tolerant of children, but never allow a child to pull on a rabbit’s ears, hit, poke, mishandle their rabbit in any way. Young rabbits are prone to stress related illnesses, something to think about before bringing one to a house full of active and curious children. A rabbit can be a great pet for the right family, and many adults love their children’s rabbits just as much as the children do. A lot of people still keep their rabbit in a hutch outside, but I think rabbits make much better pets when housed indoors where the family can watch and interact with it more. Make sure the cage is being checked and cleaned as necessary on a daily basis. Rabbits defecate a lot and bedding will need to be changed frequently. They tend to be tidy though, overall, and will often do their business in one area, which makes clean-up convenient.
There are many breeds of rabbits ranging from the two pound Dwarf to the eighteen pound Flemish Giant. Take care in researching what kind of rabbit you and your kids can handle before heading to the pet store. Two rabbits may be kept together, but same sexes sometimes fight once they hit sexual maturity, so it is best to get a male and a female and have them fixed. Every rabbit, whether it is kept with a buddy or not, should be spayed or neutered upon reaching sexual maturity so it doesn’t become aggressive or “mark” territory. Females should be spayed because they are prone to reproductive cancers if left unaltered. Vets with rabbit experience can answer your questions and address any concerns you may have in regards to surgery, risks, and benefits.
These cuddly fluff balls have almost no odor, so maintaining their large enclosure is as simple as cleaning it once a week. They do need a large enclosure with several levels – these animals love to run and hop! Chinchillas have long life spans ranging from 10 to 20 years, so they are a lifelong commitment. They can be kept in pairs if purchased together at a young age, but do equally well alone. A chinchilla is a pet for a dedicated keeper – if you are considering this animal for a child, understand that the animal will need more attention than a mouse or a hamster.
Chinchillas like cold climates, so they should be kept in a room with air conditioning during the hot summers. They don’t usually bite, but they may if frightened or mistreated. They may also spray urine at perceived attackers if cornered. Chinchillas shed a lot and like to roll in dust to keep clean. They may cause allergic reactions in some people. They usually become affectionate and tame down with lots of patient handling while they are young. Chinchillas are best for small families with children who can be quiet around the chinchilla and move slowly when they want to handle them. If you have dogs or cats that cannot be kept away from the chinchilla cage, it may not be a good idea to get one. Stress and chinchillas do not mix!
While they are friendly, funny, and lovable pets, ferrets are not animals to be purchased on impulse. They are somewhat expensive to care for (requiring yearly vet exams and shots), and they’re very curious. They can ransack your house if you do not ferret-proof it, and need a lot of one on one attention from their owners. Ferrets must be let out of their cage to explore on a daily basis for several hours at a time. The care level they require can be compared to that of a dog or a cat. They will bite when they play. It is a natural behavior that cannot be trained out of them completely, so they are not good for small children who can be injured easily or may not understand the behavior.
While ferrets are a huge responsibility, they are worth it to those who can keep up with them and provide them with stimulating toys and play activities. Think of having a new puppy in the house that will never grow up! Ferrets are good pets for older children and teenagers, but make sure their litter pans are being scooped daily and they are being let out to roam on a regular basis. Ferrets are already fixed and descented when they come to That Fish Place, but must be examined by a vet upon purchase. Getting two ferrets will make keeping them busy a lot easier!
Please feel free to write in with comments and questions! In part 3 we’ll talk about some popular reptiles that can make great pets for kids.