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If we’re being honest, there’s really no such thing as a low-maintenance pet. All animals have needs that must be met daily, such as feeding and cleaning, as well as ongoing needs like grooming, for example. So allowing children to care for any kind of animal is going to come with a huge amount of responsibility. That said, some animals require more care than others. While most families enjoy the interaction that can be had with dogs and cats, these kinds of animals need a lot of love and attention, they need plenty of play time, especially when they’re young, and they need to be petted. These types of pets are social and you will have to make them part of your pack, so to speak. In short, they require a lot of time and attention that children simply may not be prepared to give. However, there are some “starter” pets that require much less time commitment. Here are a few that you might want to get for your kids before they graduate to the responsibilities of a dog or cat.

Fish are probably the easiest pets to care for and there are a number of reasons why. For one thing, most only need to be fed once a day, unlike other animals that need more frequent feedings. And kids won’t have to take them for walks or scoop their poop out of the litter box every other day, and they won’t have to clean a cage and change shavings weekly. In fact, with the right kind of tank and the right kinds of fish, they might not even need to clean up algae. A self-sustaining aquarium requires very little cleaning if it is managed correctly. So basically, your kids will only need to make sure to remember to feed the fish as scheduled and they can watch them swim around all day.

Of course, this doesn’t provide for any kind of interaction, really. So when kids have proven that they can keep their fish alive and they’re ready to take on a bit more responsibility, there are a couple of other relatively low-maintenance pets that can provide them with the opportunity to play and cuddle a bit. Many parents opt for hamsters or gerbils, which tend to be relatively easy to care for, but these animals are so small that kids can unintentionally cause them harm. For this reason, guinea pigs may be a better choice. They are not only larger, but they also enjoy socializing, both with people and with other guinea pigs, and they are fairly easy to handle. In addition, they tend to be rather playful and they make all kinds of noises that are sure to delight your children. However, as with any animal, they do need care, money and love spent on them to ensue they thrive. To find out whether guinea pigs are right for your family read our post on guinea pig care for kids. 

Turtles, frogs, and other caged reptiles and amphibians can also be good choices, although, as with fish, they’re not exactly cuddly. In truth, starter pets are really a way to gauge whether or not your kids are ready for the responsibilities inherent in caring for living creatures. If they’re not, you’re going to be the one caring for pets. You might not want to take on the high-maintenance attached to dogs or cats (not to mention the years of responsibility that come with these long-lived animals). So start with a pet that requires less care and see how your kids do. If they perform admirably they may be ready for the puppy or kitten they’ve been clamoring for.

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