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The top 5 family pets
Worms and wombats aside, these are your most likely choices for a family-friendly animal.
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‘Can we get a pet?’

At some stage your child is going to ask and the decision should not be taken lightly. If your family is ready for a pet, choose one that will fit into your home and lifestyle – and most importantly, one that your child can help care for.

There are many reasons you could get a pet – they teach children to treat living things with empathy and respect, responsibility, a love for nature and valuable lessons on life and death.

Pets must be cared for and children under the age of 10 cannot care for an animal by themselves. They can help, but you will do most of the caring. Pets need attention, food and veterinary care, which can also put time and financial restraints on you.


Dogs are wonderful pets. They are active and can help your kids to spend  time outdoors. They listen to secrets and can do tricks. They love attention and hugs. They also guard your house, which is an added bonus.

Dogs need regular exercise and constant attention. Big dogs have big appetites, so consider this financially.
Large breeds seems to live shorter (around 12 years) than smaller dogs, which can live up to 15 years.


Kittens appeal to children when they are funny and active, but your kids might be less impressed when the cat gets older and prefers the couch to playtime. Cats are ideal pets for smaller houses with small or no gardens, since they can be trained to use a litter box.
Some cats are not very affectionate and do not like to be carried around or hugged. They are not a good choice for small children, because they can give a nasty scratch when provoked. Unneutered cats can stay away from home for days and get hurt in fights. And sometimes they bring their prey into the house.

Cats can live 15 years or longer.


Hamsters are ideal pets for older children – they are too fast and sometimes too snappy for little children who tend to squeeze them too hard. Hamsters are relatively cheap. The biggest expense is the cage; apart from that you just need some food and wood shavings.

The negative thing about hamsters is that they don't live long, around 2 years. Most do not die graceful deaths, so you might have to have it euthanized.


Many children love colourful budgies and they do make cute pets, but there is not much interaction between budgie and child. They can be handled, but it takes time and patience and it is something that most children lack.

Keeping budgies is relatively cheap – your main expense being the cage and the budgie itself, since their food is cheap and they do not eat that much. Their cages needs to be cleaned regularly and they need fresh food and water every day. They can also make quite some noise, so if you do not like constant chirping, rather let this one fly. Budgies can live up to 10 years.


Goldfish might be the easiest to keep, but it is last on our list because there is virtually no interaction between a goldfish and child. They are relatively cheap – the tank and setup is the most expensive. Most goldfish are cheap and readily available at your closest pet shop (which is helpful if one decides to die unexpectedly). When your tank is complete, all you really need is fish food and a quick clean every few weeks.

Goldfish can die quite easily, but if the water quality is right they can live up to 10 years.

Which do you think is the ideal family pet?

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