We love our kids, right? But we don’t always agree with some of the things they like. We just don’t want that much ketchup on our food, mixing lemon and blackcurrant squash together isn’t out thing and a we don’t always agree with their choice of pets! Kids like creepy crawly pets, they are also potentially immune to many of the traits we learn as adult so simply don’t find certain things scary or repulsive. But how far is too far? And how do you know what gross pets are actually fine to have and what are a bad idea! Well here is a little guide to some of the common pets kids want and grown ups don’t. The aim is to look past the pet and think about what it will bring to the child and will it fit in with family life.
OK let’s start with a biggy! Rats have been around humans for 1000s of year, they are with us all the time whether we like it or not. We actually have a bit of a pre-programmed dislike for them as with many animals because they can do us harm. The Bubonic plague outbreak much discussed in Horrible Histories certainly didn’t help! But what are they like as pets? Mark Stanford is a pest expert from Empire Pest Control knows a thing or two about rats and he said “ rats are very social animals, they are clever and not the mad hissing things people expect”. Rats actually make great pets, they really do. They can be trained to respond to calls, they can do basic problem solving and finding hidden food, they love a cuddle and a lovely to have around. If you buy 2 from babies and hold them lots, they will be safe and lovely to handle. Probably not great for kids under 8-9 but with supervision they can be a great way to learn about animals and have a small cuddly pet. They are even happy to be carried about in little bags or hoods of jumpers!
Another seriously scary potential pet for some people. The larger spiders people have as pets are normally called Tarantulas. The classic black with orange leg stripes is a Mexican Red Knee tarantula. Spiders are certainly not cuddly but they are very low maintenance and a great animal to learn about. Spiders do eat live food though and this could put parents off…certainly not kids! They eat live crickets but its not gory and its amazing to watch. They don’t need a lot of food, just a nice tank with heat, moisture etc. You can go away for days and as long as its all on a timer it will be fine! If a child forgets to feed the spider it wont matter for a day or so. This is perfect for forgetful kids. The animal won’t get sad, it won’t get lonely and they don’t even need to be handled if you don’t want too. In fact, handling them can be bad because if you drop them, they will die!
…and another one people are scared of. Snakes really can be very dangerous but obviously no parent would ever buy one that fell into the deadly category. Snakes are a tricky one. They are very easy to keep in many ways. Just like spiders once it is all set up on timers then they are happy. But, if you want to handle a snake you need to do it regularly and get the used to it. They can be good escape artists and they do eat baby chicks or mice (frozen) so it’s a bit more graphic. Snakes can also get big, so you need to choose carefully. Great pets for teens but certainly not something that can be done without a keen parent.
A few Other Ideas!
If you are in a situation where a spider is the obsession but you really can’t do it there are some great alternatives.
Giant Millipedes – No, not centipedes, they are the orange scary ones. These are the ones that look like stretched woodlice. They make great pets for kids! Slow, pretty, very alien, and they eat old fruit and veg so they can help with your kitchen waste too! You can handle them easily but just wash your hands after and be gentle. They can be housed together in a tank and really do make very exciting and easy pets.
Giant African Land Snails – The shells are about the size of a big avocado so they are pretty big. They are, as you would expect, slow and totally harmless. Kids love them because they are slimy, they can be picked up and they move around a lot in the tank. They love fruit and veg and they are very low maintenance.
Go For It
It is important to balance the knowledge that our kids may go off an animal, they may not look after it properly and you may have to take over against the learning value of having an animal in terms of responsibility and biology! And let’s not forget how much they might enjoy it. Try to push your fears to one side and see how you feel. Don’t go for something you are actually phobic of because that may not work out well, but try and shelf the instinctual repulsion and get stuck in!