Pets and children both need parenting. Both need to learn how to treat each other. Both need supervision and limits to their behavior. Children will need an adult’s help training their pet.
A pet is ultimately the responsibility of the adult, not the child.
Take an active role in teaching children how to pet and properly hold or carry a pet. It may be safer for young children not to carry a small kitten or puppy, and not to be the only person holding an adult dog’s leash.
Discourage challenge games such as tug-of-war, keep-away and wrestling matches with dogs. Encourage fetching games. Discourage using fingers, hands and feet as play toys and objects for cats and dogs to attack. Encourage cats to play with dangling toys and toys they can chase and bat about.
Do not ignore warning signs from the pet such as hissing, growling or running away from you or your child.
Be sure the pet has a safe place to retreat to where it can rest and have quiet time away from active, playful children. This can also be used as a “time out” place for pets who become overly-excited and rough when playing.
Small breeds of dogs, puppies and kittens are not always the best choice for young children. A larger, adult dog or cat may be better able to tolerate lots of active playing and handling.
Contrary to popular myth, rabbits are not ideal pets for children. They generally do not enjoy being picked up and carried around; they are easily frightened by the naturally rambunctious behavior of children; and they are easily injured. Children also tend to lose interest in them quickly. Rabbits can make wonderful family pets, though, so long as adults carefully supervise their children’s interaction with them and assume the primary responsibility for their care.
Children love pets that are tame and friendly, parents love pets that are easy to feed and care for – hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils fill both bills.

Choosing an Exotic Pet

What you need to know before making the decision to get an exotic pet, including factors to consider when choosing an exotic pet, beginner’s guides to choosing the right pet, and other considerations such as choosing a vet, where to get a per, finding a pet sitter, and picking a name!

What’s your Motivation?

If you are thinking about an exotic pet for the “cool” factor, please reconsider choosing an exotic pet. The long term commitment might be overwhelming once the novelty wears off. Consider whether a pet is truly going to meet your expectations and fit into your long term plans. Your choice of exotic pet must also be based on your ability (in time and money) to provide adequate housing, space, care, and attention.

When choosing an exotic pet it is important to consider the reasons you want a pet and the reality of caring for the kind of pet you want.

Basic Principles for Choosing an Exotic Pet

  • Avoid impulse adoptions.
  • Learn all you can about a potential pet before bringing it home.
  • Have all the necessary equipment and supplies on hand for the homecoming to make the transition to a new home as easy as possible for your pet.

Is this Pet Legal?

First and foremost, find out which kinds of pets are illegal in your area.
Don’t ignore the laws (even archaic ones) just because you might get away with it; legal problems and heartache are a possible result.

Hamsters

These small creatures are clean and almost odorless, and so are ideal for keeping indoors. They are, however, aggressive until they become used to their owner, and are always aggressive with their own kind and so should be housed separately. It is best to buy either an adult that is tame or a youngster ready to be tamed.
Rough treatment of a nervous young hamster will always result in a sharp nip, and the best time to get him used to being handled is when he is being fed. Hamsters store some of their food in cheek pouches, then eat it later, and it is while he is buy pouching that you can run a finger down his back. Increase the caresses each time until he will allow you to pick him up when he has finished eating.
The cage for a hamster should be at least 2 feet by 1 foot and should be made of hardwood, heavy plastic or metal – otherwise the hamster will quickly gnaw its way out. Cover the front of top with small-mesh wire netting and line the floor with newspaper or a thick sawdust. Hamsters tend to use the same place in their cage for droppings, so put down a small metal tray covered with sawdust, and clean it every day. Remove old stored food twice a week, and change the newspaper or sawdust once a week.
Food should consist of a mixture of rolled oats, wheat, sunflower seeds or one of the packaged foods available from pet shops. In addition, lettuce or cabbage should be given, and root vegetables such as carrot, turnip or rutabaga, or pieces of apple can be given occasionally. Make sure there is always a supply of drinking water. Provide a piece of sweet wood, such as apple, hazel or willow, to give the hamster something to gnaw on.
Hamsters are nocturnal, and are also vulnerable to extremes of hot and cold. They should be kept in a room at a constant temperature of 18C and out of draughts. The cage must be out of reach of cats and dogs, and not near windows or radiators, Make sure you have soft, natural fiber bedding. Hay is not suitable as it can wound cheek pouches.
A well-treated hamster should live for more than two years.

Guinea pigs

Sometimes called cavies, these creatures can kept indoors or outdoors, though the choice is often determined by space; a hutch for a pair should be 3ft6in by 2 feet and 2 feet high. The wire netting front should be 1 inch or ½ inch mesh and, if outdoors roofed with a roofing felt.
The hutch should contain a box about 10 inches square and 6 inches high for sleeping quarters, which should be lined with soft hay. Cover the floor of the hutch with sawdust or peat. Change the hay and floor covering at least once a week.

Gerbils

These desert creatures, a little smaller than a rat in size, are easy to handle, as they do not bite in fear, as for example hamsters do. They can be fed on the same foods as hamsters, but not too much sunflower seed. Add small quantities of lettuce, sprouts, carrot or firm fruit such as apple. Gerbils drink little, but water should always be available.
Gerbils are tunnelers, and the best way to keep them is in a large aquarium filled three-quarters full with loamy soil or soft peat. Replace the soil about three times a year. Some of the tunnels will run close to the glass, so that their activities underground, as well as above can be seen.
Gerbils are susceptible to heat exhaustion, so do not leave a cage in full sun. They have intense curiosity and can be let out of their cage under supervision.

Mice

Pros: mice are quite easy to care for and do not need a large home. A group of female mice will usually live together quite happily and be quite entertaining with their play. Cons: mice are very quick, agile and tend to be skittish, so are more difficult for kids to handle. For most kids, they are better as a “look, don’t touch pet.” Also most active a night.

Leopard Geckos

Pros: leopard geckos are readily available and among the easiest reptiles to look after properly. They are also quite docile, and can be handled with a gentle touch, and a couple can be kept in a fairly small tank. Cons: although they don’t need a special UV- producing light, they still require a fair investment in tank set up. While they can be held, they are not as responsive as mammalian pets. As with other small pets, good hygiene is essential when handling.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Pros: I consider these the ultimate in low maintenance pets, which makes them somewhat ideal for kids (if kids get bored with them, there is not a whole lot of work to take over!). They are large enough to be handled and are generally quite docile, yet are completely undemanding of attention. Cons: they are cockroaches, so definitely not cute and cuddly! Not interactive or responsive like mammals, although they are interesting in their own way.

Cats

  • Although they like company they are quite happy on their own for long periods of time.
  • A cat is an ideal choice for city or flat dwellers and you don’t have to have a garden.
  • Cats are good with children, but watch small children in case they hurt it.
  • It is perhaps safest not to buy a cat or kitten when you are pregnant, if you already have one take special precautions when handling during pregnancy.
  • Less expensive than dogs but will still incur costs for initial purchase, vets, inoculations, neutering and holiday cattery fees.
  • Very suitable for the elderly or infirm as they are very independent and naturally clean and do not need exercising.

Rabbits

This subject has caused a great deal of debate and discussion as the advice I originally set out has been condemned at best as being misleading and at worst down right irresponsible.
The points listed have been gleaned from various sources, individuals and organisations over the years. However, there are many who disagree with this point of view and their comments together with links to specialist sites are also shown in the hope this will enable visitors to make up their own mind as to what is best for the rabbits.

Aquatic Turtles as Pets

Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles are popular as pets. The most well known is probably the red eared slider, although there are several other species which are kept as pets.
Turtles have been popular for a long time. Baby red eared sliders were readily available and inexpensive many years ago, which unfortunately resulted in a lot of neglected turtles. They were often sent home with tiny plastic bowls with a little plastic tree (unfortunately these are still sold with turtles in some places).

Turtles and Children

Turtles are not ideal pets for children. They are not easy to care for, not great for handling, and in addition they often do harbor Salmonella bacteria which can be passed to the children who don’t understand the need for careful hygiene. Many children do not have the interest or ability to provide the amount of care and cleaning that a turtle rightfully requires, so parents must realize the responsibility for care ultimately falls to them if the kids lose interest.

Reptiles

Reptiles can make excellent pets, but sometimes inexperienced owners are overwhelmed when the realize how expensive and difficult some reptiles are to care for. Unfortunately, many owners go home from pet stores with incomplete and even incorrect information on proper care of their reptiles so end up surprised and unprepared when they find out what it really takes to care for their pets, in both time and cost. Unmet expectations and poor advice about care can result in a bad experience for the owner and can ultimately be fatal for the reptile.
Some reptiles are poor choices for beginners, often due to diet or environmental needs or an unwieldy adult size. However, there are some readily available reptiles that are good for beginners. These animals are relatively low maintenance, compared to other reptiles, but they still need a significant investment in proper equipment up front.

Sources: Exotic Pets, Cahs Pets

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