Choosing Your Child’s First Pet
Let’s start with gerbils! Gerbils make great pets for younger children, as they are active by day and extremely curious and friendly! Gerbils are desert animals, produce little urine, and are very clean. This makes cleaning up after them much simpler than many other pets, a wonderful quality for a young child’s pet! Gerbils are very social animals, so it is best to buy a pair of them, but make sure they are not mates, unless you are prepared to take care of more gerbils! Gerbils love tunneling and digging, so a large aquarium-style tank with a deep layer of wood shavings makes an ideal home for them! Some tunnel-type toys would also be great for keeping them entertained and occupied! You can purchase gerbil food at pet stores, and also at many discount stores! They also enjoy the occasional bit of fresh lettuce, or cheese! As with all rodents, gerbils enjoy gnawing on things…dog biscuits work particularly well! A dust bath once or twice a week will help keep their fur shiny. Gerbils generally live 2-3 years.
Guinea pigs make good first pets because they don’t tend to scratch and can be gently handled. Like gerbils, guinea pigs are also incredibly social creatures, so it is advisable to own at least two. However, if you have two adult males, please make sure they are both neutered before introducing them! Guinea pigs are very timid, so need lots of places in their cage to hide away when they choose to. As with gerbils, an aquarium-style tank would work well for guinea pigs, provided they have a grazing area, and places to burrow away! Guinea pigs need a diet high in fiber and vitamin C daily. They should have plenty of fresh meadow hay, guinea pig mix, and vegetables that are high in fiber and vitamin C, such as parsley, kiwi fruit, broccoli, melon and cabbage. Guinea pigs typically live six years.
Mice are also very gregarious, so it is best to keep two or three together. However, it is advisable to choose females, as males will fight. Males also produce a stronger smell, so their cage would need to be cleaned 2-3 times per week. A wire-mesh cage works well for mice, as they need a well-ventilated living space. They love tunnels and other toys, and the best floor coverings are wood shavings, and shredded paper for bedding. Mouse food can be purchased at pet stores, as well as many discount stores. Mice also need a lot of things to gnaw on, such as dog biscuits. Mice generally live shorter lives than gerbils and guinea pigs.
We’ve gone over three great first pets for a younger child. Now that you, as the parent, are well informed, you can make the decision that is right for you and your child. Happy pet shopping!