Getting home a pet is an important decision and one that would require a big amount of lifestyle changes. While owning a pet is a rewarding and exciting experience it also calls for a lot of responsibility and patience.
While canines and kittens top the list of best pets for kids and families, there are many pocket-sized options you can choose from. “Pocket pets” as they are called are less maintenance and do not require as much time, attention, and effort as cats and dogs. These pocket pets are also a great option for people who are not dog or cat lovers and still want to keep a pet.
Before we look at the best small pets for kids and families, first let’s understand the benefits of getting home a small pet.
Why Choose A Small Pet?
The first things to consider are logistics. Think about things like training, bathing, and feeding your pet. Say you bring home a pup that will eventually grow into a 60-pound dog. Even if the dog is good-natured, it can feel like a wrestling match as you try to instill obedience habits, like proper leash etiquette and socialization.
However, all you have to do with a small pet is scoop them up, and they are contained. And even if they fight you on the leash, their small size makes them far easier to manage. Also, consider those times you have to take them somewhere, like the groomer or the vet. A small animal can be easily carried or contained but the same cannot be said for a larger pet.
Another thing to consider is the cost of caring for a small pet versus a large pet. On average, a pet owner spends about $20 to $60 per month on food for their pet, depending on their pet’s size and the quality of the food. That equals $250 to $700 per year. With a small pet, you’ll stay on the smaller end of that range, saving yourself a ton of money.
Benefits of Having a Pet
Apart from the above, owning a pet, whether it is a canine, a feline, or even a pocket-sized one comes with its own set of advantages that include:
1. Health Benefits
Studies show that having a pet has significant health benefits including being beneficial to your blood pressure. In a study focused on a group of New York City stockbrokers, researchers stumbled on an exciting discovery. They found that those stockbrokers who owned a dog or cat had lower blood pressure and heart rate than those who didn’t.
2. Reduces Stress
Stress is unavoidable, but evidence suggests that pets help manage your stress levels better. While studying people doing stressful tasks, researchers found the participants did better when their pet was nearby, even more so than if a partner or loved one was nearby.
3. Improves Your Mood
While many pet owners tout the benefits of cuddling up with your pet there’s actual science to back it up. In a study of men with AIDS, researchers analyzed the self-reporting of those with pets and those without and found a surprisingly significant decrease in depression symptoms by the men who owned a pet.
In general, men with AIDS are three times as likely to report depression symptoms. However, men with AIDS who owned a pet were only two times as likely to report depression symptoms.
4. Help With Loneliness
Every pet owner has had moments where they clung to their pet during bouts of loneliness. It is proven that residents who had animals visiting them reported less loneliness in general. More significant was the fact that interacting with an animal was more impactful than interacting with other people.
Now that we’ve considered the benefits of owning a pet, let’s look at some of the best pocket-sized pets you can bring home.
30 Best Small Pets For Kids And Families
Pets are a great option for families with kids over 5. Pets teach children valuable life lessons including responsibility, patience, compassion, etc. While deciding on the best small pet for your family, you should spend some time researching on the pet that will best suit your needs and your lifestyle. Here are some of the best options for pocket pets.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-care-for pet that isn’t a substantial long-term commitment, a hamster is a great place to start. While they can be a little nippy – the females in particular – they are relatively trainable and will do well if appropriately socialized. To avoid any aggression, get one of the larger breeds of hamsters, like the Syrian.
Keep your hamster in a roomy cage, equipped with tunnels they can explore and a nesting area where they can get some rest.
Pro Tip: Make sure the pen is easy for you to clean as you’ll have to do that regularly over the three years of their life.
2. Guinea Pigs
A part of the rodent family, and a gentle mini-giant, the guinea pig, is an excellent option for kids who are excited about handling their pet. They are less likely to bite and are far more friendly than some of the other rodents. So long as they are held correctly, guinea pigs are safe to handle.
Known for being gentle and sweet, your guinea pig will do well with a companion, so plan on getting two. They live for about five to seven years, giving your kids a little extra time to enjoy pet ownership. But, remember, with a more considerable body comes a more significant appetite, so you’ll have to stay on top of cleaning their cage.
Like hamsters, gerbils are small rodents that are easy to care for, though you won’t get much hands-on time with them. This makes them an excellent pet to watch, though not a good option if your kid often wants to handle their pet. On the other hand, they live about two years, making it a shorter commitment should your kids lose interest.
Gerbils are easy to care for, especially when it comes to feeding. Pellets, food blocks, and, for a special treat, seed mixes will keep your gerbil very content. While they aren’t typically aggressive, gerbils are especially active, making handling a challenge, particularly for young hands.
While your first choice for a family pet may not be a rat, they can make great companions, especially for small kids. Typically calm and laid back, rats are less nippy than some of the smaller rodents and are easy to handle, making them a great option if your kid wants to form a bond with an animal. They are also intelligent and can be trained but they only live for two to three years.
Rats tend to enjoy interactions with their owners, and love toys. They are also easy to care for, requiring a standard rodent diet in the form of food blocks.
With their twitching noses and soft fur, rabbits are undeniably cute. Typically, they are gentle, social animals, though it is wise to maintain adult supervision when your kids handle a rabbit should they get bitten. To reduce the chances of aggression, make sure your rabbit is spayed or neutered.
Rabbits have comparatively long lifespans and can live for eight to twelve years. They can also be litter trained. To keep them happy and healthy, feed them a diet of grass, hay, pellets, and veggies.
A chinchilla is another small but exotic pet option. Like gerbils, these are great pets for watching but not so great for handling. They are notoriously quick-moving and agile, hence better suited for older kids.
Chinchillas require a little more specific care than other rodents. Though they have a standard diet like other rodents, their grooming needs are unique. Instead of water baths, chinchillas require dust baths and you’ll therefore need dust that’s formulated for them. They’ll also need a dust bath two to three times per week.
Despite their spiny exterior, hedgehogs can make loving, affectionate pets. They are known to be friendly, especially if they are socialized at a young age. They live about five to seven years, allowing your children some extra time with them. Hedgehogs are omnivores and will need a regular supply of proteins.
Hedgehogs can be expensive to maintain since they are prone to health issues, especially oral cancer and mites. Despite their tiny size, prepare for some hefty vet bills during the lifetime of your hedgehog. And before you buy one, consider checking your local laws – they are illegal in some states.
Highly affectionate and fun-loving, ferrets make a great family pet. They are pets your children will enjoy interacting with. They need plenty of room to play, whether you keep them indoors or outdoors. But beware: they are known to be mischievous, from burrowing to rearranging your house to escaping their enclosure you can expect your ferret to be up to a lot of mischiefs.
When your ferret tires itself out, it is more than happy to cuddle up for a nap. However, the younger ferrets tend to be a little nippy, but this stems primarily from fear rather than aggression. As they learn to socialize, they will become the ideal small pets.
If you love cuddles, you’ll love your lovebird. With some training, these winged pets will never leave your side. In addition, they have a reputation for being highly affectionate, making them an excellent option for kids looking for a connection with their pets. Lovebirds are also reasonably easy to maintain and do not require much space.
10. Sugar Gliders
With giant eyes and tiny bodies, sugar gliders are simply adorable. They require socialization to lead a happy life and since they are easy to carry in a pouch, they are great travel companions. But check your local laws because they are illegal in some states.
If you want to go with the traditional family pet, you can’t go wrong with a pug. Their wrinkly face and bold personality will win you over in an instant. For a dog, they are very low-maintenance and do not require long daily walks. All they need is a bit of daily playtime. They also do not require extensive grooming, thanks to their short coat.
With over 270 types of turtles, you’re bound to find one that fits your family. If your kids want a pet they won’t have to lose any time soon, there’s no better option than a turtle, which can live up to 30 years. But make sure you pick one that will stay small even when fully grown, or you could end up with a massive pet rather than a pocket-sized one.
The key with turtles is maintaining their tank. Keep the water temperature consistent and clean. You’ll also need to be consistent with their diet. While they don’t need to be fed daily, you’ll need to be on a schedule of feeding them insects, fish, and dark leafy greens four to five times per week.
Those looking for pets off the beaten path can consider getting a snake. A good beginner snake is the corn snake. It grows between two to five feet long and lives on a diet of rodents and quail eggs. While a snake may not be as snuggly as a bunny, they can make excellent pets, especially for a more off-beat kid.
14. British Shorthair Cat
Another traditional option is a cat, and a British Shorthair cat is a perfect choice. They are incredibly low-maintenance and easy-going. Their mellow attitude means they get along with dogs and kids of all ages. They love to stick close and all they require in the name of grooming is a quick brush of their short, dense hair a couple of times per week.
For the ultimate in pet viewing, get a fish. While they are the most hands-off pets, they can still teach your children about responsibility and empathy. You can get a small bowl and a betta fish for a low cost, and it doesn’t take up much room. All you have to remember is to feed them and occasionally clean out their water.
16. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
For those preferring dogs but of the smaller size, you couldn’t pick a better small breed than the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Ultra-gentle and super affectionate, these little dogs are bred to love. They’re especially great for first-time owners because they are obedient, easy to train, and willing to please.
An energetic and playful breed, they’re great for kids. But at the same time, they are perfectly content to be your lap dog. The one downside: they require regular professional grooming, and the costs here can add up. But that’s a small price to pay for a great looking pet that’s so easy to love.
17. Siamese Cat
Another feline option is the Siamese cat. Petite in frame and loud in personality, these cats are the complete package. They’re one of the most affectionate breeds, forming strong bonds with their humans. And because they’re so friendly, they’re great for families with kids.
If you want a pet that will interact with you, a Siamese is the way to go. They are exceptionally vocal, with a tendency to chatter at their humans. They prefer the indoors, and thanks to their diminutive size, they make great apartment pets.
The Chihuahua is your quintessential small dog and for good reason. They weigh as little as two pounds! They also take up very little space and are great for apartment dwellers, mainly because they require little maintenance.
While they can be friendly and sociable, they aren’t great with young kids. However, if your kids are older and know how to handle dogs, they make great family pets. They’re extremely social and cannot be left alone for more than a couple of hours, as they are prone to get extremely anxious.
19. Stick Insects
Also known as stick bugs, you couldn’t ask for a more low-maintenance pet than a stick insect. And because these little guys only grow to 12 inches at max, they are easily kept in small spaces, preferably in a glass container. In addition, they only require that you provide them the right diet of blackberries, oak, rose, and ivy.
20. Hermit Crabs
Though their name suggests a highly introverted species, hermit crabs can be fun, active pets for young kids to watch. Hermit crabs have a lifespan of approximately ten years.
Hermit crabs grow to about six inches, making a five-gallon terrarium the perfect home and an excellent pet for small spaces. Keep your terrarium out of direct sunlight and include about two to three inches of washed aquarium gravel or fine reptile bark to keep your crab comfortable.
Cultivating an ant farm might sound a little boring, but for young children, it’s a way of dipping their toes into pet ownership. Ants are fun to watch especially as they go about building their little world, and the best part is that they require little to no care.
Some guidelines for your ant farm: keep temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees and remember to cover it at night. The one care routine you’ll need to develop is giving them water, either by sticking a wet cotton ball in the ant farm or allowing a few drops to drip. You can also consider teaching your kids to give them small bits of fruits or vegetables regularly.
22. Sea Monkeys
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The sea monkey is a classic small pet that children have loved for decades. They require almost no work on your part other than washing the tank monthly. Your kids will love watching them swim around, and it’s a very minimal investment, as they only live about two years. A little bonus: these tiny water-dwellers are affordable.
While not a traditional pet, your kids will love raising butterflies. As they watch the caterpillar turn into the beautiful flying insect with brilliant wings, they’ll learn science-backed lessons. This process typically takes about six to eight months, so it’s also a great lesson in patience.
To keep caterpillars, you simply need a plant they can feed on and some twigs for them to explore. Keeping them in a large mason jar is a common practice as that provides a great viewing window as they form their cocoon.
24. Praying Mantis
Another uncommon pet is the praying mantis. Growing to between one to six inches and with a lifespan of one year, they are an extremely low-maintenance pet that your child can easily keep in their room. All you need is a small tank that’s about two times as wide and three times as tall as your praying mantis.
To feed your praying mantis, you’ll need to stock up on fruit flies, smaller mantids, moths, and houseflies. You can also offer them the occasional cricket or mealworm if they are a larger mantis. The best part about a praying mantis: you can catch one in the yard!
Growing about three to eight inches in length and living two to six years, a scorpion might not be the first creature you think of when considering bringing home a pet. However, they are a great option if you don’t want too much responsibility on your hand but want to teach your children how to care for a pet.
Every other day, feed them crickets, small mealworms, or wax worms, and they’re happy. You’ll need to pay attention to their environment. Since scorpions originated in the desert, you’ll need to keep their tank between 80 and 90 degrees at all times.
If your kids love creepy crawlies, they’ll love having a pet tarantula. The males grow to about two to ten inches and can live up to seven years, giving your children plenty of time to learn and care for their eight-legged pet.
Caring for them is relatively easy, although they require live insects as part of their diet. Luckily you can easily purchase crickets, mealworms, super worms, and roaches from many pet stores. Remember to keep their tank in the dark and away from the sun.
27. Leopard Geckos
If you want something that’s lower maintenance than a hamster or a guinea pig but has a little more personality than a tarantula, you might want a leopard gecko. They are a docile breed and easy to get along with.
To ensure their comfort, keep a maximum of two to three geckos per 15 to 20-gallon tank. They’ll be happy with a diet of crickets, wax worms, and mealworms. Interestingly, these little reptiles can live for as long as much as 20 years, so they are a bit more of a commitment than you might initially think.
Slow-moving and unique, snails are pets that kids of any age can enjoy. They’re great to watch but not the best to handle. They’ll do best in a clear terrarium that has a couple of inches of soil. Only keep a couple of snails in one tank to avoid overcrowding. And don’t forget to clean the tank once per week to remove any mucus trails.
Like any other pet, you have to feed your snails, and they’ll enjoy things you likely already have in your kitchen. Apples and carrots are great and you can also give them cucumbers with chalk to help with digestion or eggshells for calcium to strengthen their shells.
29. Dwarf Frogs
A dwarf frog makes for a fun pet for any kid. The sporadic hopping and the unique nature of the dwarf frog are brag-worthy. They only grow to about 1 ½ – inch but can live up to five years. They live on a diet of blood worms, brine shrimp, and frozen Mysis shrimp, so you’ll want to stock up.
Keep your dwarf frogs in an aquarium with some water. Check the water quality at least once per week and change it every two to four weeks to keep your dwarf frogs healthy. If you want to add diversity to your aquarium, add a betta fish. The two species get along well.
30. Singapura Cats
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The smallest cat breed, the Singapura, might be tiny, but it’s full of personality, spunk, and a fun-loving attitude. Generally a friendly breed, they make great family pets. In addition, they’re naturally curious and playful, the perfect attributes for families with kids.
These tiny kitties always do their best when they have consistent, regular human interaction. However, they don’t come cheap. A purebred Singapura can cost $800 or more so consider a Singapura-mix for a great personality and small size at a lower price point.