8 Best Family Pets When You’re Thinking of Adopting

By Willow Breckenridge | Jan 1, 2021

Are you thinking of adding a furry or finned family member to your entourage? If so, you have many decisions to make — starting with what kind of critter to bless with a home. 

Pets offer unconditional love and the chance to teach your children about responsibility. However, you want their first experience to be positive if you hope to foster a lifelong love of animals. Here are eight of the best family pets to consider adopting for life. 

1. Goldfish

Please don’t think of goldfish as county fair prizes. These creatures have cognitive abilities that match or exceed that of non-human primates, so please treat them with the love and respect they deserve. 

That said, goldfish are a snap to care for, making them the ideal starter pet for many families. You’ll need a suitable tank — contrary to many graphic artist’s interpretations, these creatures do best when they have fresh oxygenated water to call home. While circulation provides ample air in the wild, bowls have too small a surface area — you need a filter and oxygen stone to keep your fish healthy. 

2. Hamsters

Hamsters are another ideal starter pet because they are inexpensive and live in a cage — minimizing mess. However, please be aware that you will need to keep their enclosure clean. You’ll need to change their bedding each week and occasionally wipe the entire pen down with soapy water. 

Many pet parents buy these critters in pairs but use caution. If you get a male and a female, they will reproduce. Hamsters occasionally will eat their young, and it’s best if you have a separate enclosure for the male after birth. 

3. Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs make ideal pets because they skirt the line between larger animals and tiny critters. While you wouldn’t want to let a hamster roam free in your living room for fear it would dart under furniture, it’s okay to bring a supervised guinea pig out to play. 

Like hamsters, guinea pigs require a secure enclosure to sleep. Making your children keep the pen clean is a wise way to teach them both empathy and responsibility. 

4. Rabbits

Like cats, rabbits can learn to respond to their names and simple commands. Some pet parents even litter train their bunnies so that they can let them roam without finding poop pellets in corners. 

It’s crucial to note that rabbits can live nearly as long as domestic dogs or cats — please don’t adopt one on a whim for Easter. Far too many end up in shelters only to be euthanized. While a one to two-year lifespan is common in the wild, bunnies can live for up to 12 years in captivity. 

5. Cats

When you think about traditional pets, kitties probably come to mind right after puppies. Indeed, the number of pet cats supersedes that of canine companions in America, ranking second in pet choice only after fish. Part of the popularity stems from multi-cat households, which are far more common than those with one Fido, but that’s not the only reason they rank highly. 

Cats are fairly self-sufficient — most folks find it far less burdensome to scoop a litter box each day than to take a dog on multiple walks. They’re also intelligent, with some learning how to play games like fetch. 

If you tend to travel frequently, please consider adopting a pair of kitties instead of only one. While cats are famous for their independence, they do get separation anxiety and can become destructive if left alone too often. 

6. Dogs 

What would life be like without the faithful family Fido? Many folks gravitate toward dogs to teach their children responsibility, and if you don’t mind picking up the slack, a canine companion comes in handy. 

Even small dogs serve as burglar alarms — smaller breeds often bark more when the postman or a suspicious individual comes calling. Larger models can make excellent watchdogs and might help you feel more secure if you live in a high-crime area. 

Make sure the breed you choose is suited for your lifestyle. Do your research. You might be surprised to learn that Great Danes make excellent apartment dogs despite their massive size, while a smaller Jack Russell will go bonkers if cooped up for too long. 

7. Reptiles 

Reptiles make a striking choice for a first family pet. However, if you have a budding herpetologist in the family, a lizard or snake might be the ideal responsibility teaching tool and companion. 

Before opting for this route, make sure you’re okay with your pet’s preferred form of feed. While many snakes and reptiles will eat frozen mice, for example, some will only go for live creatures. If you are squeamish about the life cycle, consider a different species. 

If you have the acreage and the money to care for it, you could adopt the pony or horse of your child’s dream. Just make sure you can comfortably afford the financial commitment. 

The folks at the University of Maine surveyed horse owners and found that the average cost of upkeep rings in at nearly $4,000 per year. That figure is the equivalent of taking on another car payment each month. However, if money is no object, your kids can enjoy a fantastic workout while learning to ride. 

Which of These 8 Family Pets Is Right for Your First Critter?

Which of the eight best family pets above is right to add to your home? Talk with your kids and partner and add a little more love to your circle today. 

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