Kids are fascinated by reptiles, but not all reptiles make good pets for children. Understanding what reptiles need is the first step in choosing a good snake, turtle or lizard for a child's pet, and there are several types of reptiles that can be ideal for young pet owners.
Before Buying a Reptile
A child may love reptiles, but before opting for a reptilian pet, it is important to understand some basic characteristics of reptiles in order to choose an appropriate pet.
- Adult Size: Many reptiles hatch as cute, tiny creatures, but not all of them stay small sizes that are manageable by kids. Not only can reptiles grow to large, heavy sizes, but as they mature they will need larger, stronger cages and more overall space. If that is not available, a reptile may not be the best pet choice.
- Lifespan: Reptiles can live for many years, but children might lose interest in their pets long before the animals die a natural death. Furthermore, children's interests change as they mature, and once they are ready to leave home for college, the military or their first apartment, they may not be able to take a large pet reptile along.
- Play Expectations: Children often want interactive pets they can play with and that will respond to them by learning tricks or playing games, but reptiles often do best when left alone or with only minimal interaction. If a child really wants a pet they can play with, a reptile isn't the best choice.
Best Reptiles for Kids
Just like any animal, some reptiles are more difficult to manage in captivity than others, and different care needs and personalities can make some reptiles more suitable as children's pets. The top types of reptiles that can be good pets for kids include…
- Ball pythons
- Bearded dragons
- Corn snakes
- King snakes
- Leopard geckos
- Painted turtles
- Red-footed tortoises
- Russian tortoises
Buying a Pet Reptile
No matter what type of reptile you choose for a child's pet, there are some steps that can make it easier for kids to be responsible reptile owners.
- Discuss Responsibility: Before adopting any pet, parents should discuss the child's responsibilities for caring for the animal, cleaning its tank or cage and feeding it. At the same time, discuss consequences if the child does not take care of their pet properly.
- Study the Pet: Before bringing the pet home, take time to research its growth, diet, health concerns, habits and behavior. Help the child select library books or visit websites to learn about their pet, and get in touch with an appropriate veterinarian for emergency care.
- Choose the Best Breeder: Purchase the pet from a reputable breeder who has healthy, captive-bred animals that are used to human care and handling. If possible, ask to see the reptile's parents or learn about its breeding history to be sure it is healthy.
By taking the right steps to choose the best reptile for a child's pet and ensure they are ready for the responsibility of pet ownership, it can be easy to add a reptilian member to any family.