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SMALLPET / health & care

Teaching Children to Care for Small Pets

Keep an eye on kids around new pets


Guinea pigs, rats, rabbits and other little creatures can be nice first-time pets for children. The key to a happy, healthy, safe relationship between kids and their pet is to establish some sensible guidelines.

Bringing your small pet home

  • Give small pets a couple of days to adjust and acclimate before handling them or letting children handle them.
  • During the adjustment period, encourage your kids to talk to the small pets, offer them food and gently stroke their pet’s head while they eat.
  • Don’t force the relationship! If small pets hide in their cage, give them some space and don’t force them out. They’ll come around eventually.

Everyday pet care: put an adult in charge

  • Though this may be your child’s pet, an adult should always assume the primary responsibility for any pet’s health, feeding and well-being.
  • The lower the stress of a pet’s environment, the more easygoing the pet will be. Ask your kids to speak softly and move gently around their pet, and remind them that they’re responsible for making sure their friends do the same.
  • Be sure your children do not take the small pet out of the cage without adult supervision. Establish a rule that they don’t put the pet on any high surface from which they might fall.
  • Make sure kids have an active role in their pet’s care! This can be as simple as assisting with chores like cleaning out the cage. Give them more responsibility as they gain maturity and experience.

How to handle a small pet

  • Children older than 8-years-old are mature enough to try holding a small pet. Be sure first demonstrate how to do it properly. Kids should use two hands to pick up the pet, holding the pet firmly but gently, and close to their chest or lap so the pet feels secure.
  • Kids too young to safely hold small pets can still interact with them. Encourage your child to pet or groom small pets while you’re holding them.