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that's not what it says in the recently discovered Dr. Seuss book, "What Pet
Should I Get?" but imagine how useful that would be! As parents, we often succumb to our
children's desperate desire (aka constant whining) for cute critters without
proper research. Many pets will be with
us for years, so understanding what's really involved in their care and feeding
matter how much we tell ourselves that animals teach kids responsibility, let's
be honest about who's really going to be keeping them alive: us. So we've reached out to real moms who gave us
the straight, um, poop on their pets. Their answers may surprise you:
The good:Guinea pigs are "very
cute and smart," said Melissa W., who compared them to having small dogs. "They love to come out and play and interact
with the family." Also, they can eat fruits and vegetables, "So scraps are
easily disposed of via guinea pigs!"
The bad: If they don't get enough vitamin C (through drops and fresh fruit,) guinea pigs can develop health
problems. "One of ours broke a tooth, which led to an abscess and we had to put
him to sleep. For several thousand dollars, he could have had dental surgery. We
decided to pass on that."
The good: When Jamie G. got a gecko for her lizard-loving preschooler, she had no idea
they'd be such great roommates. "The
gecko needs two lights in his cage—one for daytime and one at night. I think my son actually likes the fact that
the lizard needs the light on at night. It's like a nightlight for both of
them." Plus, watching the gecko change color from green to brown has been a
fascinating lesson in camouflage. "Sometimes we can't even find him because he
hides so well."
The bad: Geckos eat live crickets, which require their
own cage, water and food. "Crickets have a pretty short life span," said
Jamie. "So I sometimes have to go to the pet store multiple times a week to get
The good:Hamsters are easy to care for
(they eat hamster feed) and make sweet companions for kids, said Stephanie T. "My
three-year-old son has the cage right next to his bed, so watching the hamster helps
him fall asleep."
The bad: "The hamster started using his little wheel as
storage for food, so when he runs on the wheel, food (and poo) fling
everywhere. We worry about the little poo bits interacting with a toddler who
doesn't like to wash his hands."
The good: A
garter snake is a low maintenance pet, said Amy L., since they only need
to eat once a week and don't require much in the way of companionship. That means the family can take a trip without
worrying about a pet sitter. And her seven-year-old son thinks snakes are very cool.
The bad: The snake eats six live goldfish at each feeding. "My
kids love watching it. But I don't like
to do it," said Amy. Also, the snake got
out once, which wasn't a great day for mom.
The good: Small, soft and quiet, bunnies make a great first pet—especially for girls, said
mother of two Samantha M. "They tolerate
dress up, buggy rides and cradle rocks." Plus, their poop is easy to clean up.
They're fragile. "One got left in the
sun and overheated," said Samantha. "Another
got hot coffee spilled on it" and didn't make it. As the mom of a bunny owner, you might be
having that life and death talk sooner than you think.
The good: Children find them fascinating, says
Gina B. "My kids never got tired of
wanting to help feed him and watching him eat. (His carnivorous diet: dried and
fresh mealworms, crickets and live minnows that were poured into his
aquarium.) It was fun to watch the
turtle swim after the fish and capture them."
The bad: "Turtles can carry
dangerous bacteria so they aren't really a pet you hold and play with a lot," said Gina. "They
are more the kind of pet you watch from a distance. If you do hold it, you must
was your hands immediately." And if hygiene concerns, feeding
expenses and tank cleaning bother you, they're going to bother you for a long time, as pet turtles can live 40 years or more—way past your kids heading to
The good:Goldfish are easy and not much
of a commitment, yet kids connect with them. "My daughter talks to her fish," said Carrie B. "I think she likes
having him around."
The bad: Carrie thought feeding the fish
was a good chore for her five-year-old, but accidental overfeeding led to his
premature demise. (They got a new one.) Also, cleaning out the fish tank is "so gross"
that Carrie had to assign that task to her husband.
The good:Cats are gentle and cuddly pals who will usually put up with a fair
amount of awkward petting and chasing from kids that would never fly with
adults. "My 3-year-old loves to help me
feed the cats," said Lisa H. "He scoops
out the food from the bag and puts it in the dish. And he loves to yell at
Tigger when he's scratching the
couch. I think it makes him feel good that there's someone smaller than him in
the house who makes mistakes too."
The bad: The litter box is a
potential hazard, since cat poop carries bacteria. Lisa maintains a strict "no touching" rule
with her son, so the weekly clean-out is all on her.
The good: Birds are chatty companions,
which kids enjoy, and parents, well… tolerate. "My daughter has a bird named Princess that she loves,"
said Lisa M. "I call her Satan because she tweets
whenever she hears my daughter (she even knows the sound of her bedroom door
closing) so we have a good amount of tweeting."
The bad: Caregiving is fairly involved, including daily
feeds, weekly cage cleaning, trimming nails and feathers, and giving mist baths. "I would not recommend a bird for a
young child," said Lisa, who also used to work at a pet shop. "Smaller birds tend to be nervous and require
a confident handler." They also do not-so-cute things like bite and pull out their own feathers under stress. And since
a bird usually bonds to one person—its primary caregiver—a small child may
end up feeling ignored.
good: It's not exactly breaking news that Man's Best Friend makes a great pet
for kids. They're protective, loving and
playful, plus they're better than a Dustbuster at cleaning up under the dinner
table. For Lauren L., the family dog is
practically a babysitter. "The dog is real company. The kids never feel alone."
The bad: Many dogs aren't obedience school
valedictorians. As Lauren put it, "He makes a land mine of shit all over the lawn. He terrorizes the
cats, eats food off the table if we leave it unattended and barks to defend the
house. He has also single-handedly destroyed $4000 worth of orthodontic
appliances. He's a delicious pain in the ass."