Having a pet to learn about, observe and care for is a wonderful thing for any homeschool family to experience and choosing which one that is the best fit, can take many hours of pondering and research. I wanted to share with you guys today, our experience with this very thing.
So, my kids learned about how their auntie’s other niece and nephew who live in Germany, had just recently got two bunnies as pets. They were really curious about the idea of having a bunny. With the topic of ‘what kind of pet would you like to have?’, they each responded with different pets. “BIRD! FISH BUNNY!” Of course, my three unique and independent thinkers would, of course, be wanting completely different pets.
I had a few thoughts in my mind, first was, ‘let’s get our youngest fully potty trained before we embark on this again’, and the second was, ‘Not till your 12 son!’ to quote Willy Wonka. Because of our latest attempt with a puppy last year, and how that ended sadly with us having to re-home her, (I did not do a lot of posts about her), we wanted to really take our time to choose. Well, my husband and I did. The kids would have been happy with 3 different pets at the end of that first day.
Make a List of the Pros and Con’s
So, I had us all look up all the pros and cons for different types of animals over the course of few weeks, and spent a 3 hour visit in a local pet store, and still came out empty handed (with three kids all wanting to leave with a pet, this really was one of the hardest things I ever did) but, I reminded them that it really is a huge decision and we need to know all the facts before we jump in! I was leaning towards gerbils, my daughter wanted a hamster or a guinea pig and the boys wanted a fish and a bird. Needless to say, they apparently all wanted to own a zoo by the end of the week!
What pet would be good for a family with 3 kids under the age of 7, the youngest being 4?
We made a list of a variety of known pets that were small and less maintenance than dogs. You may note that a cat is not on the list, mainly because of allergies.
- guinea pigs
We watched so many YouTube videos on all of these different animals, and I will briefly explain what we learned about Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters and Gerbils for you, as those were the ones we researched the most.
Rabbits: are friendly, but shed, need lots of space, a variety of food, fresh veg, and pellets. They do require outdoor run space and if they do not have those things, can develop behavior issues. They also prefer not to be held. They can live alone, but can also live with other rabbits. They may need trips to the vet as well.
Guinea Pigs: are cute, cuddly, and enjoy being held and do form an emotional bond with the owner when adopted young. They require a large space as well, even though a lot of pet stores say small is OK, but it really is not ideal. They also really need to be with fellow guinea pigs, like a herd. The more the better really, say around 2-5. (some people have even more than that) Needless to say, if you did go down that road, it would be a little bit endless on the cost. They do require visits to the vet, nails clipped, and even bathing, hair brushing and they shed (some breeds more than others). They also need to be able to eat throughout the day, munching on Hay, fresh herbs, even flowers if you are so inclined, and other food sources. They can be litter trained, the simplest way is to have food in a mounted up trough right in the corner area that you would have them go to the bathroom. Easier cleanup. You need to clean their cages DAILY, as they poo and pee a lot, and that adds up in the cost and time for care. You can use fleece liners for bedding, or other bedding material, but stay away from PINE or anything high in DUST. They also enjoy hiding, so you will need a few tunnels or houses for them. Their teeth grow constantly like a beavers teeth, so they need to chew a lot, as well as hamsters.
Hamsters: are cute, can be handled, are clever and can be potty trained. They require a larger living space then pet stores say as well, however many live in them and still seem to be alright. The majority of the advice I found was bigger the better when it comes to square footage of floor space. They run up to 5 miles each night, and they are nocturnal, which of course means they sleep in the day, and are awake in the evenings and in the middle of the night. They like to live alone because they are territorial. Because they territorial, providing them with a large enough living space, will allow them to become less aggressive when you enter their space, and try to interact with them, pick them up from underneath (not from above like a bird) and understand that they are a PREY animal, so they will desire to hide. In fact, they like to tunnel and burrow and store food in their houses. There are lots of toys, treats, houses and accessories on the market for hamsters, and you can get a little overwhelmed with what it best. A lot of the time it is best to wait and see what your hamster is like, but usually, you have to just test things out and see. A large enough wheel is very important, if not also a flying saucer as well. Multiple house options and clean water and food daily is needed. Cage/tank cleaning is a daily, weekly, and monthly thing, depending on the size of the habitat and if they are potty trained to one section of the tank. They like to keep themselves clean, and having access to a sand bath is helpful for them to stay clean. Their teeth grow constantly like a beavers teeth, so they need to chew a lot as well as guinea pigs.
Gerbils: are cute, have a tail, so they look like a rat and hamster in one, so people who do not like the idea of rats, my not really like gerbils. But, they are very busy and active little creatures, who are awake in the day, unlike hamsters, and they love to dig and tunnel. Because of that, they can be hard to find. It depends on what habitat size tank you have for them to live in and what digging material you use. Like most advice I found online, larger is better. They require at least 2 gerbils adopted together, from the same litter. I saw owners with 3, and that was a nice number. (They did have a leader in the pack as it where, so they do have the strongest is boss sort of thing) But, with a larger habitat, you can have the tank divided between, digging and tunneling, and then a flat area for eating, and running around. A lot of pet stores did not have all the information, and what I found was that they do need a wheel to run on, they do need a flat space to come up from digging, and they do like to store their food away, so the tunnels need to be cleaned out every month, for sure. They can be trained to trust you, and allow you to pick them up, and be handled, like a hamster. This takes time and treats. All the gerbils we saw at pet stores simply wanted to run away, but they were young and not trained. They are cleaner then hamsters, and poop a lot less. They keep themselves clean and enjoy a sand bath as well. They are more active them most hamsters, and jump, climb and dig a lot more, so they can be a lot more entertaining.
All in all, I was really leaning toward Gerbils, as I liked that they were entertaining, less messy, and could be trained to be held like hamsters. But of course, the kids all wanted different animals too. What were we to do? We just waited it out to be honest. Took multiple trips to pet stores, held as many as we could and tried to make our decision wisely.
What did we choose?
Drum roll, please! We finally decided that a Hamster would be the best one for us. My boys liked the idea of a fish or a bird, but we had to start with one at a time (if not only) and my daughter was still back and forth on hamster vs Guinea Pig (so to help that decision, we actually babysat a guinea pig for a week, and realized it was so much work, we almost wanted to cry). So, hamster it was. But, we did not go get one that day. Nope. We had, even more, waiting to do!
But, by this time my kids were wondering if we were just going to watch other people’s hamsters or if we would ever get our own. I told them, if they are patient it will be worth it.
So, then I continued to dive deeper into all the hamster videos on YouTube, in hopes of learning more about Hamsters. I soon realized that I too was really excited about getting a hamster, the new pet for our family. I did have the kids draw out pictures of what it would look like for them and their pet, what they might need to do for the pet. This was a good homeschool activity, and it was a way for them to put to paper all the things we had learned. I am not going to lie, my youngest was still a bit sad we did not come home with a bird, but in reality, not everyone is going to love the final decision and you really need to be solid on the decision because as the mom with young kids, you will be the one taking care of the animal and showing them how to do things. If it lives long enough (hope and pray) they will become old enough to start doing it all on their own.
Now, off to the Store to build ourselves a Hamster Tank!
I will be sharing with you guys more about our little Hamster, as well as our DIY Hamster Tank and all the accessories! Follow us on Instagram as well to stay up to date with all the fun.
I hope this information has been helpful to you if you are researching a new pet for your family, or yourself.
Till next time,
Breath deeply and enjoy your journey,