Too much to do, too little time
If everything is go, go, go in your house, then you need pets that don’t add to the general mayhem or add extra work to your already busy life. Fish, some reptiles and amphibians might be the right place to start. Needing a fairly low level of maintenance, even young children can get involved in their care (with supervision). All that is needed is a daily feed, a weekly clean and generally ensuring they are safe. And watching fish is even said to lower blood pressure and aid relaxation. There are a lot of options available: for example, freshwater fish tanks are easier to maintain than saltwater ones, so it is worth doing some research before buying.
Wheezes and sneezes
If you or your child is allergic to pet hair, saliva or urine, it may be best just to avoid keeping a pet altogether. However, if that will leave you all feeling sad, the best bets, maybe reptiles, and fish. If you are desperate for something fluffy, guinea pigs and hamsters are a good bet so long as you keep their cages clean. For those prepared to risk a cat or a dog, here are some suggestions: poodles and poodle hybrids, schnauzers and Maltese are all good canine choices as they tend to shed less hair and dander (flakes of skin) or need frequent bathing. Some people with cat allergies can tolerate Cornish and Devon rexes and Sphynxes. This may be because the rexes have very short, fine hair and the Sphynx has almost no hair at all.
All the time in the world
Dogs are a man’s best friend, but can take up a lot of time. They need training, they need walking and you need to pick up their poo – which, having just got your child out of nappies, may not be appealing. Many breeds also absolutely hate being left on their own all day, so are best not owned by families where both parents are working. If, however, you have the time to take on the responsibility, dogs with good temperaments include golden and Labrador retrievers, Welsh corgis, boxers, collies, Irish setters and whippets.
If you have lots of space, every little girl’s dream can be turned into reality. At the very least a pony needs a grassy field with safe fencing and an unlimited supply of fresh water, minerals and salt, as well as shelter and companionship (which can mean another pony or even a donkey sheep or goat). The British Horse Society recommends one to one-and-a-half acres per pony, so that’s a very, very large garden! A pony also takes up lots of time, too.
If space is at a premium, then the smaller caged animals are ideal. A hamster is a great first pet as they are easy to care for and, though nocturnal, they can be trained to be awake at suitable times. They do still need watering, feeding and cleaning, but in a solid-sided cage, they’ll make almost no mess and they take up very little room – no need for walkies here. There are lots of different sorts of hamster available, so it’s a good idea to think about just how much effort you’re happy to put in – long-haired varieties do need grooming. Male hamsters are supposed to be more friendly and docile, but females are supposed to have more character.