Reptiles make excellent first pets for kids. The animals don’t take much space, and their needs are simple. They are also fun, adorable, and intriguing pets that provide exceptional companionship hard to find in other pets. The Insurance Information Institute statistics show that close to 4.5 million households own reptile pets in America in 2020.
So, are reptiles good pets for kids? Absolutely, yes. These scaly friends will sure get your kids stay excited, preoccupied, and out of trouble. However, when adding a new member to the family, you must choose a pet that your child can easily commit to. There are several types of reptiles with varying levels of care needs. If you are in a dilemma about what pet to get your kid, this article will help you arrive at the right decision.
The best reptile pets for kids
There are several types of pet reptiles, and it can be a daunting task settling on the ideal option for your kid. The American Veterinary Medical Association, however, advises that you go for a docile reptile, that is easy to manage, and fits your family, home and kid’s lifestyle. Additionally, ensure you bring home a reptile that does better with a lot of handling.
Here are our top picks for reptiles that will interest kids of all ages:
Leopard geckos are passive, hardy, and easy to handle and care for. They present your kids with the best opportunity to learn how to care for living creatures. Their vocal cords, which allow them to bark and squeak, will interest the young child. The other beautiful thing about this pet is that it tolerates a lot of handling. However, your kid should be taught how to take care of and handle the pet. They respond well to cautious handling, and the child should avoid grabbing them by the tail as this will frighten the pet to cause the tail to detach.
Leopard geckos are insectivorous, and your kid will derive a lot of fun feeding them on wax worms, roaches, super worms, and crickets. When feeding, ensure you spray insects with ideal vitamins and calcium supplements. Calcium is crucial to prevent common metabolic bone diseases. The right housing for the pet should be adequately sealed and escape-proof. The young geckos can be housed in a 10-gallon cage while the adult reptiles should be housed in 20 L cages. Provide the pet with substrates to hold some humidity. Ideal temperatures to create a thermal gradient should be from 75 to 80 degrees on the cooler side and 85 degrees on the warmer side. Although the leopard geckos don’t need UVA/UVB to survive, the light boosts their immune system and should be provided.
The crested gecko comes in diverse colors and patterns that will intrigue the young mind. It is easy to keep and care pet that is ideal for newbies. The crested geckos have individual personalities, and it is vital to pay close attention to the pet during the initial days in your home to know how best to care for them.
The pets tolerate moderate levels of handling. However, your child should learn to handle the reptile gently without dropping them on hard surfaces. The child should also allow them to walk on or through their hands. When building a habitat, remember the pets are highly sensitive to extreme temperatures. You should, therefore, be committed to mist the habitat to achieve ideal humidity that enables the reptile to smell food and water on the leaves and walls. Feeding the crested gecko is fun and easy. They love crickets, roaches, super worms, and crickets. You can also feed the reptile with various types of fruits. An adult crested gecko should be fed two to three times a week, while the baby geckos should be fed five daily. Make sure to spray their food with ideal vitamin and calcium supplements. Like their cousins the leopard gecko, hatchlings should be housed in a 10 L cages while the adults should be housed in 20 L cages. You should not expose the pet to temperatures above 80 degrees. Besides, ensure you provide sufficient humidity inside the cages at all times.
Bearded dragons are great pet options for the kids. The reptiles are docile, friendly, and adaptable and require low maintenance needs. The pets are so friendly that your kids can dress them up for birthday parties and other celebrations. They are also very hardy, thus ideal durable beginner reptiles for the kids. The right housing for the pet should be escape-proof and adequately sealed. A young dragon should be handled gently as the pet tends to be defensive or nervous. However, once they get used to handling, they become very docile and personable. The young dragons can be housed in 20 L cages while the adult pets should be housed in a 40L cages. You should also provide an ideal substrate on the floor of the housing.
Additionally, teach the kid to safely soak the pet in lukewarm water for about 20 minutes each week. You should also provide ideal hiding places using small rocks, driftwoods, or artificial foliage. The right temperature for your pet ranges between 75-80°C on the cooler side and 85-95°C on the warm side. Importantly, ensure you provide an ample basking area and UVB lighting that ensures your pet’s immune system is enhanced. Let the kid feed the dragon with ideal insects such as roaches, super worms, mealworms, and crickets. Make sure you spray their food with ideal vitamin and calcium supplements. Additionally, they also provide a diverse mixture of chopped vegetables, including beans, collard greens, peas, carrots, or dandelion greens.
Corn snakes are quite popular with both pet beginners and experienced pet owners. The snakes that grow to a length of 5.5 inches are also ideal pet choices for the children. They are hardy animals with simple needs. They also come in an array of striking colors and patterns. The young snakes can be initially defensive or nervous when handled. The kids should be taught to handle them gently while deliberately taking necessary precautions not to drop them down.
However, as they grow older, the snakes will get used to handling. The hatchlings should be fed on pinkie mice for up to 7 times a week. The adult pets can be fed on adult mice once a week. It is advisable to feed the snakes frozen-thawed rodents over live mice because they are safer and allow you to keep large quantities to cover more weeks. The right habitat for this pet should be appropriately sealed and escape-proof. The young corn snakes can be housed in a 10-gallon cage while the adult pets should be housed in 40L cages. You should provide an ideal substrate on the floor to enable the pet to burrow and hide. Ensure to include a water bowl that maintains the humidity in the cages. You should also create a thermal gradient temperature of 75 to 82 °C on the cooler side and 80 to 85 d°C on the warmer side. Besides, provide an ideal basking area and UVA/UVB light to enhance the pet’s immune system.
The Russian tortoise has a gentle demeanor that makes them great pets for the kids. Besides, they are hardy, easy to care for, and are unafraid of humans. They are also quite friendly and will tolerate extensive handling and can quickly get used to the child’s presence. The pets are desert species that thrive in warm habitats. If you live in warm climates, you can ideally house them outside. In more temperate zones, the pets should be housed in well-ventilated glass tanks.
It is important to ensure the enclosures has opaque sides to prevent the pet from bumping into the tank walls. You can use the standard bulbs to provide heat. You can also use the infrared red heat bulbs to provide ideal basking temperatures of 95 to 100 degrees. Besides, ensure the pet receives adequate amounts of UVB light to synthesize vitamin D3 and proper metabolism of dietary calcium. The pets love to dig and burrow, subsequently, ensure you provide an ideal deep substrate from pelleted paper products and shredded papers. Although the pets require less water, ensure to soak them a few times each week in shallow warm water to keep them well hydrated. The Russian tortoise is a herbivorous reptile that eats a diverse variety of dark leafy greens such as collards, carrot tops, kale, beet greens, and bell peppers. You can also supplement this diet with appropriate commercial tortoise diets sold in pet shops near you. Ensure you sprinkle the food with calcium powder and multivitamin supplements.
Ball pythons are shy and smaller in sizes. They come in diverse color variations that will fascinate your kids. The pets don’t have complex tank needs, and thus your kids will enjoy taking care of them. The right size of the baby ball python habitat should be at least a 20 L tank. The adult python should be housed in a 40 L tank. Ensure you provide an ideal substrate of aspen shavings, dampened sphagnum moss or coconut fiber bedding.
You should also provide a hiding area and a branch to climb on. Additionally, maintain a humidity of between 40 to 60% inside the tank. You should increase the percentage during the shedding period. You should also provide 8 to 12 hours of light daily and infrared light at night. Feed the snakes appropriately sized frozen rodents that should be warmed to room temperature. The baby ball pythons should be fed once a week while the adult pythons fed every one or two weeks. You should also provide fresh, clean chlorine-free water for the pet. Besides, ensure you sprinkle the food with calcium and multivitamin supplements.
Tips to Keeping Your Kids Safe with Reptiles
Although reptiles make excellent pets, they may also pose unique safety risks for your children. It is essential that your children develop good handling habits at a young age. The children should be taught to treat pets with the utmost respect.
Here are great tips to help ensure your kid’s safety with the reptiles:
Keep reptiles inside their cages.
If your kid is below five years old, you must house the reptiles in their enclosures at all times.
CDC recommends that children under five years avoid contact with reptiles such as lizards, snakes, and turtles. Children should also be discouraged from eating or drinking while handling reptiles, reptile tanks, or reptile equipment. Several reptiles may carry the salmonella bacteria, which can cause severe disease in humans. The young children have a weaker immune system and are more susceptible to the disease. The bacteria can be spread through contact with fecal matter on the reptile’s skin. If you notice any sign of salmonellae attacks such as fever, diarrhea, severe nausea, or abdominal pains, take your child to the doctor immediately.
Pick the right reptile for the child.
Few reptiles enjoy being handled by humans, especially young children. However, some species of reptiles such as pet snakes love the handling and are tolerant of children.
Besides, Small snakes have no claws and rarely bite. On the other hand, very few species of lizards will tolerate handling. Among the lizard species, geckos are very kid-friendly. Chameleons, iguanas, and frogs are the least ideal pet reptiles for the kids. Before you bring home any pet, ensure you conduct thorough research on the best reptile that will present the kids’ least safety risks.
Teach them proper handling techniques
Children need to be taught the importance of respecting their pets right from the beginning. The kids should not squeeze, pull, or shake the reptiles. Aggressive behavior towards reptiles may agitate and force them to react violently in self-defense. A provoked reptile can scratch or bite the child. If the particular reptile in your home is poisonous, ensure you take the necessary precautions of locking it up and away from young children.
Trim the claws
Although reptiles are less receptive to having their claws trimmed, doing so will prevent your young child from being scratched. Clipping of the claws using an ideal tool is the best way to deal with sharp claws. You can also have the animal’s nails trimmed by a professional if you don’t know how to do it safely. Don’t share your nail clipper with the pet reptile.
Constant washing of hands
Whenever your children touch their pets, they should wash their hands with warm soapy water. Ensure you instill hand washing habits in your children right from the beginning. Proper handwashing should take not less than 20 seconds. This is to ensure that all germs and salmonella bacteria are killed to prevent the spread of diseases. You should also frequently clean the reptile cages to get rid of the build-up of fecal matter in the substrate that can be more dangerous with time. Ensure to dispose of the waste safely.
Keep reptiles off the kitchen.
The reptiles should never be allowed to access areas where the food is prepared or served. Keep the pet off areas like kitchen tables outdoor grills or eating counter tops. This will guarantee that no disease is spread. It also ensures that the pet is kept safe from fire and other sharp kitchen appliances. Children should not also be allowed to share food or drinks with the reptiles.
Wash wounds from scratches or bites.
Although it rarely happens, pet reptiles can bite or scratch if they are mishandled, provoked, or disturbed.
If the reptile scratches or bites a child, use warm running water to wash the wound immediately. You should also dry the wound before covering it with a plaster. Afterwards, take the child to the doctor.
Can kids play with reptiles pets?
Kids can play safely with some reptiles. However, kids under five years and those with weak immune systems should not handle reptiles. Nevertheless, as a parent, you should teach the kids the necessary precautions to keep them safe when playing with the reptile. These precautions may include:
- Kids should be allowed to play only with pets who tolerate a lot of handling.
- The younger kids may need to Gear up when playing with the reptiles, eg. Wearing of hand gloves before the kid handles the pet
- The kids should be taught to wash their hands with warm soapy water after pet handling.
- Children should be discouraged from eating or drinking while handling or playing with the pet.
FAQ’s about Reptiles and Kids
Why should my kid have a pet reptile?
Reptiles make such great pets for your kids. The pets will not only excite them but will teach them several virtues such as:
- Empathy– young children are typically self-centred. However, when they learn how to care for their pets, they are taught about compassion. The pets teach children to see things from another perspective other than their own.
- Responsibility– taking care of pets will teach the kids about responsibility. You should let your kids fill the water bowls or food bowls of the pets to enable them to gain responsibility.
- Confidence- pets provide kids with confidence. Learning to take care of pets comes with a lot of commitment and responsibility. When they do their job well, your kids will start believing in themselves. This will lead to increased confidence.
- Companionship– ideal reptile pets will give the kids a genuine companion to talk to. Your kids would love sharing their experiences, joys, and disappointments with the pets. The pets are non-judgmental listeners who don’t mind hearing the same story over and over again.
What is the friendliest lizard pet for my kid?
The bearded dragons are the friendliest pet reptiles for the kids. They are docile and friendly. Some tame ones typically feel so confident and comfortable that they fall asleep on the owner’s lap. Other friendly options include all the pets covered in this article.
What are the benefits of having pet reptiles for my kids over the other pets?
A pet reptile can be an excellent match for your kids. Apart from the exceptional qualities that these scaled animals possess, your kid will also stand from several benefits which include:
- No loud noises– unlike cats, birds, and dogs, reptiles are very quiet. The pet will not wake up your kids by singing, barking, or whining in the middle of the night.
- Cleanliness– with reptiles, your kids won’t have to deal with pet fur, hair, or feathers that litter all over the living space. Most reptiles are confined to their enclosure and rarely defecate to give you a headache while cleaning them.
- No training required– cats and dogs need extensive training; on the other hand, the reptiles don’t need to learn how to behave well around people. Besides, you won’t have to worry about meeting the training cost when you bring home a pet reptile.
- Low maintenance– although reptiles are not self-sufficient and require constant supply quality food and fresh water for drinking, many of them don’t need a lot of daily care and attention like the other pet animals.
How can I tell if a snake pet is venomous?
You can’t simply tell if a snake is poisonous by just looking at it. Before you bring home a snake pet, conduct research to identify the suitable species for your child.
Can the pet bite my child?
Most pet reptiles are docile, friendly, and rarely bite. However, they can bite or scratch in self-defense if not handled properly or when they feel threatened.
Reptiles are terrific pets that are fascinating to watch. They are also inexpensive to maintain and care for. The ideal pets will provide your kids with great opportunities for excellent life skills like improved self-esteem, confidence, and a sense of responsibility. Our comprehensive list offers excellent options for your children’s reptile pet variety.