First-time pets

Q. I’d like to surprise my six-year-old son with a new pet for his birthday. What’s the best type of pet for a child? What pets should I avoid?

A. For a child as young as your son, a small, contained pet – such as a hamster or a goldfish – is your best bet. Both types are easy to care for, while still teaching your son responsibility.

Avoid high-maintenance pets like dogs, unless you have experience with them and are willing to shoulder much of its care. Children often beg for a new puppy or kitten because they’re cute and cuddly, but they don’t know how much time it takes to properly care for and train these animals.

Visit your local pet store for information on small pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, frogs and fish. Pick up some reading material about the pet you choose – all creatures have special dietary needs, and require clean cages or aquariums.

Once your son shows that he is responsible by taking good care of a smaller pet, you can talk with him about adopting a larger animal, like a kitten.

Originally published October 30, 2000, by King Features Weekly Service. All rights reserved.

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