Age Appropriate Pet for Soon to Be 3 Yr Old

Updated on April 02, 2011
J.S. asks from Tulsa, OK
21 answers

is there a pet that is good for a soon to be 3 yr old boy, that is good for an apartment ,or should i hold off until he is older?
i want to teach him how to be gentle, and how to take care of something. something that will live more than a few days.

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So What Happened?

decided to wait until i get a house with my boyfriend and get a family pet

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answers from Norfolk on

I think stuffed animals are the way to go until child is in 1st or 2nd grade.
A stuffed animal won't die, doesn't pee/poop, doesn't shed (or have dander), doesn't need feeding/watering, doesn't need a cage cleaned out, won't get worms/fleas/tics, doesn't bite/scratch/cough up hair balls, doesn't need a vet, won't wake the neighbors or tear the place up while you are out and you can wash them as often as they need it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

For a three-year-old, get a pet that YOU can take care of, because YOU are going to be the one taking care of it.
I would not recommend a rodent at that age - they're easily startled and bite when startled.
I would actually recommend fish for that age.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Seattle on

How about a pet rock?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

He is to young to take care of a living being. Even fish require regular water changes and cleaning the tank, skills that are way beyond a three year old.

If you want a pet, get any pet that YOU will like and want to take care of, because YOU will be the person responsible for the animal.

Rodents and fish are good apartment dwellers. Fish of course can't be handled, but most small rodents are quite hardy and have relatively short lifespans (3-5 years), so you are not taking on a pet for the next 15 or 20 years, like you do with a cat or small dog.

Any animal that you want to be handled need to be socialized regularly. Taking it out of the cage once a month will not do, even hamsters and mice will get shy and may start biting if you don't handle them every day.

As I said, since he is three, pick something that YOU feel comfortable taking care of, or go for a zhuzhu pet, which are entertaining and come with an off switch.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I don't think 3 is the right age to start with pets unless it's a family pet like a dog or a cat. And at that, he would only be learning how to pet the cat/dog nicely and play nice.

Fish would be okay if you want him to learn about feeding the fish. But know you'll be cleaning the tank and explaining what happened to "Goldie" when she's floating upside down!

My daughter had hermit crabs at age 9 and she didn't take care of them at all! She had to be nagged constantly to feed them and make sure they had water. All you do with hermit crabs is add water and change the food. Once in a while you scoop out the tank. I ended up doing all the work and they all died anyway.

Unless it's a family pet, I'd hold off!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

LOVE Laura U's answer.

But I agree with the other posters here.

A 3 year old. He is a boy. Those 2 combined, make for a pet that is going to be handled... not gently.
Unless he is very good with impulse control... and being gentle.

Still, at this age, they will not automatically know how to handle a pet.
YOU will be the one to care for it and referee and supervise.

I would wait, until he is older.

When my son was 2 and my daughter was 6, we got a rabbit. But it was for my daughter. My son, in his 2 year old mind, understood and 'we' called it his too... but for my daughter. But, he, was pretty good about handling the rabbit. But, boys are really rascal. My son, would put toys on top of it, or hats etc. and tug its ear. To him, innocent stuff. To us/my daughter/the rabbit... EGAD! He did this, when I was right there. Little kids and their hands, move fast.
Luckily, the rabbit we have, does not bite. Some do.
And they don't make noise.

Guppies, are real easy. But you cannot play with it.
But they are easy.

Maybe a Guinea Pig. We had those too. But they do make noise... whenever the refrigerator opens. But they are cute, have pellet poop you just sweep up and live in a cage. They eat lettuce/veggies. Stuff you would normally buy for your own consumption. Nothing exotic.

I would say, a fish.
Or a Guinea Pig.

IF your son, is very good about his impulses AND he is gentle, AND he is not a rough-houser... then maybe.



answers from Kansas City on

Hermit crab. They are EASY to take care of, inexpensive, and he can definitely participate in the care(yes, you will do most of the care). They can be played with and watched, and can live for years.



answers from Atlanta on

I would wait a few years and then get a cat. My just turned 5 year old LOVES our new cat! He's also old enough to understand about truly gentle touching and not to run at or startle the cat. We have a 2.5 year old boy who is a sweetheart and gives gentle touches, but at that age he just doesn't always understand or control all of his impulses. You can't count on that age to always handle a pet appropriately, and it can sometimes have really bad consequences. The guinea pig suggestions are good too -but again, I would wait a few years since he wasn't born into a home that already contained pets. And the suggestion to get a pet you truly want as well is also a good one!


answers from Spokane on

If you're wanting something that can hold up to a bit of rough handling, I'd go with a guinea pig. Their cages are easy to maintain and they don't need as much stuff as a hamster (you just have to remember to feed them a bit of parsley along with their other food every day for it's vitamin C requirements). Also, hamsters are very easily squished, especially by an eager toddler.

If you just want something that your son can help take care of, go with guppies or gold fish. Maybe even an aquatic frog. Those are all lots of fun and relatively easy to care. Also really inexpensive to replace if something happens.

If you have the room and are allowed to, I'd actually go for cat or a small dog. Cat is probably the best bet if you get a nice young one that is used to being handled roughly and likes to play. Your little guy can easily help feed & water a cat as well as cuddle with it. You could also have him help with the litter box. My children take care of all our assorted animals (we have cats, hamsters and guinea pigs) and it's quite easy. You would just have to supervise him to make sure he did a good job. My 3 yo nephew LOVES to scoop the litter box and watch the poo flush down the toilet every time he visits and he does a great job helping his father (my brother) with their dog.

As long as you accept that you as mom will be doing most of the work because your little guy is just too young for the full responsibility, a pet is a really good idea for him.



answers from Boston on

If you want to teach him to be gentle then teach him that you don't need a pet for that. At 3 you will be supplying all the care for that pet I'd wait a few more years before getting anything.



answers from New York on

I would say fish. Give it a little food everday and that's it. At least until he's old enough to be more responsible.



answers from New York on

A ferret is good. My son has had a pet ferret since he was 18 months old and is very good with it. Ferrets are very people friendly and are easy to take care of. I also live in an apartment.



answers from Dallas on

I would agree that if you want to get a pet for him, then be prepared to take care of it yourself. Three year olds aren't really capable of doing it on their own yet, and you have to watch them around the pet or they'll "love" it to death. We are considering getting a dog, and we have a 3.5 year old and a 6 month old, but we know it'll be for the whole family, and we're getting a large, sturdy, calm, gentle breed (like a mastiff or great dane) which can handle the chaos and not-so-loving love of small children.

I would agree that a fish in a closed aquarium would be fairly low risk, though. LOL

Good Luck!



answers from Colorado Springs on

Any three-year-old's pet is really Mama and Daddy's pet! You will be providing all the care for it, so find a pet YOU like. Your little boy will enjoy the new family member but will not be able to take any real responsibility for a living thing yet. That comes very gradually.

That being said, you might go for fish, since you're in an apartment. Go to the pet store first and learn everything about how to care for them AND the tank. There's quite a bit to know - and the bigger the tank, the bigger the job. Fish sometimes live for quite a long time (and, well, sometimes not), and they're so pretty. They're not pet-able - is that a word? - but they're quite enjoyable.

I don't intend to be discouraging, but always remember that caring for any creature involves understanding, work and commitment.

We had pets before we had children, so they grew up with dogs and cats (and sometimes gerbils). When they turned twelve or thirteen and had really learned some responsibility, they were allowed to have pets of their own if they wanted, and then we had fish, hamsters, and birds as well as the cats and dogs. It was fun; even then I had to supervise the care because teenagers do get distracted, but they did a good job, loved their critters, and that's why I have five grandcats and two granddogs now!


answers from Kansas City on

we had a beta when my son was 2-3. he helped feed it, it was one of his "chores" in the morning along with using the potty, brushing teeth, etc. yes, i had to clean the bowl, but it was seriously no big deal. i keep wanting to get him a hermit crab now (he's 4) i think those are SO cool.



answers from Allentown on

We adopted our 2 dogs and 2 cats right around the time my 2nd child was 3. My 3rd turned 3 the next year, I currently have a 3yo, and I'll have another 3yo in just under 3 years.

My pets have been WONDERFUL with my 3yos. My 3yos have not been quite as wonderful back! They try, and they love them all, but they do have to be watched like hawks, lest Kitty get dragged around by a rear leg and Puppy get Legos stuck in his jowls.
I would never go with a smaller 4-legged pet just based on what I've witnessed with larger, sturdier animals. And, whatever I did go with, I'd consider 100% MY pet.

So I vote fish!



answers from Detroit on

3 year olds can help take care of a pet but you will be doing all the work and will still need to be responsible for it. If it is something that he will be capable of holding or picking up, you will need to supervise to make sure he does not accidentally hurt it it any way. Also, many small pets, including some "furries" and reptiles, carry Salmonella. For this reason, I can't recommend a turtle or a lizard.

Guinea pigs, if hand-raised from birth, are great - they are bigger and sturdier than hamsters or gerbils, and easier to handle, and less apt to bite. They are easy to take care of and are not nocturnal, so hopefully they won't be keep you up at night with their activity.

Otherwise, I would get an aquarium with some fish. You can get a few of them and if you take care of them properly, they should last a while. Beta fish are pretty hardy and can get oxygen from air - the males are very pretty but you can only keep one male in a tank at a time.



answers from Houston on

I bought my 3 year old (now 4) guppies. I bought a (I think) 2 gallon aqaurium from walmart. It cost about 15-20 bucks. She knows the ins and outs of "turning the light on in the morning, off at night" and feeds them occasionally. (we all know Mommas do all the work ;)
Personally, I am holding off for a dog until we have a home with a fenced in backyard and the capability for my 4 year old to mature and understand what pet ownership is about. We have a parrot that is approx. 38-40 years old. He is NOT a good candidate for warm, fuzzy ,hold you close, love my puppy, feelings. He is a cranky old man that is NOT allowed to be touched. I often wonder WHO is louder? The damn bird or a toddler!?! Hmmmm?
If I were you, I would wait to get a dog (until the kiddo is older) Cats are ok, but not so "toddler" friendly. Hamsters and the like, are kinda stinky messes that older children have to attend to.
Get a fish...or even a budgie...(parakeet, 2 preferably) a couple of parakeets make noise, are entertaining, dont have to be walked, are cheap, and are relatively easy to take care of...
Just my two cents....



answers from Pittsburgh on

DS had a beta (fish) at about 3. His name was alpha and he would actually come to the top of the tank and let DS pet him. Sadly he died (jumped) - DS was briefly sad. Then requested another fish. Zeta Beta (the replacement) was not at all affectionate (yup, normal) but DS still watched him and fed him (with us).



answers from Johnstown on

FISH!!!!! In a filtered aquarium with a lid, not just a goldfish in a bowl.



answers from San Francisco on

gold fish--well supervised.


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