Pet for a 4 Yr Old

Updated on April 23, 2011
K.C. asks from Saint Charles, MO
17 answers

Hi beautiful mommas!
My son is turning 4 tomorrow and he LOVES animals...mainly bugs, worms, etc. I got him this little aquarium for his bday and wondering if you guys have any suggestions on what kind of animal I could get for him. Something low maintenance and low cost. And something that doesn't die easily :)

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answers from Dallas on

My 4 year old has a beta fish she got as a present for her 3rd birthday. They are hardy fish so less likely to go belly up. And you just need to give them a few grains of food once a day and clean the water every now and then. She likes to help with the cleaning and I usually do the feeding a night when I'm putting her to bed.

Another suggestion is the little African frogs -- usually they are sold in pairs. Again, they require very little effort, you feed them two times a week.


answers from Sacramento on

I had a garter snake growing up that I caught out in a field somewhere. They do not have fangs (more like little nubs, they can't break the skin). They are not poisonous. You can put a little dog bowl of water in his terrarium and put some little feeder fish in it - garter snakes are good swimmers and mine got so excited to catch fish. He would dart into the water, swim wildly around chasing the fish until he caught one. He would swallow them whole, and then would go back to his hot rock and "sun" himself. I found mine when he was about the size of a pencil, he was cute. He liked to be held (or at least, he didn't seem to object). He was actually a really fun pet.

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answers from Sacramento on

We have a beta fish and LOVE him! So pretty and so much personality. The set up is the only thing that will cost you. Their food lasts forever. We haven't had ours long, but I have had friends who had them and said with good care they can live to be around 4 years old.

Other than that I'd say a frog. You can order tadpoles and watch them turn into frogs which would be a super cool thing for your budding little scientist. I do not have any idea how long they live...

Good luck!

I wanted to add that I would not get a goldfish. We have one. They grow fast, and are big poopers, so they need a larger tank than most fish. And they aren't especially good with other fish or snails ( it turns out. Ours has killed about 6 algae eating snails.) Other than betas, you might think about tetras... small and pretty and you can have a bunch on a relatively small tank.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

the only pet you get for a 4 year old is whatever YOU have time to take care of.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Go to Toys R us and check out all the bug catching stuff!! Made by Discovery. Bug vacuum, vest, binoculars, tools, so much cool stuff! My son catches bugs on a daily basis and then releases them usually the next day:-) You can also go to your plant nursery and for fun- buy him a canister of lady bugs 10 bucks for about 1500! He can release them in the backyard. They'll hang out for a little bit but they will leave the yard if there isn't anything there for them. Other than that maybe a goldfish. Whatever you get (lizard, hamster, etc..) you will be taking care of and who knows how long they will live. Keep it simple!



answers from Fort Wayne on

Take him to a pet store and ask one of the workers. I would go with a small locally owned store. Their workers seem the most knowledgable and the animals tend to be healthier. I would think a frog or a turtle would be a really good pet for a little boy. I had newts when I was in college and they were easy to take care of, just make sure that the aquarium has a lid or they'll crawl out.



answers from Wichita on

We are getting hermit crabs for our 3&6 yr old boys!! Low maintenance - with small cage little water & food - just a new shell every once in a while.



answers from Minneapolis on

I would check at a good pet store, too. I'd consider a turtle, just make hand washing a habit.

We have three hermit crabs and they are relatively easy, but do require a terrarium that is kept at the correct temp and humidity, the right type of material to molt in (they disappear for 2-3 weeks and reappear a size bigger after shedding and regrowing their exoskeleton), and it does need to be cleaned regularly. They are fun to watch, but can be mostly nocturnal, and my daughter (9) takes them out and lets them crawl around on her.



answers from Albuquerque on

How about a turtle? They live forever... and are pretty easy to maintain. Most pet shops carry them and you can watch them grow.



answers from Chicago on

I would say goldfish or some other kind of fish. I'm not sure if fish die easily though.



answers from Chicago on

How about a tortise? They move, they are low maintenance and they have none of the "bacterial" issues that water animals - esp amphibians do.

Basically a dry, clean tank with food and water. Pretty low maintenance as far as the animal and habitat.

IF you do let him take it outside, make sure you put a marker on it's shell as they can "escape" under the deck/shrub and burrow down. It's best to keep them in some sort of pen/contained space.

They can live a very long time.


answers from Raleigh on

No way to a turtle! They can live up to 30 years and carry salmonella (a nurse friend almost had a baby die in their care because people touched the turtle and then the baby).

Unfortunately, I think the best option are fish. They are a pain in the rear end, and they do die easily, but they are the safest for young ones.

If you don't care much about him actually playing with it, an anole (small lizard) may be nice. They are really cheap (like $5), and seem to live for a bit. You could also get a hermit crab or a frog. As long as you wash hands after playing, none of these carry as many germs as the turtle!

Good luck! My son keeps asking for a rabbit and a snake...unfortunately for him, neither is coming his way!



answers from San Francisco on

my friends have had a water frog... not sure what the name of it is, forever. Easy maitanance but the aquarium needs to be plugged in to filter the water. We've also had our beta-fish for 6 years. You feed once a day. Clean the tank every few weeks. Leave the water out for 24 hours before adding it tank. easy peasy.



answers from Washington DC on

We had a firebelly toad, thyey are poisonous and he couldn't play with it but they are low maintenance and pretty cool.
Some goldfish, but they die.
Or get some other fish.
You could get some earthworms and feed it coffee grounds and watch them grow.

All lizards and most small animals, mice, hamsters, gerbils have salmonella so keep some antibacterial wash near the tank.



answers from Washington DC on

Any pet must be YOUR pet primarily and the kid gets to help.

I suggest fish. Like goldfish, which are fairly easy to maintain.

Reptiles often need special care and can carry salmonella. I had an anole as an adult and killed it by accident. I was never sure if it was the wrong cricket stuff or the wrong substrate or the wrong heat lamp, but he didn't last long.

Other small animals are not "easy", either. Small critters need more care than people think they do.

If you decide on something like a hamster or guinea pig, go to a rescue. Just take a look on Petfinder to see how many are abandoned or someone got two from a pet store and ended up with fifteen. Small critters need rescue, too.

I would not talk to a pet store about what an animal's needs are. I'd talk to a rescue - the people who have to clean up after the pet store gave a newbie bad advice.

I don't care if it's a mom and pop or big chain store. I've experienced serious problems with both and quit buying from a store. Years ago, I had a dwarf hamster develop diabetes (which they are prone to, something the mom and pop store we got them from never mentioned, and they also said we had 3 of a kind...we had two females, one male and ended up with a dozen babies).

If you get a critter like lizard or hamster or guinea pig, you should be willing to take it to an exotics vet if necessary and that's $$ just to get through the door.

Fish. Fish are good for kids, I think. Sorry about the slight tangent, but I feel strongly about the rap small animals get for being "starter pets."



answers from San Francisco on

No pets for now.....wait until he is 7 or 8 and able to clean up after a dog, cat, hamster, etc. Hamsters don't have a long life span. If you have a fenced in yard a medium sized dog would be nice....if your child likes dogs. Cats a great too, but they have a mind of their own. Dogs make a good playmate.




answers from Milwaukee on

Let him catch bugs outside this summer, but then let them go after an hour of watching them. I do this w/ my daughter, 5. I tell her she has to let them go because they live outside and she wouldn't like it if someone picked her up and put her in a cage forever, so we won't do it to them.

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