5 first-time pet recommendations to help ease you into ownership

Feb 7 2017, 1:20 am

Pets are a delightful addition to a person’s life. In fact, it’s been concluded by many studies that pet ownership can reduce stress. However, with the amazingly huge pet industry that exists, it can be a challenge to choose a new pet, especially if you have never owned one before.

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The first note I must make is that all pets are a huge responsibility.  Any animal you take into your care depends on you for its safety, health and happiness. If you are not entirely certain you can meet the needs of your prospective pet, please do not take one in. Too many pets are given up or abandoned.

Another tip is to do plenty of research before buying or adopting. Knowledge is power, and the adage is especially true when it comes to pets.

Here are 5 great pets for families with children, or for someone who has never owned a pet before.

Guinea Pig

While the cute factor certainly makes hamsters and mice appealing, guinea pigs make the best pets in the rodent family in my opinion. Large enough to be handled without fear of killing the creature, but small enough they’re still easily housed, they’re a great option for first-time pet owners and families with children alike.

They require daily food and water, as well as paper bedding to line the floor of the cage that should be cleaned weekly. On top of their easy care and soft fur, guinea pigs also make the most adorable purring sound when they’re happy. If that isn’t a good enough reason to want one I don’t know what is.

Bearded Dragon

More involved than hermit crabs, but a little less needy than guinea pigs, bearded dragons make excellent pets. These lizards need to have at least a 40-gallon tank, with one side of the tank significantly warmer than the other. Bearded dragons need access to fresh food and water but do not usually need extra humidity, as they naturally are from the dry woodlands of Australia.

Feeding bearded dragons is also relatively easy, as they are omnivores. When they’re young, these lizards need to mostly eat insects, but as they age, they will need more plants in their diet. Feeding live crickets is great for bearded dragons because they’re a good source of protein, and they’re also fast enough that it requires the lizard to exercise as they hunt their prey. Something else that makes bearded dragons a great pet is their ability to be handled. These lizards are usually quite relaxed, and are very willing to sit with you playing games or watching Netflix.

Small Snakes

Snake/ Calgary Reptile and Amphibian Society

Not usually included in lists like this, corn snakes or even ball pythons make good beginner pets. Similar in needs to other reptilian pets like bearded dragons, snakes have an added benefit/detriment depending on how you look at it.

Snakes are carnivorous, and as such they need to eat rodents about once a week. The best way to feed snakes is feeding them frozen/thawed mice. Some people who are more sensitive may find this very distasteful, but for others, the idea of having to feed your pet only once a week is a great benefit. Another great thing about these snakes is how easily they can be handled with proper patience and care.

Hermit Crabs

These crustaceans make great first-time pets due to their low maintenance. They require food, water, heat, and not much more than that. Their housing is quite simple. A ten-gallon tank with gravel or sand covering the floor does nicely. Be sure to include plenty of platforms for the crab to climb onto, as well as a small water pool, large enough for it to submerge in, but not so steep that it can’t crawl back out. Hermit crabs are very good at climbing, so ensure that your tank has a lid.

Heaters are easy to find, and heat lamps designed for reptiles work great. You want the temperature of the tank to be between 24 and 29 degrees. You’ll also want to supply your crab with a handful of shells of various sizes; as hermit crabs grow, they leave their shells and search for a newer, larger one. Last but not least, your crab will want some damp moss to get cozy in. Moss can be readily purchased at most pet stores, and can be lightly sprayed with a spray bottle to keep it damp.

Betta Fish

Here we are. Ending our list with the single simplest, easiest and most fun animal to take care of. The betta fish is, in my opinion, the single best starter pet for first-time pet owners and children alike for many reasons that I’m going to get into. Do you have a bowl or tank that can hold at least one gallon of water? Is around $5 a reasonable price to pay to feed your pet for the year? Do you want your pet to be engaging and dazzling to behold? Then the betta fish is for you.

Bettas are some of the hardiest fish on the market, meaning, their biology isn’t too terribly affected by differences in water chemistry. Unlike some fish that require specific ranges of PH levels, nitrates, nitrites, etc. a betta will be perfectly healthy if you treat tap water with simple water conditioner. Cleaning your betta’s little environment is also very easy. Once per week, remove about 25% of the water in the bowl or tank, and add that amount back in fresh, treated water. More extensive cleaning should take place about once a month. To help maintain cleanliness, you can always introduce a small snail to the tank.

On top of their easy care, these fish are beautiful, and come in countless different varieties with long flowing fins and colours that look like something out of Alice in Wonderland. All in all, these fish are definitely worth your attention.

Lucas TaylorLucas Taylor

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