Choosing a Good Exotic Pet for Kids

If you have kids and have carefully decided that an exotic pet is the right fit, you'll want to choose a pet that is likely to be gentle and easy to handle. Pets for kids should also be able to handle their sometimes noisy and rambunctious nature.

As for any pet, adults must supervise interactions between children and exotic pets and be prepared to take over primary care of the pet. It's also very important to teach kids to always wash their hands after handling pets of any kind to prevent disease.

  • 01 of 07

    Guinea Pigs

    Guinea pig in a basket
    Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

    Pros: Generally quite tame, easy to handle and rarely bite. They get to know your routines and become quite responsive, which keeps kids interested. They also tend to be active throughout the day and night, so they are more likely to be awake some of the same hours as children.

    Cons: Though fairly sturdy, they do require gentle handling. They should be kept in pairs and need a large living space and to be fed fresh, healthy foods to meet their vitamin C needs.

  • 02 of 07


    Close-up portrait of a rat in a blanket
    IndeaVanmerllin / Getty Images

    Pros: ​Larger, less skittish and easier to handle than many other rodents, this often overlooked pet is very social and intelligent. They are generally quite easy to tame and do not bite readily. Though they are nocturnal, they tend to adapt a bit to your schedule.​

    Cons: Though easy to handle, they still need a gentle touch. They may also urine mark when wandering about, including on your hands (minor, but might bother kids). They should also be kept in pairs and need a large cage.

  • 03 of 07

    Hamster (Syrian/Golden)

    Mesocricetus auratus (golden hamster, Syrian hamster)
    Paul Starosta / Getty Images

    Pros: Don't require much space and should be kept singly. Hamsters generally get quite tame with patient handling and will interact a bit with kids.

    Cons: Nocturnal and do not adapt much to your schedule, so they might be very sleepy when kids want to play. Unfortunately, a sleepy hamster seems more inclined to bite in self-defense. Note: dwarf hamsters have become increasingly available, although their small size makes them less amenable to handling than Syrian hamsters.

  • 04 of 07


    Close-up of gerbil on field
    Alicia Lohnes / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Pros: Can become quite tame with regular handling. They are social so they should be kept in pairs/groups, but, even if they are not handled much, they like to play and interact so they are fun to watch. They are also more active during the day than other rodents (going through several sleep/wake cycles over 24 hours rather than sleeping all day or night).

    Cons: ​They can take some patience to tame. Care must also be taken that a child never grabs a gerbil by the tail.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07


    Close-up of a house mouse (Mus musculus)
    Nature Picture Library / Getty Images

    Pros: Mice are quite easy to care for and do not need a large home. A group of female mice will usually live together quite happily and be quite entertaining with their play.​

    Cons: Mice are very quick, agile, and tend to be skittish, so they are more difficult for kids to handle. For most kids, they are better as a "look, don't touch pet." Also, they are most active at night.

  • 06 of 07

    Leopard Geckos

    Leopard Gecko
    David A. Northcott / Getty Images

    Pros: Leopard geckos are readily available and among the easiest reptiles to look after properly. They are also quite docile and can be handled with a gentle touch. A couple can be kept in a fairly small tank.

    Cons: Although they don't need a special UV-producing light, they still require a fair investment in a tank set up. While they can be held, they are not as responsive as mammalian pets. As with other small pets, good hygiene is essential when handling.

  • 07 of 07

    Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

    HIssing cockroach, Spiny Forest
    Rhonda Gutenberg / Getty Images

    Pros: These are the ultimate in low maintenance pets, which makes them somewhat ideal for kids. (If kids get bored with them, there is not a whole lot of work to take over!) They are large enough to be handled and are generally quite docile yet completely undemanding of attention.​

    Cons: They are cockroaches, so definitely not cute and cuddly! Not interactive or responsive like mammals, although they are interesting in their own way.