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Monday Mom challenge: Consider non-traditional pets

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Think outside the fur

It's almost a rite of passage for children to want a pet. Whether it's a cute kitten or a cuddly puppy, the desire to have a furry friend all their own is normal and expected - and it often happens whether or not there is already a pet in the family, or even whether the parents are open to a dog or a cat. Whether or not you consider yourself a "pet person," pets can play an important role in teaching kids about responsibility, empathy, love...and they are just plain fun.

Child and hamster

For some families, adopting a (traditional) furry pet is an option, while for others it's not a possible for a variety of reasons - rental agreements, allergies, realistic time assessments, and so on. The thing is, a pet doesn't have to be a cat or a dog. There are many different kinds of animals that can be adopted as pets. Not all of them have fur, and not all of them require the same level of care and interaction that a cat or a dog would need. The next time your child comes home begging for a pet, open yourself to the possibility of non-traditional pet.

Realistic pet guardianship

When considering a pet for your family, be realistic about who will have ultimate responsibility for the animal -- you! Your child may promise you the moon about taking care of any animal, and may even be quite good at keeping up with responsibilities, but your child is still a child and you as an adult will have ultimate responsibility. That includes financial responsibility.

Beyond cats and dogs

Cats and dogs aren't the only furry friends that make good pets. Gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, ferrets and rabbits are all good pet options and, for those families who would like a pet to be more contained, these type of pets are a good choice. Each has their own unique requirements - habitat, food, interaction - but if your child is looking for cute and cuddly, these could fill the bill.

Get tips here on caring for small pets, such as hamsters and rabbits.

Feathers or fins

If fur of any kind in your home doesn't appeal to you, consider something with fins or feathers. Fish and birds make good pets, though the birds can tend to be on the noisier side. Fish, though quiet, are sometimes thought to be super-easy, care-free pets - but they do need care! Like all animals, fish need clean habitats. But there are some really neat species of fish and birds out there!

Check out the top 3 pet fish for kids.

Scales or shells

For the unsqueamish among us, there's the reptile and amphibian option: snakes, lizards, turtles, and frogs. Like other caged options, these animals are quiet, and usually require less interaction than furred pets - but again, they have unique needs.

Get tips here on caring for a reptile as a pet.

No matter what you choose

No matter what kind of pet you choose, understand the responsibility you are about to undertake. Adoption of pets is meant to be adoption for the animal's lifetime - and some animals have long life spans! But if you do open yourself and your family to adopting a non-traditional pet, you open yourself to a potentially rewarding animal relationship, and one you may not have considered before. Pets aren't just for kids - they are for moms, too!

More of our Monday Mom series:

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