6 Valuable Lessons
Kids Learn Owning Unique Pets
My name is Wesley Oaks and, from my personal experience, I would like to explain the 6 valuable lessons kids learn from owning unique pets.
When my kids asked for a pet, I never expected what would come next. I imagined spending some time discussing responsibility and then heading off to the shelter for a new cat or dog.
But as we started talking, I realised I was way off-base.
They wanted a bearded dragon!
My immediate reaction was “no,” but as I delved into learning about these and other “odd” pets, I realised these animals might benefit kids just as much as a dog or cat.
Between the years of owning reptiles and amphibians myself and speaking with other owners, I’ve seen firsthand the knowledge and skills my children have obtained by caring for a unique pet.
#1 Teaches Responsibility
As with most pets, reptiles and other non-traditional pets teach responsibility. Kids will need to care for them and check on them regularly, or the animals will get sick.
In my experience, while traditional dogs and cats require some care needs, they’re better at communicating to you what they need (such as when my dog whines by the back door).
The non-traditional pets can’t do this. Your kids need to plan ahead and be aware of what they need to do and be self-motivated enough to care for the pets.
This is a higher level of responsibility, and my kids rose to the challenge and learned a lot from it.
#2 Learn How Habitats Affect Animal Needs
Dogs and cats are much like us humans. We have many of the same environmental needs. But reptiles, amphibians, and other pets like these are further removed from us.
Their habitats have needs specific to their natural environments. Kids can use this as a springboard into researching and learning about how the natural environment has affected the pet’s need for higher temperatures or humidity.
For example, the chameleon comes from tropical rainforests. As such, it spends most of its life up in trees and foliage.
When it drinks, it doesn’t look for puddles (those are on the ground); instead, the chameleon feels the rain and goes to drink the water drops forming on leaves.
This was a fascinating fact I didn’t know based on its natural home. My kids felt motivated enough by this curious fact to do even more research and teach me things about the rainforest I had never heard before.
#3 Teaches Healthy Diet
I use the unique dietary needs of our non-traditional pets to talk to my children about what a healthy diet is.
Reptiles especially have a higher need for calcium and other minerals like this. So, as owners, we need to make sure the diet is providing the correct amount of each nutrient.
This is evident with the omnivore nature of the bearded dragon. It needs a balance of protein (insect) and vegetation-based meals to avoid health problems.
It’s simple to connect to ourselves as people and discuss what we need and why we need it.
Doing this with dogs and cats is possible too, but since the food is often bought in a tin or a bag and not fresh, it seems to have less impact.
#4 Learn About Other Classes of Animals
As much as I love my dog, in many ways, it’s similar to me. After all, dogs, cats, and people are all mammals.
But by caring for an animal of a different class such as a reptile or amphibian, you’re giving your kids a real-life experience with an entirely different creature.
In school, kids are taught about the different classes of animals, but they don’t have hands-on experience. By owning one, they get it tangibly.
Every time we get a brand-new pet species (which happens more than we probably should!), I like to help my kids fill out a comparison chart we’ve been working on for years now.
We compare things like the environment, physical characteristics, diet, and behaviours to other pets and animals in life.
Don’t be shocked when your kid starts to ace their biology lessons with such practical experience.
#5 Builds Organisation and Planning
Since the act of caring for a non-traditional pet is entirely reliant on the owners, you (and by extension, your children) need to have a plan and organisation to provide a healthy life for your pet.
Whether you’re planning out their diet or making sure you have enough bulbs in stock, the forward-thinking and early planning helps teach one of the “soft skills” the most successful people in life will have.
My kids create a chart and check-off list for making sure every care need for our pets is handled. I’m sure this skill will transfer on with them as adults and help them in whatever job they choose to have.
#6 They Look Cool!
I don’t know if this is a benefit for kids, but the pets look cool and are unique. Your children will love how dinosaur-like the bearded dragon is or how colourful and cute a Pac-Man frog looks.
Their friends will love it too, and as a parent, we should also create these positive experiences and memories for our kids.
I’m not sure if my kids will be reptile-addicts the rest of their lives, but I know we’ll have these memories of playing with our pets and watching them forever.
It’s these bonding moments I love most about parenting, and our odd pets have provided some fantastic opportunities I wouldn’t trade for anything!
Which Oddly Cute Pet Is Right for Me?
There are many types of non-traditional pets out there for you to own, but not all are going to be a perfect fit for your family.
Some are more difficult to care for in their daily care or dietary needs. It would help if you had a guide to help you through the process.
This is why I built Oddly Cute Pets as a resource for all owners, whether they’re new or experienced. Head on over there for our guides on different animals to learn more about them, but here are a few quick ideas to consider.
Two of the main types of non-traditional pets you may want to consider are Reptiles and Amphibians.
In general, reptiles are a little easier to set up the tank and keep it clean. For some, they may be frightened off by their more aggressive looks, but many kids love it.
Here are three of the most popular reptile options, and little about them:
Bearded Dragon – The bearded dragon has risen in popularity as a pet. Despite their fearsome looks, these reptiles have a gentle nature and respond well to being handled.
They have a long life span and are easy to care for. The hardest part in caring for them is keeping the temperature of their cage up (these are desert critters after all), but with a proper setup, it should be simple.
Keeping a healthy diet of plants and insects on hand is also a bit of work, but they’re fun to feed by hand and watch feed as well.
Corn Snakes – Snakes are scary to a lot of people, but the corn snake is one of the easiest reptile pets for new owners. They rarely bite or even get sick.
Just set the tank up and feed them as they need, and you’ll be all set.
Kids may love their looks and feeding them the mice they eat. As an adult, this may be the hardest thing for you to get over, but if it’s not, I highly recommend corn snakes for anyone.
Chameleon – Chameleons are another fun reptile pet. Although they’re a little more sensitive as a pet, their colours and cages are beautiful and fun to watch.
Feeding them is simple (lots of crickets), but they need specific humidity and temperature.
Amphibians (such as frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts) make fun pets, but the aquariums are a little messier and require more care and cleaning. If this isn’t a problem for you, these three may be right for you:
Pac-Man Frog – These cute, round frogs are tough frogs and easy to feed. They require a warmer aquarium, but this isn’t too hard to set up.
They will need to eat fresh insects and even small mice to keep up a healthy diet.
Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad – These are smaller toads with bright colouration on their bellies. They do need more water in their tank, but other than this, they’re easy to care for.
As smaller toads, insects are going to be the name of the game for their diet.
Fire Salamander – These eat worms and other insects, so you don’t have to mess with mice. They look cool and are generally resistant to illnesses.
I hope considering one of these non-traditional pets is somewhere in your realm of possibility now. These reasons show why kids learn a lot from owning and caring for one of these critters.
I never imagined our family would enjoy getting our first bearded dragon, but ever since, we’ve been hooked on them (and the benefits for our kids!).
Bearded dragon image by Milchdrink from Pixabay
Fire-bellied toad Image by Angelic_Yousef from Pixabay
Chameleon Image by skeeze from Pixabay
Fire salamander image by Sonja Rieck from Pixabay