Should you get a pet when you have a special needs child? When making this decision, concentrate on getting the right match for your family and your child. Choosing a compatible pet can be a difficult task.
Doing a little research is key to picking the perfect pet for your family. When you start looking, the sheer volume of pets available may feel overwhelming.
In an attempt to help, I’ve handpicked four of the lowest maintenance pets for your family.
Turtles can make an excellent low maintenance pet for a busy family; especially smaller species of turtle, such as the Chinese Box Turtle or the European Pond Turtle.
Unlike other pets, turtles do not need exercising or grooming. Though they have quite a complicated habitat, once this is set up, maintenance is easy compared to maintaining other pets.
Water in the tank will need changing once per week, with the tank being fully cleaned every other week. Regardless of the species of turtle you get, it is important to ensure they have enough space, both wet and dry. It is important to ensure you have the correct water type for your pet, be it fresh, salt or brackish.
Dogs are the original service companion for children with additional needs or disabilities. Some breeds, such as the Labradoodle, were initially bred as hypoallergenic service animals.
A Labradoodle, regardless of size, can be a great pet for a child on the spectrum. Their naturally patient nature is excellent for children who need help, and their loving and caring nature helps to support children who need it.
Research by the University of Lincoln found that children on the autism spectrum who also had a dog in the home experienced fewer meltdowns than those who did not.
Though these dogs may require more work than other pets on this list, they also have an excellent payoff.
Rabbits can be excellent pets for older children with special educational needs or disabilities. These pets are often viewed as beginner pets, but unfortunately this is not the case. Rabbits may be low maintenance, but they require a reasonable amount of work.
Rabbits are incredibly social animals and so they need to be housed in same sex groups unless neutered. They need fresh veggies and water every day, and their living needs to be spot cleaned daily, with a deep clean once a week. Rabbits can live comfortably both indoors and outdoors.
As a species, rabbits are also incredibly intelligent and can be taught tricks like dogs! You can teach your rabbit to give you a kiss with surprisingly little effort. Teaching your rabbit tricks like this can be a great way to encourage your child to bond with their pet.
A cat may be the perfect low-key pet for your child with autism. There is some evidence that children on the spectrum prefer the company of cats to dogs, as cats have a “less intrusive” gaze.
Cats are very independent which makes them naturally low maintenance pets. Depending on the personality of your individual cat, some cats can be left alone for hours provided they have access to food, fresh drinking water and somewhere to toilet. Others are slightly needier, requiring human interaction to thrive.
Allowing your cat outdoor access will depend on where you live. If you’re in the US, in some states it is not recommended due to the threat of natural wild predators. It is also not recommended to allow your cat outdoors if you live in a busy city. However, you may be able to provide your cat with a predator safe outdoor area.
As you can see, there are a range of pets available for children with special needs. The important thing is to take your time, do your research and find a pet that fits the needs of your unique family.
This article was featured in Issue 120 – Epilepsy :High Risk for ASD Kids