3 Great Companion Pets (Other than Dogs) for Kids with Disabilities

By Johnathan David

Children with disabilities love pets as much as anyone else. Having an animal companion can help a child with an intellectual disability become more social, learn responsibility and empathy, and offer comfort and love.

Dogs are fantastic companions and support animals, but if allergies, expenses or lifestyle limitations prevent you from owning one, you might find the newest member of your family in a smaller mammal or reptile.

Before you commit to any species of pet, some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Can my child safely handle the pet?
  • Can I dedicate the time and money to taking care of it, both upfront and long-term?
  • Am I willing to feed the animal and clean its enclosure if my child can or will not?

If the answers are yes, keep reading!

The kind of pet you welcome into your home will depend on your child's specific needs and maturity. The following three low-maintenance pets could make great companion animals for your child with disabilities.


Despite the bad reputation they sometimes get as "boring," fish can make a great first pet.

Watching a fish swim in its tank can be soothing and reduce anxiety. A beautiful tank can be a serene and peaceful scene to look at.

Fish for Kids with Disabilities

With fish, there is no need to worry about sensory issues—such as loud barks or squawks—that an animal in the home could pose for your child. The quiet bubbling of the tank may even be a therapeutic background noise.

Fish can be a great way of introducing your child to taking care of another creature.

Guinea Pigs

Did you know that guinea pigs are some of the most social creatures on the planet? They are extremely communicative, squeaking softly all day long!

Guinea Pigs for kids with disabilities

Studies have shown that guinea pigs have a calming effect on children with autism, and can help them be more interactive, social and less anxious.

They are friendly, furry and cuddly, and can make a soothing companion for anyone.

A downside is that their cleaning maintenance is higher than their hamster or rabbit cousins. Guinea pig cages must be cleaned every day. However, this requirement could be a great way to teach your child responsibility and caring for others, and become a welcome and healthy addition to his or her daily routine.

If you are interested in a guinea pig as a pet, you should be prepared to get more than one. They are so social, that if they don't have at least one other guinea pig to play with, they will become lonely and depressed.

Leopard Geckos

Leopard geckos are perhaps the most low-maintenance reptile one can own and, for this reason, are one of the most popular pet reptiles!

Geckos as pets for kids with disabilities

They are docile, easy to handle, and do not bite, making them a great pet for young children. Calm by nature, cute, and eager to be held, leopard geckos are an excellent family pet.

Additionally, they are relatively inexpensive, and easy to feed and care for. However, leopard geckos can have a lifespan of up to 20 years, so make sure you are ready for a long-term commitment!

Look beyond dogs and cats as companion pets for children with disabilities. Fish, guinea pigs and leopard geckos are just a few of the animals that may help your child booth positive behaviors as well as relieve frustration and stress.

How has your pet helped your family? Did we leave your favorite kind of animal out? Let us know your experiences in the comments below!

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