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Alternative pet ideas for those who don't want cats or dogs

If your child's incessant pleading for a pet has finally won you over — or worn you out — it's time to think practically about what kind of critter to bring home. If dogs and cats are out because of allergies, expense, time commitment, destructive potential, housing restrictions, etc., don't despair. Here's a guide to what you can expect from some small, domesticated animals. Look for more pets next Tuesday in BayLink. Chicago Tribune

Ferret

Activity level: Leaves cage/tank daily

Good for ages: 13 and up

Kid's daily commitment: Three to six hours of play outside the cage per day. Have food and water available at all times. Clean litter box daily, habitat weekly. Bathe if dirty, clean ears regularly, cut nails biweekly. Watch what ferret plays with.

Initial cost: $100-$500 for the ferret; $340-400 for other startup costs

Yearly upkeep cost: $300-$1,000 (ferrets are genetically predisposed to certain medical problems, and may need multiple surgeries)

They eat: Meat. Can eat whole prey or special ferret food balanced with the vitamins and minerals they need. Can have scraps of meat as treats.

Life expectancy: 6 to 8 years

Pros and cons: Fun to watch, interactive, sociable. But high-maintenance, may have an odor, require ferret-proofing your house.

Bird

(Recommended for kids: parakeet, cockatiel)

Activity level: Sometimes leaves cage

Good for ages: 14 and up

Kid's daily commitment: Food and water should always be available. Clean cage liner weekly. Clean and disinfect cage and perches regularly. Closely observe health, including state of stools and feathers. Daily interaction important for proper socialization.

Initial cost: $20-$100 or more for bird alone; $100-350 for other startup costs.

Yearly upkeep cost: $200-$400

They eat: Fresh pellets, plus fresh fruits and vegetables.

Life expectancy: Over 10 years for finches, cockatoos and canaries; 40-60 years for macaws and parrots.

Pros and cons Interactive. Many species can be taught to talk. But messy and noisy.

Frog

Activity level: Never leaves cage/tank

Good for ages: 10 and up

Kid's daily commitment: Feed young frogs daily, adults one or two times a week. Clean tank weekly or more if necessary.

Initial cost: $10-$35 for the frog itself; $200-$300 for other startup costs

Yearly upkeep cost: $200-$300

They eat: Live insects dusted daily with a calcium supplement and weekly with a vitamin and mineral supplement. Some larger frogs eat mice.

Life expectancy: 3-10 years

Pros and cons: Take up little room, low maintenance. Can carry salmonella. Should not be handled a lot.

Lizard/gecko

(Recommended for kids: leopard gecko, bearded dragon)

Activity level: Sometimes leaves cage/tank

Good for ages: 10 and up

Kid's daily commitment: Feed daily or every other day. Change water daily. Remove feces daily, clean tank weekly, give lizard a misting shower regularly. Observe daily.

Initial cost: $10-$100 for the animal itself; $200-$300 for startup costs

Yearly upkeep cost: $190-$450

They eat: Insects, veggies, special lizard food.

Life expectancy: 10-20 years

Pros and cons: Quiet, but can carry salmonella. Not very interactive and may not like being handled.

Turtle

(Recommended for kids: red-eared slider)

Activity level: Never leaves cage/tank

Good for ages: 12 and up

Kid's daily commitment: Feed once per day or every other day, depending on age and type. Clean tank weekly, more if necessary. No playing or handling necessary, but observe daily to make sure it's okay.

Initial cost: $20-$100 for the turtle itself; $200-$300 for other startup costs.

Yearly upkeep cost: $50-$150

They eat: Insects, grasses, fruits and vegetables, or food pellets.

Life expectancy: 40-60 years.

Pros and cons: Interesting to observe, but can carry salmonella.

Sources: PetSmart.com; Petco.com; ASPCA.org; petplace.com; Holly Nash, staff veterinarian at Drs. Foster and Smith, and Scott McKay, staff vet at Drs. Foster and Smith, Rhinelander, Wis.; Jay Hreiz, district officer at American Rabbit Breeders Association, Bloomington, Ill.; Lisa Vible, education director at the American Ferret Association, Annapolis, Md.; Mike Selig, staff vet at Barberton Veterinary Clinic in Norton, Ohio; Richard Nye, vet at Nye Veterinary Services in Batavia, Ill., and consultant at Ness Exotic Wellness Center in Lisle, Ill.

Alternative pet ideas for those who don't want cats or dogs 06/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 21, 2010 5:16pm]

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