My kids have always known life with pets, cat specifically, but when our last cats passed away so close together around last Christmas I told everyone I was taking a pet break for at least a year.

Although the whole family benefits from a pet’s unconditional love, it usually ends up as mom’s task to handle the day-to-day after the initial new pet novelty has worn off. This means training, feeding, cleaning, vet visits, medication, litter or taking the pet outside, especially when you have a family with young kids. Pets also post issues when it comes to family vacations too, such as pet sitters or kennels.

I’ll admit I have been enjoying my lack of pet responsibility this past year though seeing those cut pet photos shared by others online does have me rethinking my animal leave of absence. My youngest daughter too has been biding her time with a new pet request but now that she knows the year has passed she has been a little more vocal on the new family pet front.

So I have been giving this new pet idea some thought and I’ve come up with a few compromises that give the family a pet without the expense and excessive commitment. If you find yourself in the same “To Get a Family Pet or Not” scenario perhaps one of these 7 pet alternatives will do the trick.

Port-a-Pug

My oldest daughter is a huge dog fan, pugs specifically, but if I was ever to agree on a pet a dog wouldn’t be one of them. Enter the Port-a-Pug. This little kit comes with everything your dog lover will need, from a cut as cardboard pug with its own dog blanket, double-sides food and water bowl, bones, plus you can even create a custom collar for your dog. It’s the perfect dog: no pet hair, not walking, no ‘accidents’, and so well behaved.

family pet alternative portapug dog

Aquabot with Bowl

Fish seem to be a common first pet for many as it seems like a small investment but even these little gilled creatures can take a lot of your (as in mom’s) time. When I saw these Aquabots from HexBug at a Target Canada preview I knew there were destined for our pet loving home. There’s no need to feed them and there’s no having to explain fishy heaven when they die (which real fish seem to do so frequently). Although you can buy the fish on their own the Aquabot with a Bowl set comes with your new pet’s own fish bowl.

family pet alternative hexbug aquabot

Pet Rock Kit

Maybe your pet lover is drawn to something a little on the unusual (or retro) side. A pet rock isn’t a new concept but I love this Pet Rock kit with carrying container, manual plus a fleece bed and blanket. A pet that will sit quietly in the corner of the dresser.

family pet alternative petrockkit

Daisy Plays with Me Kitty

My youngest loves cute little kittens, from purring on her lap to chasing a toy. Of course the feeding, brushing, and changing of the litter aren’t as high on her list. Hasbro’s FurReal Friends are like mini pets that offer kids all the entertaining fun of a pet without the responsibility. If kittens aren’t what interest your pet lover, you can find puppies, rabbits, and even monkeys in the FurReal Friends family.

family pet alternative hasbro furrealanimals

 Hatch Virtual Pet

If you have a family full of iOS devices then a Hatch pet might be a great pet alternative. Similar to the Tamagotchi (without the pet death I’ve heard) you love and feed and interact with your  Hatch ‘pet’ and earn experience points as you do.

family pet alternative hatch virtualpet

Folkmanis Baby Dutch Rabbit Puppet

Sometimes the kids just want something to pet and snuggle and entertain them. The Folkmanis Rabbit looks and feels like a real bunny without having to clean a cage or remembering to feed regularly. Plus there’s no worry of little hands being too rough. This Folkmanis rabbit can handle a little preschool play.

family pet alternative rabbitpuppet

Perfect Polly

This motion-activated parakeet will interact with your family as they enter the room with a chirp.  She can perch on a stand or even on your finger and there’s no bird poop to clean up. Plus unlike a real bird, Perfect Polly has an on-off switch so you can stop the chirping when you’re not in the mood to hear your pet.

family pet alternative perfectpolly

Next time your kids are pestering for a pet and you don’t think they are ready for one (or you’re not ready to take over the responsibility that will eventually fall upon your shoulders), perhaps one of these alternative pet ideas will meet your family’s needs.

Should you decide that now is the time to get a real pet, here are some tips on the best first pet for your family.