Pets are a great way to teach kids about responsibility, nurturing, development, and, of course, mortality. That’s because pets usually have a pretty short time on this earth to earn and accept our trust and love before shuffling off into the shoebox coffin or flushing toilet in the sky.
In order to get you ready for “the big talk” about life, death, what may exist beyond our mortal shells, among other theological mindfields, here’s a sense of how long your pet of choice typically lives.
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Mice are a good “starter pet” for kids, since they don’t require a lot of space, can be cared for fairly easily, and get you to that teachable death moment quicker than most pets. Most rodents tend to hover in that same range, with Hamsters and Gerbils clocking in at around 2-4 years.
Lifespan: 1-10 years
If you have a climate controlled, saltwater aquarium of your imported tropical fish, odds are you’re going to see the upper reaches of this really broad spectrum. If you’re carrying a goldfish home in a plastic bag because you won the ping pong ball toss at the local county fair…it’s probably already dead.
Lifespan: 10-13 years
There’s a reason why dogs are such beloved family pets -- they tend to hang in there for a decent chunk of your life -- especially Jack Russells, who can go up to 14 years according to PetMD. So if you buy your kids a puppy when they’re toddlers, the mutt should stick around until those kids are in their mature, stable, and not-at-all-prone to illogical emotional eruptions teenage years. Oh…
Lifespan: 12-18 years
There’s no actual science to back up the claim that cats live longer than dogs out of pure spite, but there might be something to it. Depending on size and breed, cats can live for nearly two decades. That’s almost 20 years of casual acquaintancey and lukewarm regard!
Lifespan: 8-12 years
Rabbits demand almost the same commitment as a dog, as they tend to live nearly as long. Some believe rabbits are low maintenance, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, rabbits are prone to anxiety disorders and even anorexia.
Lifespan: 25-30 years
If you’ve ever wondered why cowboys in old movies seemed to have an unusually strong bond with their horses, it’s probably because a horse had about the same lifespan as a human in the 1800s. Horse owners actually have to consider forms of elder care for their aging steeds -- which isn’t really too much of an issue if you’re wealthy enough to own a horse.
Lifespan: 5-15 years
Why such a big range for such a little bird? It’s because there are so many factors that can contribute to a parakeet’s life expectancy -- and some parrots can live up to 50 years. As The Nest explains:
“Life expectancy of your pet bird is dramatically reduced if he is not given a proper diet. Give him high quality bird seed mix and pellets. It’s a good idea to rotate the two to get the best nutrient variety. Fresh fruits and veggies are also an important part of his diet. He will enjoy leafy greens, slices of apple or pear, melon, carrots, broccoli, pineapple and tomato fruit. Make sure to never give your parakeet chocolate, caffeinated or carbonated beverages, tomato leaves, raw peanuts, avocado, fruit seeds and pits, rhubarb, potatoes or alcohol. These will make your birdie sick and could possibly be fatal.”
So if you’re reading this while prepping a rum and coke for Tweety -- stop it.
Lifespan: 40-50 years
Yes, our closest ancestor lives almost as long as we do. So if you prefer your pets to be of the VERY exotic variety, and have somehow managed to dupe a game warden into letting you take a chimpanzee home, you and your new buddy can look forward to sitting on a couch together in your golden years reminiscing about old times. Or, more likely, he’ll flip out on you and tear you to pieces. There’s a reason you don’t see many chimps in people’s homes.
Pet: Giant Tortoise
Lifespan: 150 years
“He was a good owner,” ol’ Terry the Turtle will say, standing over your grave before sighing “Welp, better make myself available to my next family. Eighty-five is the new sixty!”