My very first pet was a dead caterpillar on a stick. I'm not sure if it was dead when I found it or if it passed away soon after, but I was very, very small so I didn't even realize it was dead. Today, the closest things I have to a pet are my matryoshka Unazukin and my bread starter, and they don't do much. Perhaps a high-tech pet is the perfect thing for very small children and very easily-distracted girls who travel a lot...
How old were you when you got your first pet? Was it a temporary pet like a firefly you caught or a rescued bird, or a proper pet like a dog or goat? How old were your children when you let them get a pet, and how did it go? How can you tell a kid is ready for a pet? Would you indulge in a little pet-subterfuge? I'm not recommending a dead caterpillar on a stick, but how about an electronic butterfly in a jar?
As ThinkGeek describes it, "When we were kids, we liked putting butterflies in jars so we could keep them forever and ever. But sometimes they always died." So true. Maybe the electronic butterfly in a jar could teach your kid both that real animals can't live in jars, and that tech can be cool and beautiful. (There's no age recommendation given, but keep in mind it is a glass jar full of high-techery, so children should be supervised, of course.)