Which Small Animal Is the Best Pet for You?

Updated on August 1, 2017

So you have decided you want a small animal but you are uncertain which kind of small animal would best suit your life. Below are many of the common pets you’ll find as well as some more unusual ones. They’ll be a range of personalities, possibilities, space requirements and budgets to keep these guys but you should find at least one to look further into.

Axolotls are becoming more popular pets, especially since people started breeding a range of colors.
Axolotls are becoming more popular pets, especially since people started breeding a range of colors.

Axolotl

Axolotl are cute little amphibians that can make for great starter pets. They're about the same maintenance and habitat as a fish but you get something that's a little more unique and as you can see by the photos - can smile. They were originally bred in labs for scientific research but have made their way into the pet population where breeders have worked on new colorful mutations. They can be kept singly but probably prefer to be kept in pairs or groups. The smallest cage you’d want for two is a ten gallon tank. Common colors can be on the cheap side to buy at pet stores and such, costing maybe $15 each. More unusual colors can be bought from breeders for a range of prices, some new mutation exceeding $100. On the negative side to axolotl keeping if you obtain a male female pair their breeding can be hard to predict but when they do lay eggs you may have 500 of the little ones to deal with and they go through a “cannibalistic stage” until they are 6 inches long. These are not animals for newbie breeders. These critters should not be confused with "mud puppies" who look very similar but get larger, tend to be too aggressive to live in pairs or groups, and who bark during breeding season.

Chinchillas were first brought into captivity by ranchers who wanted them for their soft pelts. Today they're more often seen as pets.
Chinchillas were first brought into captivity by ranchers who wanted them for their soft pelts. Today they're more often seen as pets.

Chinchilla

Chinchillas are animals that were first brought into the United States so that they could be bred for their fur. Since these animals were not being bred for pets many of them were fierce biters. However now that the pet market is separated almost entirely from the fur ranchers they are usually more docile than this. Chinchillas are fairly large, fairly expensive, and fairly aloof. They can be very gentle creatures and interact well with humans but they do not like to be cuddled, rather they would prefer you let them run around so they can bounce up to you. They require fairly large cages and males do best in pairs. Females are the more aggressive sex and are OK to be housed singly. Their diet needs to be precise as too many sugar and treats can actually kill them. They are prone to depression when their cage mate dies and this can also kill them. That being said they are lovely creatures with sweet dispositions and very soft fur. Even better is they have almost no smell at all. They do however require dust baths to keep their fur in good condition. Chinchillas can be purchased from pet stores and breeders for as little as $50 or over $200 depending on color. The investment isn’t a short lived one however as chinchillas can live 15-20 years. Their breeding cycles are also slow. They tend to have 1-2 kits 1-3 times a year when they feel the time is right.

Degus have been used for many years in laboratory research looking into the effects of diabetes and cataracts. These animals have a natural sensitivity to sugar and can easily become diabetic in a pet home where too many treats are given.
Degus have been used for many years in laboratory research looking into the effects of diabetes and cataracts. These animals have a natural sensitivity to sugar and can easily become diabetic in a pet home where too many treats are given.

Degus

Degus (pronounced Day-goo) are related to chinchillas but are smaller. They are usually brown in color but very recently blue ones have emerged as well as tan and piebald. They were used originally in laboratories to study diabetes and cataracts which they are very prone to. Like the chinchillas you cannot feed them sugary foods at all. This being said they are very social, love to hang out with their other degu buddies, and can be very interactive with their humans. They also live up to 8 years and have sporadic breeding cycles resulting in litters of up to ten babies. They sometimes make very funny noises when “talking” to each other that I find very endearing. You can occasionally find them at pet stores for $40 or so a piece. Breeders sometimes have them for cheaper. Like chinchillas they love a dust bath!

Some of the Sweet Vocalizations Degus Make

Duprasi are still a somewhat unusual rodent pet in the US. They're soft, cute, and often sociable but their tails can come off with rough handling.
Duprasi are still a somewhat unusual rodent pet in the US. They're soft, cute, and often sociable but their tails can come off with rough handling.

Duprasi

Duprasi or “fat-tailed gerbils” are fairly rare but you can sometimes find them. Depending on their lineage and the amount of socialization they get they can be nippy or docile. They are an active creature that loves a wheel and can be kept in a ten gallon tank. They love a dust bath to keep their coats in condition. Males can be kept happily in same sex groups or pairs whereas females much prefer to live a solitary life, only seeing a male companion when they are in the mood to breed. They are small animals with very soft fur and can live up to five years.

A Very Nice Set Up and a Very Happy Duprasi

Dwarf hamsters have been a staple in the pet trade for many years. They come in hundreds of colors and coat patterns and even several species.
Dwarf hamsters have been a staple in the pet trade for many years. They come in hundreds of colors and coat patterns and even several species.

Dwarf Hamster

Dwarf hamsters come in several different species and probably hundreds of colors. Unlike their larger cousins, the Syrian hamsters, these guys generally do best in pairs or groups of any sex or combination. Be careful though as they are very prolific breeders! A pair can live happily in a ten gallon tank and if properly bred and socialized these guys can be super sweet and enjoy handling. Their diet isn’t particularly fussy and a commercial seed mix is usually fine by them. Downfalls are that they do have an odor and don’t live particularly long, maybe two years at their max. That being said they’re one of the cheapest pets on this list, often being found for $5-10

Incontinence and a strong ammonia smell has been bred into fancy mice but a drop of vanilla in the male's water bottle can reduce this odor.
Incontinence and a strong ammonia smell has been bred into fancy mice but a drop of vanilla in the male's water bottle can reduce this odor.

Fancy Mice

Fancy mice can be fun little pets. They come in all sorts of colors, fur and ear variations. They come in curly fur, satin fur, long fur, normal fur, and no fur just as an example. They can live happily in a cage as small as a ten gallon tank and females can get along great in groups whereas males generally don't get along with each other and can be quite suited as single pets. Some love exercise wheels and they can be very interactive and sweet with their humans. Unfortunately their lifespan is only 1.5-2 years and they have an outrageous smell, particularly the males. A couple drops of vanilla in the male’s water bottle may help with this but it’s still quite offensive and the reason why I didn’t pursue mice longer! They are prolific breeders and are often sold in pet stores as food for other animals so they are usually very cheap, $2 or so for an adult.

Dumbo rats have large round ears on the side of the head - a mutation that makes them look more like mice. It is a popular variety amongst the fancy rat pet population.
Dumbo rats have large round ears on the side of the head - a mutation that makes them look more like mice. It is a popular variety amongst the fancy rat pet population.

Fancy Rats

Fancy rats are probably my personal favorite as they are intensely personable, energetic, and intelligent. They are intensely social animals that in the wild can have up to 500 recognizable rat friends. This is why I always suggest they should be adopted as same-sex cage mates. Females are very alert and active and males tend to be big and lazy. Be careful when selecting a rat as a pet and if possible go to a breeder. Rats that are skittish or bite or often hard to tame down but the ones that come friendly can be like little puppies, running to their cage door to lap at their human’s fingers. They also make for great shoulder pets. They breed prolifically and therefore are usually on the cheap side, though some mutations from breeders can reach up to $50 or more. $5 is more likely at a pet store. Be careful though as bad breeding (i.e. a pet store that just breeds them as food for other pets) can lead to aggressive temperaments and a lot of health problems like tumors and cancer. They usually live 2-2.5 years. They do have an odor but it doesn’t come close to their fancy mice relatives. They do NOT mix well with other pets, especially those smaller or the same size as themselves. I have heard many horror stories of pet rats attacking and killing other pets such as other small rodents and birds. Just keep them away!

Five Fancy Rats Perform Tricks

Ferrets were originally bred to hunt down vermin on farms and their services could be rented by traveling ferret wranglers who'd release them into the area for the day. Today ferrets are usually neutered, descented, and kept indoors as pets.
Ferrets were originally bred to hunt down vermin on farms and their services could be rented by traveling ferret wranglers who'd release them into the area for the day. Today ferrets are usually neutered, descented, and kept indoors as pets.

Ferrets

Ferrets are wonderfully active creatures when they’re not sleeping which is a good amount of the time. They require large cages and do best in pairs or groups. Most ferrets bought from pet stores and breeders are already spayed or neutered so you don’t have to worry about babies. They will also generally be descented but don’t let this fool you they will still smell pretty bad. On the good hand they are litter box trainable and are a great pet to have that can run around the house with supervision. They will steal small objects and hide them, run at full speed, and make all sorts of adorable “dook-dook” sort of noises. Ferrets used to have long lifespans of eight or more years but sadly the biggest puppy mill type breeder of ferrets, Marshall Farms, supplies almost every pet store and their bad breeding practices have shortened the ferrets lifespan by years. Now they generally last to be two or three. A good way to avoid this is to find a breeder with better lines. Many import ferrets from longer lived European lines. Expect to pay around $80 or more per ferret and make sure to handle them before buying. Although most ferrets are very amiable towards humans I've also come across some truly vicious biters as well which is usually the result of abuse or rough handling earlier in their life.

Ferrets Playing

Guppies are a popular freshwater fish that come in hundreds of colors and even can be seen with different tail shapes.
Guppies are a popular freshwater fish that come in hundreds of colors and even can be seen with different tail shapes.

Freshwater Fish

Freshwater fish are great if you want something you can watch but don’t necessarily want something to cuddle or play with. They are great for starter pets or for the experienced hobbyist depending what you get. Many people love to breed the live bearers like guppies while other people like to have big display tanks and see how large their fish can get. You can also add plants and do landscaping. It can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be and it can take as little or as much space as you want it to. Betas are often kept alone in half gallon tanks, whereas big display fish can swim in tanks that can be hundreds of gallons.

Geckoes may be one of the most popular lizards kept as pets. They have easy maintenance and can live up to twenty years.
Geckoes may be one of the most popular lizards kept as pets. They have easy maintenance and can live up to twenty years.

Gecko

Leopard geckos are great little starter reptiles. They don’t usually mind handling, have no odor, and can be fairly easy to breed. Though they can be handled they shouldn’t go to young children as their tails are fragile and can break off and like all reptiles they can carry salmonella. Also they require live food, usually crickets, and can live past 20 years of age. Other gecko species can be harder to maintain, breed, and many do not appreciate handling. Make sure to do your research!

Genets are an exotic pet that stays on the small side. Their personality and care is most comparable to that of a cat.
Genets are an exotic pet that stays on the small side. Their personality and care is most comparable to that of a cat.

Genets

Genets are for someone who has had many of the usual pets and wants to try something a little different. These animals are related to cats but have their own unique personality. Most people buy them as babies from breeders to make sure they’ll have a sweet pet that does not bite. They will get very attached to their owner and it’s because of this that genets who need to be rehomed often become biters as they distrust new owners. Make sure you can keep these guys for the up to 20 years you may have them! They can be kept singly but probably do better with a genet companion. They love to climb to high places and require someone who will give them the diet they need which generally consists of ferret food supplemented with fresh foods and meats. They need to be out of their cage for at least several hours a day but they are litter trainable. They are not cuddly pets, preferring instead to explore and play. They do NOT mix with smaller animals as being natural predators they will eat them. Dogs and cats can sometimes be introduced to young or baby genets. They will need to be spayed or neutered or you will risk their behavior becoming aggressive as they reach maturity.

A Pet Genet Eats Live Fish

Gerbils are usually a gentle and relatively odorless rodent that make great beginner pets. They come in all sorts of colors and patterns. This one is a Burmese.
Gerbils are usually a gentle and relatively odorless rodent that make great beginner pets. They come in all sorts of colors and patterns. This one is a Burmese.

Gerbils

Gerbils are lovely in that they have very little odor. They also require little space, a ten gallon tank being fine for a pair. They do best in groups of 2-4 and can live 2.5 years or so. They can become accustomed to their owners and can generally be handled but gently so.

Guinea pigs come in different fur types - including two furless types. This is a Baldwin pig with a fuzzy nose. Completely hairless pigs are called Skinny Pigs.
Guinea pigs come in different fur types - including two furless types. This is a Baldwin pig with a fuzzy nose. Completely hairless pigs are called Skinny Pigs.

Guinea Pigs

Believe it or not guinea pigs were first domesticated to be a food animal for people! I don’t suggest people raise them now as chicken alternatives but they can be good pets. They’re on the larger side so they tend to be hardier when it comes to dealing with children. They are gentle and docile and tend not to bite. They can also be kept easily in pairs or groups and can live up to eight years. They also come in lots of colors and fur types but they do have an odor and can make a lot of noise.

Hedgehogs are very cute but they require a lot of handling or they get mean very quickly.
Hedgehogs are very cute but they require a lot of handling or they get mean very quickly.

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are good for people who want a more advanced pet. They are solitary animals that prefer to live alone and can live in a nice rabbit-sized cage but they are good climbers and efficient escape artists. They also need to be handled daily for the entirety of their lives or they will turn into biters. They eat mostly quality cat or kitten food but do require dietary supplements such as fresh fruits and veggies, crickets, boiled eggs, and cooked meats. Their cage should never be near drafts or in direct sunlight. They can live 3.5-9 years and will cost you probably around $80-120 to purchase.

Hermit crabs are ideal beginner pets. They require little care and can cope with some rough handling by the children that own them.
Hermit crabs are ideal beginner pets. They require little care and can cope with some rough handling by the children that own them.

Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs make for great first pets for small children. They’re almost one step up from a plant. They require very little space, not that much food, and are very hardy to the rough handling of children. They like to be kept in groups, which is fine, as they tend to be insanely cheap. I hear a lot of people complain they’re short lived but actually they can live 10-30 years in captivity. Proper care is not hard, you just have to know what it is and there a lot of care sheets online that can be of great help.

Jirds are an exotic alternative to gerbils. They are almost odorless, soft-furred, and gentle. They are great for the more advanced rodent hobbyist.
Jirds are an exotic alternative to gerbils. They are almost odorless, soft-furred, and gentle. They are great for the more advanced rodent hobbyist.

Jirds

Jirds are a very sweet relative of the gerbil that have soft fur and can be content sitting in your hand or on your lap. They even have a sort of purring behavior, which is not auditory but you can feel them happily vibrate. Females tend to like being kept as a single pet while males generally do well in same sex pairs or groups. They require little space and are almost odorless. Sadly they’re hard to come by and probably have a slightly heftier price tag than some of the other critters on this list.

Time for a Sand Bath!

Hissing cockroaches can make wonderful pets for children and adults alike. They can't bite, are happy to live in something as small as a ten gallon tank, and can eat spoiled food from your fridge.
Hissing cockroaches can make wonderful pets for children and adults alike. They can't bite, are happy to live in something as small as a ten gallon tank, and can eat spoiled food from your fridge.

Madagascar Hissing Cockraoches

Hissing roaches make wonderful pets for children or people who want a conversation starter. They are very easy to keep and breed either in an aquarium or a big plastic bin. Make sure to put a couple inches of petroleum jelly around the side if your cockroach habitat doesn’t have a lid. This prevents escapes. However if there is escapes they will likely die off pretty quick being a tropical non-pest species. Hissing cockroaches are wonderful in that they’re a nice big size, easy to handle, do not bite or pinch, and display unique behaviors. When frightened they do indeed hiss at you and males will often take hierarchical roles with the most dominant being surrounded by less dominant satellite males who gather around the borders of their territory. They are easy to sex too and are generally very cheap, $1 or maybe $2 a head at a pet store. These guys can live 2-3 years and make wonderfully educational pets for children. Other bugs to consider would be giant stick insects, diving beetles, tarantulas, and giant millipedes.

Natal Rats, also called "African Soft-Furred Rats" are gaining in popularity as pets - but be warned they thrive in groups of four or more. Any less and they tend to get lonely and die.
Natal Rats, also called "African Soft-Furred Rats" are gaining in popularity as pets - but be warned they thrive in groups of four or more. Any less and they tend to get lonely and die.

Natal Rats

Natal rats come by all sorts of different names, “soft-furred rats” “African Pygmy Rats” “African Soft-furred Rats” and mistakenly sometimes even “dwarf rats.” They are very soft fluffy creatures who were first imported in the US to be a more natural food source for several snake varieties. They are fiercely social and need to be kept in groups of at least three or four or they are said to die of depression. They currently come in four different colors, either in solid or piebald, and two different eye colors. When handled young they can potentially make affectionate pets. They do however reproduce at an alarming rate. They can reach maturity as early as two months of age and litters can be up to 22 pups, which is not average or normal but it can happen. It’s best to keep these guys in same-sex groups. They are gaining fast in popularity.

A Natal Rat Learns a Trick

Parrots are a lifelong commitment. Some species can live past 100 years and they require hours of daily attention in order not to become devious biters.
Parrots are a lifelong commitment. Some species can live past 100 years and they require hours of daily attention in order not to become devious biters.

Parrots

Parrots are great for someone who can handle a lot of noise, a lot of mess, and has the patience of a saint. Parrots can be very friendly and learn how to talk or they can be holy terrors with the power to lop off your fingers like GT the psycho cockatoo pictured here. It really depends. It’s highly suggested that if you do get a parrot get just one that is hand-fed. You may or may not be able to add other birds later on but do expect them to bond to each other more than to you if you house them together, even if they are of a different species. Parrots can be extremely destructive, can fly unless you clip their wings, are very loud, and can live 50-80 years, sometimes even getting past 100 years in age! They are not for the meek! They also can put a pretty big dent in your pocket to purchase. Be wary what you’re getting into with these guys!

Most prairie dogs sold in the pet market are harvested as babies from wild populations - perhaps this is why so many defy domestication.
Most prairie dogs sold in the pet market are harvested as babies from wild populations - perhaps this is why so many defy domestication.

Prairie Dogs

Prairie dogs are a somewhat unique pet and many people have different experiences with them. Some people say they can be really sweet while most say they turn pretty nasty towards maturity becoming biters. They live in groups in the wild but most pet owners these days keep them singly in the hopes they’ll bond to the human rather than to another prairie dog. I’m not sure this is good for their mental health being as social as they are. They require large housing and are awake during the day.

Pygmy mice make great "furry fish" - that is a pet you can put in an aquarium and watch but not really handle. They are very small and very quick.
Pygmy mice make great "furry fish" - that is a pet you can put in an aquarium and watch but not really handle. They are very small and very quick.

Pygmy Mice

Pygmy mice are often called “furry fish” as most owners do not actually try to handle them. There’s a good reason for this! For one they are tiny, their bodies only measuring at most 3 inches across, and for another they are faster than lightning. They require a 5 gallon aquarium or larger to live in and generally love wheels, tubes, and things to play with. Most people who keep them keep them in mixed sex groups and just let them breed. Their babies are the size of ants and they can form quite the community. They can live up to three years.

A VERY Nice Habitat for Pygmy Mice

Bunnies have been bred for fur, for meat, for fiber, and now for pets. They are highly domesticated, often very docile, and can make nice pets.
Bunnies have been bred for fur, for meat, for fiber, and now for pets. They are highly domesticated, often very docile, and can make nice pets.

Rabbits

Rabbits are probably the most domesticated animal on my list. They have been bred for hundreds of years for fur, meat, fiber, and pets. They come in all sorts of different breeds that range in size from The Netherland Dwarf at 2 pounds to the 14 pound Flemish Giant. Depending what their breed was mainly used for their temperaments can vary. They are also large enough for most vets to spay and neuter if you want a male female pair without babies. I personally think the sweetest bunnies I have encountered have been Holland Lops, the small lop-eared bunnies that seem to love being cuddled. Some breeds may need extra care like the angoras which need to be brushed daily to avoid matting. These guys can live up to 5-8 years if properly taken care of and are great pets for beginners and experienced hobbyists alike.

Bunny Hopping Competition

Saltwater tanks can be a fantastic hobby for anyone who has a lot of money to spend and a mind that needs constant challenges.
Saltwater tanks can be a fantastic hobby for anyone who has a lot of money to spend and a mind that needs constant challenges.

Saltwater Fish

Saltwater fish are great for people who like to solve things and have a perpetual intellectual challenge. They’re far more intense to keep than fresh water fish and you have to keep on top of everything at all times. Many salt water hobbyists like to keep whole ecosystems which they have to build and maintain. You can keep just the fish but what fun is that when you could have a whole ecosystem? These people take much pride in getting live rock with which to attach coral to, a “clean up crew” of crabs and various other little critters to keep the algae under control, and the fish and other creatures that swim around the corals and rocks. These can be fascinating and beautiful, eerie and intoxicating. They make for a great educational tool if you have children, an even better conversation starter for guests, and boy are they relaxing to watch. You can literally get lost staring into a good set up. On the downside a great tank like this will cost you at least $2,000 and that’s buying used equipment on the cheap. Over time the hobby can easily cost thousands of dollars and is intensely fragile. If you don’t have a generator to back up the power your entire tank could die within an hour of the power going out if the water gets just one degree cooler than it should be. It’s not for the faint hearted but it is a great thing to get into if you have the passion and intensity for it. Not to mention the people! I think the most interesting people in the animal hobby have been rat people and salt water enthusiasts. They’ve been great and very diverse.

Pygmy possums are marsupials - despite looking mouse-like they carry their babies at first in a pouch and then on their backs. They can make docile pets.
Pygmy possums are marsupials - despite looking mouse-like they carry their babies at first in a pouch and then on their backs. They can make docile pets.

Short Tailed Opossums

Short tailed opossums are solitary animals that don’t take up a lot of space. They can be held and played with and generally don’t bite. They can live happily in a ten gallon tank and are fairly new to the pet trade. They usually cost $100 to purchase one and breeders love when their mama possums have babies as they will cling to her back just like a regular large wild possum.

Meet Pocket the Opossum

These Lady Gouldian Finches come in all sorts of color mutations and can sing pretty well too. They are popular amongst hobbyists and are a delight to watch in a large flight cage.
These Lady Gouldian Finches come in all sorts of color mutations and can sing pretty well too. They are popular amongst hobbyists and are a delight to watch in a large flight cage.

Small Birds

Small birds can be fun to keep. Many like the canaries are very musical and make calming noises. These smaller birds like the finches and canaries can come in all sorts of colors and species and when kept in small flocks, especially larger flight cages, they can be amazing to watch, a great alternative to fish. Some people can tame finches and the like to perch on their hands but this is more unusual than not. Other small birds such as parakeets and cockatiels can be handled and if hand-fed generally make friendly and loving pets. Some may even learn to talk.

Spiny Mice can be kept as "furry fish" or a handleable pet depending on their temperament. They are odorless, active, and very intelligent.
Spiny Mice can be kept as "furry fish" or a handleable pet depending on their temperament. They are odorless, active, and very intelligent.

Spiny Mice

Spiny mice were my introduction into the “exotic pet” world. At the time almost no one had even heard of them and I got them directly off a guy who was importing them from Africa. This is illegal now since the monkey pox scare but they’re still around having been bred successfully in captivity. They are odorless creatures who are energetic and feisty. Many love their wheels and if you tame them they can be treated much as a pet mouse or rat. Beware though as some can be real nasty biters and although I’ve been bitten by a lot of things I think spiny mice have the most painful bite. Their teeth are like needles and once they have a good hold on you they’ll grind their teeth back and forth until they feel like letting go. You in the meanwhile will be bleeding profusely. That being said the tame ones can be wonderful and the mean ones make for great “furry fish,” something to watch but not really handle. They do have a few eccentricities. For one their tail will rip off if anyone tries to grab them with it and their spines are stiffened hair that are somewhat hedgehog-like in texture but they don’t stab you with them. In fact the only time I had a problem with their spines is when I somehow got one lodged under my fingernail. These guys can live up to seven years in captivity and have started showing up with new mutations. They’re also breeding easier now in captivity so beware! I always kept mine in groups of three or more. They seemed to do well.

Spiny Mice Enjoy a Nice Habitat

Sugar gliders are cute but they take a lot of specialized care - starting with their diet which should consist mostly of fresh fruits and other human grade foods.
Sugar gliders are cute but they take a lot of specialized care - starting with their diet which should consist mostly of fresh fruits and other human grade foods.

Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders are cute but not for everyone! They require a lot of specialized care including a large cage, exercise time out of the cage, a daily diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other fresh foods, and in addition to this they really smell. It’s because they eat so much fruit but still. The smell is very sour and they soil the cage pretty quickly. If you can handle all these things they can make for great companions. They like time out of the cage to exercise and can be quite friendly. Sugar gliders who have not been handled can be real bad biters though so be careful, also be careful where you buy one as many pet stores get milled gliders wholesale who may not always have the greatest health. Going to a breeder is probably the best idea and since they have become more popular as pets you should be able to find one in your area.

Just Sugar Gliders Being Cute

Syrian hamsters (the big hamsters) are one of the most common beginner pets. They all descend from one mother and her pups which came into captivity in the 1920s. They may or may not still exist in the wild.
Syrian hamsters (the big hamsters) are one of the most common beginner pets. They all descend from one mother and her pups which came into captivity in the 1920s. They may or may not still exist in the wild.

Syrian Hamsters

Syrian hamsters are probably the best known starter pets. They are the large hamsters who generally do best living alone past six months of age. I had a group of six males once who lived together for the entirety of their lives with no problems but I never found any one else to have the same experience. In any event Syrian Hamsters all come from one mother and her pups that were imported in the 1920’s. This means they are severely inbred and often suffer from tumors, cancer, and the like. However they can be healthy and when properly socialized they can be the sweetest cuddliest things you can ask for, not to mention hilarious to watch as the shove food into their mouth pouches. They also come in hundreds of colors, coat patterns, and even hair types. Furless hamsters are often sold as “alien hamsters.” These guys can live up to five years but 2-3 is probably more the average. They don’t smell too bad either.

Turtles and tortoises can make fine pets but please buy only captive bred specimens! Many species are going extinct in the wild due to poaching and over harvesting for the pet trade.
Turtles and tortoises can make fine pets but please buy only captive bred specimens! Many species are going extinct in the wild due to poaching and over harvesting for the pet trade.

Turtles

Turtles and tortoises used to be common children’s pets but I believe the practice is fading, as it should. Turtles smell really atrociously and require large aquariums or ponds, live food, and some special care, whereas tortoises can live over 50 years and are prone to nutritional deficiencies. These can make lovely pets but I don’t suggest them as starter pets. There are lots of care sheets out there for the specific turtle or tortoise you may like to adopt but please remember to only buy captive bred reptiles! The trade in reptiles of all sorts, tortoises included, is decimating natural populations so please don’t support this practice.


All and all this should be a pretty inclusive list. Do let me know if there is some common little pet I have forgotten and I will see to adding it. For all of you looking for a new pet good luck and I hope this article has helped you.

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      JT DJ 2 weeks ago

      Hi I was wondering if you could make a list of small animals you can keep around dogs

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      bobby 4 months ago

      hermit crabs are actually terrible pets for first time owners. they don't have lungs, but gills, and can only breathe comfortably under very specific humidity conditions. it's a shame they've been popularized as much as they have been because with improper care they actually end up suffocating slowly over a series of months, sometimes even years.

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      Theophanes 4 months ago from New England

      Thank you Jeff. My mistake, I was confusing them with mud puppies... who look very similar and do bark... I'll see if I can go fix this. :)

    • profile image

      Jeff 4 months ago

      From my knowledge axolotls can't vocalize or in this case bark, they do make some noise when they come up for air.

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      Matiss 5 months ago

      Quick question do the rats poop all over u and do they bite

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      Callie Trimble 6 months ago

      There are very cute I would love to get one

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      cleo 8 months ago

      Thank you PetHelpful. I found a great pet.

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      arlene 8 months ago

      i love them all

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      aaaccc 10 months ago

      it's good but I just can't decide what pet to get

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      Olivia Horne 10 months ago

      This article is very nice, I like that you did a lot of research

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      ...no 12 months ago

      dont keep foxes or skunks they deserve to be in the wild where they belong...oh also btw some of these pets do not sound legal to me...but otherwise it was an okay article i guess...

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      King Conn  12 months ago

      I need a small, non reptile, quite, easy and fun to care for, soft and clean, and cheap animal that won't mind people and my cat. Sorry for all the descriptions. Any ideas?

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      Ela 16 months ago

      This was really helpful

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      Justice 16 months ago

      I'm just going to say one thing on gerbils. I had two male gerbils who were brothers from birth. (Chaz and Spazz, if anyone was wondering) One day I went over to the cage due to hearing unusually high pitched and loud sounds coming from the boys. The were fighting and one drew blood from the other. We had to make an emergency trip to the nearest Walmart to get another tank. I would recommend either keeping a spare tank near by, or just simply having a single gerbil. The boys did great in separate tanks and they were a lot easier to handle for cage cleaning.

      Hope this helps

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      moo moo 16 months ago

      by the way my father said i cant get a ferret a hamster a geinna pig a rabbit or a chickin

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      moo moo 16 months ago

      Im looking for a pet that cant trip my grandma over and is social.What should I get?

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      person 17 months ago

      hampsters are cute

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      Me 20 months ago

      i am trying to find a small and odorless pet to take care of. My mother hates rats and mice, my dad hates large and furry animals, and i don't want a fish or any animal that lives in water. Any recommendations?

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      Tabitha 21 months ago

      I have 3 female fancy tail rats and they are by far the most sweetest things ever! The oldest one Ellie gives kisses and she will latch into the back of my Pitbull and they take strolls down the street together. I'm always with them, but she never offers to leave my dog, they're best friends ❤

    • Capernius1 profile image

      Capernius 22 months ago from EARTH

      Someone once asked of me,

      "Did God paint you?"

      My reply was,

      "yes he did."

      Then they asked me why...

      My reply was simple & straight forward,

      "Because God like Variety."

      ---------------------------------------------------

      Now I tell you this story to make a point.

      There are some that will say we should not do this, or we should not do that, but imagine if you will for but a moment, how boring life would be, if everyone was the same.... the same color skin, the same thoughts, same likes/dislikes, same religion even.

      That is also true of this article.

      Some will use a tractor to shovel what they want you to see/be/hear/etc...

      Others will use their hands, and with a loving heart, blow away the chaff & keep what is the most valuable.

      I think this article was a good read, it touched on many subjects, revealing both good & bad of each, giving the reader a "heads up" on these subjects mentioned.

      I commend this author for his/her work to write this piece, & to do so in a manner that is both educational & enlightening.

    • profile image

      Erika 23 months ago

      Another small pet suggestion is a flying squirrel. I have two and I absolutely love them! They make great small pets but they aren't for everyone. They are more ideal for (pre) teenagers or adults because little kids my treat them to rough. Also, Not many vets know how to treat flying squirrels so you have to learn on your own with them. But overall, they are awesome pets!

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      livetech 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      A really cool selection to learn about here, although I can think of a few missing! What a cool hub. I was personally considering getting a giant african landsnail.

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      Kat 2 years ago

      This is a really cool article; I love that people are sharing some of the more unusual small pets with the world :) I've had mice, hamsters, gerbils, rats (I LOVE rats), hissing cockroaches, giant millipedes, rabbits, and fish. I've been campaigning fruitlessly for a ferret for years... currently I have a peach-faced lovebird (the most perfect pet ever), ring-necked dove (might be worth mentioning), and a rat in addition to chickens, dogs, and a cat. I have to say, as a cat person, I was fascinated by the genet! I'd consider getting one if I didn't need a parrot in my life :)

    • Theophanes profile image
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      Theophanes 3 years ago from New England

      Well, most people don't want to spend more on filtration than they would the turtle itself. This is not to mention some turtles just outright smell. The last turtle I handled was a baby snapper I was rescuing from the middle of the road. His musk was so strong we had to put him in a covered box just so we wouldn't gag to death as we drove him to the nearest body of water. SIGH.

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      Smlingwolf 3 years ago

      Just a note: with proper filtration a turtle tank should have no more odor than any aquarium.

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      Vladimir 3 years ago from Australia

      I say the best small animal for anyone is a cat. Anywhere. Anytime.

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      Kiplingtherat 3 years ago

      What does it have to do with nitrates? It's about ammonia and nitrites, nitrates are hardly much of an issue in comparison. I understand that trying to educate just you might seem like a waste of time, but I was kind of hoping you'd change the information in this article about betta tank sizes, since the problem here is not that I'm not educating the masses, but that you are educating them wrong.

    • Theophanes profile image
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      Theophanes 3 years ago from New England

      Yes... I am well aware of the value of water changes to any fish tank to keep nitrates down. Though I will testify my experience with fish has been mostly with salt water which is quite different from the freshies (much more intense with those cycles you so call me out for!) I can still very much appreciate the need of any animal to have proper space, companions if it is a schooling species (I know Bettas are not) and an environment befitting of what their wild habitat may have been (pond, river system, rocky bottom, sand bottom, reef, etc...)

      Have you written an article on Bettas? You should. Share your knowledge with the world, don't just try to turn one person's veiws around. Educate the masses. This article was really to detail the mammalian critters in the article which I have mucho experience with. Fish are not where my passions lie but I respect other people enjoy them and felt they should be included.

    • profile image

      Kiplingtherat 3 years ago

      I don't mean to sound rude but the source of the controversy stems only from misinformation that is very widely spread about bettas. There is no controversy if you are well-informed. Most people don't even know the proper pronunciation of the word betta. They assume it's pronounced the same as "beta". And I have never heard of a betta "getting lost from its mate". If a breeding attempt was unsuccessful, I would question whether the fish were even in breeding condition, or if the tank was proper condition for breeding. Male bettas in the wild can command a territory of a square meter, and as they are very territorial fish, I can't imagine that they would be unaware of each other or "lost" in a ten gallon tank. This "fact" about bettas living in rice patties and puddles in the wild is actually a myth. Rice patties are man-made and also completely dry for part of the year, so no fish could live in them naturally. Bettas have been found in rice patties (during the part of the year when they do contain water), because their natural habitat's conditions are similar to that of rice patties. Bettas naturally inhabit shallow (~3 feet), slow-moving bodies of water that range for miles. Therefore, no, they are not habituated to small territories. The puddle thing is also a myth. If a betta's body of water were reduced to a puddle, it would die. So it's true there is no harm in allowing a little extra space for bettas, but there is definitely harm in not allowing at least 2.5 gallons. Anything smaller than that, and the fish will become poisoned in its own wastes and die. I'm assuming you're informed about the nitrogen cycle? Because if you are you know full-well that too-small tanks, like a 0.5 gallon, cannot hold a cycle and therefore make unsuitable homes for any fish.

    • Theophanes profile image
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      Theophanes 3 years ago from New England

      Bettas are the source of some controversy in the fish world. I love to spoil my animals with large enclosures but Bettas kept in ten gallon tanks have the weird tendency to get lost from their mates (if you're breeding.) This suggests they are very habituated to small territories. Whether or not this is from the fact they live in rice patties and puddles in the wild or it's a form of domestication I couldn't really tell you. In the end this is a decision the owner must make but you're right - there's probably no harm in allowing a little extra swim space. I've never had a tank smaller than ten gallons. They work well as community fish if they're not kept with anything that has long fins...

      Anyway, I did write another article that might make you feel better titled

      The Ethical Issues of Keeping Tropical Fish (http://theophanes.hubpages.com/hub/Stunted-Growth-... It's not exactly a popular article but it does go through some of the issues of fresh water fish keeping.

    • profile image

      Kiplingtherat 3 years ago

      "Betas are often kept alone in half gallon tanks"

      I don't know if you've ever kept bettas, but this information, while true, is misleading. People do often keep bettas in tiny containers but the truth is that a single betta should ideally be kept in a heated and filtered 5 gal tank. And certainly no less than a heated and filtered 2.5 gallon tank. Keeping a betta in a half gallon tank is cruel and you're implying that this is acceptable.

    • Theophanes profile image
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      Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

      I don't know about state laws... some of those might classify them as illegal (for instance gerbils and ferrets are illegal in California) but other than that yes, they are legal, just intense pets!

    • likehoney profile image

      Michelle Lee 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Are Genets legal to have as pets? They are gorgeous!! I would love to have one.

    • Theophanes profile image
      Author

      Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

      Fancy rats were always my favorite. I bred them for many years until I became allergic. They can be very very sweet and are smart as well. Besides this the people who are in the fancy rat hobby are some of the most interesting down to earth people you'll find. Ah, how I miss it! :)

      Good luck if you ever have to find your kiddos a little pet!

    • vandynegl profile image

      vandynegl 4 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Very useful information here! I like the variety you listed! I am not sure about those cockroaches though....eeeeek! I think my kids will be eventually bugging me for a small pet before long (even though we own two dogs). I used to do a lot of freshwater fish and owned a collared lizard as well. I will keep your hub in mind when I get another "itch" to get something different.....the fancy rat seems interesting!

    • Theophanes profile image
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      Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

      Thank you Kevin Peter. You must have your hands full. We had a psycho cockatoo for a number of years and still have an untamed pair of likely wild caught African Greys who I suspect are in their golden years. They're intensely intelligent little beings but boy can they be a challenge sometimes! Thank you for the comment!

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      Kevin Peter 4 years ago from Global Citizen

      A very cute hub. I loved the small pets you have included in it. I have2 parrots. But never thought of Hedgehogs as pets. I normally love small pets and it is a great idea.Thanks for the wonderful hub.The pictures included are also very lovely.

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      Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

      No problem idigwebsites. I had a lot of fun with many of these creatures over the years. I'd still be breeding little rodents if I didn't develop a hell of an allergy to them... now I am afraid I've moved on the Seramas, the world's smallest chickens (literally the size of a soda can - they are a riot!) :)

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      idigwebsites 4 years ago from United States

      I like the picture of the gecko smiling. hehehehe.

      Some of the animals like the axolotl are indeed exotic to me, and the cockroaches as well. So far I've only owned hamsters as small pets. Thanks for your suggestions. :)

    • Theophanes profile image
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      Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

      Thank you azrestoxp. I hope others find this Hub helpful.

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      Arizona's Restoration Experts, LLC 4 years ago

      Nice hub and good information. Thanks. Vote up.

    • Theophanes profile image
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      Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

      ...Why hello and goodbye to you too?

    • profile image

      XRumerTest 4 years ago

      Hello. And Bye.

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      Raptorcat 5 years ago from North Lauderdale, FL

      None of the above. My emotional sort dog is a Pekingese and he is also a therapy dog and has passed his canine good citizen test as well.

      There is no pet, big or small that is better than a dog.