In order to know what small pet you should get, you first need to know why you want one in the first place. Do you want something you can hold? Do you want something low-maintenance? Or do you just want something adorable to watch? Whatever your particular needs are, there’s a small pet out there that can be your perfect companion.
While you can discover that a tiny octopus or a pygmy monkey is actually the best pet for you, here is a summery of the more popular small pets and their compatibility with your lifestyle.
Hamster: One of the first animals that come to mind when a person considers getting a small pet for themselves or for a child, hamsters make wonderful pets. They will hardly ever bite unless you are particularly mean or scary (but, then again, any animal will bite in those situations–keep that in mind) and they will allow themselves to be held and cuddled. They will stuff food and bedding in their large cheeks and will run through the popular tunnel networks that are often included in hamster cages. Be careful of too much tubing–when you decide it’s playtime and Fluffy disagrees, it may be a good 15 minutes before you can get him out of the tunnels or even a single tube (hint: shaking doesn’t help). Hamsters love to run and will run for ages in a wheel in their cage or in a special hamster ball across the floor. As adorable as these little creatures are, however, watch out for their knack for escape. These little Houdinis can squeeze into amazingly small cracks, so be sure not to let them run loose without supervision.
Mice: Many people will agree that these tiny little rodents are adorable and they are readily available in most pet stores. However, if you’re looking for a pet that you can hold and interact with, these little critters are not it. From personal experience I have found that they are incapable of standing still long enough to be held and poop an abnormally large amount when you get them out to play. Mice tend to be a little more skittish and therefore a little faster to bite than most rodent pets. I would not suggest these animals as companion pets or pets for children.
Rats: Wait! Don’t skip this section. I know that most of you would automatically count rats out of your potential pets list, but you may want to think again. While it is true that wild rats are ugly, mean, and sometimes dangerous, their pet store cousins actually make some of the best small pets and can be quite cute. Rats are some of the most companionable pets who will (depending on your particular rat’s personality) ride on your shoulder, sit in your shirt pocket, or find its own way to accompany you. They are infinitely holdable and easier to train than most small pets, due to their relatively high intelligence. Like any rodent they will bite if threatened, but if you treat them right they will become your faithful companion.
Gerbils: These high-energy pets are quite endearing and relatively low-maintenance. Being originally desert animals, they drink little water and urinate infrequently, which may have been a problem with one of your previous pets. Depending on the gerbil in question, they may enjoy running on wheels or in hamster balls. Unfortunately, these cute little animals are too energetic to stand being held and are difficult to let run loose due to their almost constant drive to chew things. Watch out for your clothes and upholstery when there are gerbils on the loose!
Guinea Pigs: Guinea pigs are not quite small pets. They live longer than the other animals on this list and require a much larger cage. They are nervous animals until they grow accustomed to their new surroundings and family, though they don’t often bite. You should also keep them in pairs (both of the same gender–unless you WANT magical multiplying pets. And if you do, I seriously suggest you research it heavilyfirst) as they are social animals. Also keep in mind that two male guinea pigs may fight with each other and not make good cage-mates. Guinea pigs are also higher maintenance–they must be fed fresh vegetables or else they will get sick, and if these vegetables aren’t removed promptly they will begin to rot and stink and ALSO make your pets stink. However, don’t count guinea pigs out just yet. They may still make a good pet for you, as their social natures make them particularly affectionate small pets.
Ferrets and Rabbits: These animals are not quite small pets. They are higher maintenance and have longer life spans than the other animals in this article. I have also never owned either and would be ill-equipped to advise you on their pros and cons.
A personal opinion from the author: I prefer female rodents as pets, because when many male rodents grow older their genitalia becomes disproportionally large and quite unsightly. But hey, it’s your pet–decide what matters most to you and get the pet that fits you best. Good luck!