Best Small Pets

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When it comes to pet ownership, small animals can be a fitting choice. Whether you're living in a snug apartment, looking for a low-maintenance pet, or seeking a furry friend for your children, small pets can be a delightful addition to your family. 

This guide, sourced from reputable organizations like The Humane Society of the United States, the CDC, and other expert sources, will help you navigate the world of small pets, ensuring that a new companion is the perfect fit for your lifestyle.

Why Choose a Small Pet?

Small pets are a popular pet choice for a variety of reasons, including:

  • They often require less space, making them ideal for apartment living.
  • Their food and water needs are typically more manageable than larger pets like cats and dogs.
  • Their care and maintenance costs can be lower than larger pets.
  • Many small animals love to play and can even learn tricks, providing endless entertainment.

Do Your Homework

Before choosing your small pet, it's crucial to understand their specific needs, including diet, habitat, sleep patterns, and social requirements so that you can properly care for them. This includes understanding local laws regarding pet ownership, especially for exotic pets.

GroundhogPhoto credit: Shi Jialin/istockphoto

Which is the Best Small Pet for Me?

As the world of small pets brims with diversity — from the playful ferrets to the serene betta fish — understanding personal circumstances, preferences, and capabilities is incredibly important. 

Begin by considering the space you have available. While small pets generally don't require a lot of space, their needs can vary significantly. For instance, a sugar glider might need vertical space to climb, whereas a guinea pig would appreciate a wider area to roam. 

Also, think about the time and attention you can dedicate. Some small animals, like rabbits or ferrets, crave social interaction and are great for those who can engage with their pets regularly. On the other hand, if you lead a busier life, a low-maintenance pet like a fish or a hamster might be more suitable, offering companionship without the need for constant interaction.

Let's get into more specifics.

Cute guinea pig in the girl's arms, child and animal conceptPhoto credit: Elena Karetnikova/istockphoto

The Best Small Pet for Cuddling

Guinea pigs are known for being affectionate and enjoy being handled, making them a great companion for those looking for a cuddly new friend. also notes that chinchillas, rabbits, ferrets, and even bearded dragons are other small pets that enjoy cuddling. 

The Best Small Pet for Small Children

When selecting a pet for kids — especially young children — look for species that are easy to care for and gentle. Rabbits, with their calm nature, can be a good option. They also take dust baths, so a small child won't have to bathe them. According to, fish, mice, and guinea pigs are also good choices. Regardless of what pet you choose for a household with small children, interactions should always be supervised.

Betta FishPhoto credit: CmErsoy/istockphoto

The Best Cheap Small Pet

Betta fish are an excellent choice for those on a budget. They need a relatively small tank and are easy to feed, making them low-cost and easy to care for. notes that betta fish are cheap to purchase — they usually cost in the neighborhood of $5-$20 — but do require a tank and gravel, and, while not necessary, toys and plants are nice-to-haves. Betta fish are naturally territorial and should be kept alone. After initial setup, however, maintenance costs are minimal. 

The Best Small Pet for Playing With

Ferrets are playful and love to explore, making them an excellent pet for those who enjoy playful interaction. They require a large cage and require a lot of space to roam, explore, and play, so they're a good choice for homes with room for play. The Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital, located in Louisiana, notes that ferrets' natural curiosity and ability to get along with other animals also make them a good pet choice. 

The Best Low-Maintenance Small Pet

If you're looking for a pet that's easy to care for, consider a gerbil. They're clean, require minimal grooming, and their food and water needs are straightforward. The Animal Humane Society notes that gerbils need to live in a pair or a group, are diurnal, and have a lifespan of 3-4 years. 

The Best Small Mammal Pet

Rodents are a top choice as small mammal pets, especially for apartment dwellers. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) notes there are factors to consider when choosing a small rodent as a pet. These include the history of domestication, diurnal vs. nocturnal, and whether the pet is solitary by nature or requires companionship in the form of another rodent. 

Guinea pigs are often a top choice as small mammal pets. They're social, enjoy human interaction, and their diet is easy to manage with a mix of pellets, fresh vegetables, and occasional treats. They're also diurnal, which means they typically sleep at night. They are, however, happier in pairs, so consider adopting more than one if possible. 

For a naturally solitary rodent, the AVMA notes a Syrian hamster is a good choice.

Leopard gecko lizard full length bodyPhoto credit: agus fitriyanto/istockphoto

The Best Small Reptile Pet

Geckos are a popular small reptile choice. They require specific heating and lighting in their habitat but are otherwise relatively low maintenance. The Reptile Room's top choice for small reptile pets is a leopard gecko. They stay small, require only a 10-gallon tank, and are a great pet for beginners. 

The Best Small Exotic Pet

Sugar gliders are an increasingly popular exotic pet. These small marsupials are social and active but require a special diet — insects, veggies, and fruits — and a large cage. Also known as "sugar bears" or "honey gliders," they are smart, playful, and develop strong bonds with their owner, according to PetMD. They are, however, highly social creatures and should be kept in pairs or groups. Always check local laws before considering an exotic pet. 


The world of small pets offers a variety of options to suit different lifestyles and preferences. From the playful ferret to the low-maintenance gerbil, there's a small animal out there that's right for you and your family. 

Research thoroughly and prepare your home to welcome your new furry, scaly, or feathery friend.

This article was generated using AI and fact-checked/reviewed by a human editor. Visit How We Use Artificial Intelligence to find out more about Cheapism's editorial policies regarding AI.
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