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Best Small Pets

Updated on December 24, 2012

Have you ever wondered what the best small pets are? Of course, no one pet will fit every situation, so I thought I'd over my opinions as to what makes the best small pet for a variety of situations including if you want an affectionate pet, one which will live a long time or one which won't smell too much.

I have extensive experience of looking after pets both at work and at home. The species I have chosen come from a list of over 100 species which I have cared for although some of those species were too big to be included here.

For the purpose of this article I am selecting species which are usually lighter than 1 1/2 Lbs or 24 oz.

Black velvet chinchilla
Black velvet chinchilla | Source

Chinchilla - best small pet if you want something long lived

Chinchillas are really entertaining pets. They are very easy to care for eating chinchilla pellets and hay in quite small quantities - although they look quite large there isn't a lot of body under their wonderful dense fur.

In general they are remarkably healthy apart from some individuals which have trouble with their teeth. And if you want a small pet with a long lifespan they usually live about 10 years, but I have had several live to 16 or 17 and the oldest one I've known was 22.

The only downside to chinchillas is that they are nocturnal and remarkably noisy in the night. Because they are prodigious chewers they are usually kept in an all wire cage. When they jump around this will tend to twang.

Other long lived small pets include the leopard gecko and cockatiel.

Cockatiel | Source
Cockatiel enjoying a neck tickle
Cockatiel enjoying a neck tickle | Source

Cockatiel - best small pet if you want something affectionate

I should qualify this by saying you need to get a hand reared cockatiel if you want your cockatiel to be hand tame and loving. You are unlikely to be able to achieve the same level of closeness with a parent reared bird.

A hand reared cockatiel will be very happy to spend much of the day sitting on your shoulder gently preening your hair and inspecting your freckles. (maybe they don't all have a freckle fetish, but mine certainly did). They will be very happy when tickle them on the back of the neck and will move their heads round appreciatively to get the maximum pleasure. Although they're not known for being the best mimics, If you are persistent you may be able to get them to repeat a few words. What could be cuter than a pet which says 'I love you'.

Another good candidate for an affectionate small pet is the pet rat.

Leopard Gecko
Leopard Gecko | Source

Leopard Gecko - best small pet if you're allergic to fur and feathers

Leopard geckos are a handsome nocturnal lizard and one of the easiest lizards to keep. They are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in someone who is allergic to fur and or feathers. They have been kept as pets for many years so breeders have come across and selectively bred for a surprising variety of skin colours in the leopard gecko.

Other small pets which are good if you have fur and feather allergies include stick insects, African clawed frogs and tropical fish such as guppies.

Pet mouse
Pet mouse | Source

Mice - best small pet If you want something with a short lifespan

Pet mice are extremely cute and come in a wide range of pretty colours. Although scientists have managed to increase the longevity of domestic mice by feeding a low calorie diet, this isn't something I'd recommend you try with your own pet mice.

Mouse lifespan is 18 months to 2 years making them a pet with one of the shortest life spans. This might be something you are looking for however, especially if you don't know what your longer term plans might be so don't want to commit to a pet which lives a long time.

Other short lived small pets include stick insects and Chinese hamsters.

Stick Insects - best small pets if you're broke

Whilst I wouldn't normally recommend having a pet if you are very short of money and would struggle to pay veterinary fees, you should be safe with stick insects because there isn't much reason to take them to a vet and probably not a lot that a vet could do to help.

There are lots of exciting species such as pink winged (my favourite), Macleay's spectre, and Annam stick insects as well as the well known Indian species. They are exceptionally cheap to feed because most species eat bramble which you can find growing almost anywhere and pick for free.

Gerbil | Source

Gerbil - best small pet if you want something which doesn't smell

Mice, rats and hamsters are all lovely pets, but they produce quite strong smelling urine. Many people are fine with that, but if you want a pet which doesn't smell go for the Mongolian gerbil. I think gerbils pretty much don't smell at all, although I'm sure that some people would beg to differ.

Gerbils are desert animals and drink very little and produce tiny amounts of urine and very dry faeces hence not much smell. They like to burrow and chew so an aquarium 1/2 filled with wood shavings and topped with cardboard tubes and your empty cereal boxes will keep them happy and may only need cleaning out once a month.

Other small pets which don't smell include Shaw's Jirds and African clawed frogs.

Japanese quail
Japanese quail | Source

Japanese Quail - best small pet if you're self sufficient

Japanese quail make an excellent pet if you have an aviary or a small outdoor pen with a run and hut. They can even be kept in a pen inside the house. As a bonus they have been bred to be productive and so as long as you have females they will supply you with tasty eggs. One female can produce up to 200 eggs per year.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that quail eggs alone can sustain you because they are pretty small eggs at under an inch tall, but they are a good addition to the menu if you are a smallholder, or even if you just like the idea of producing some of your own eggs but don't have enough room for chickens.

If you want a more colourful pet bird they also come in white, grey and pied varieties.

21 ounces
10 - 20 years
1 ounce
1.5 - 2 years
3.5 ounces
2-3 years
Stick insect
most species less then 1/2 ounce
9 months, varies with species
3 ounces
10-15 years
Japanese quail
4-5 ounces
2-4 years
Leopard gecko
2-3 ounces


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I had an African Fat-Tailed Gecko for awhile. Excellent pet- everything you said about the Leopard Gecko also applies to them. Didn't effect my mom's allergies, so it was definitely a good hypo-allergenic alternative to rodent pets. We also had gerbils as class pets in high school. They were awesome too!

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Hello Trevor - thank you for commenting. Your friend has done very well to get a cockatiel to talk - they are not known for being the easiest to teach that. I hope you're finding your way around hub pages now.

    • Trevor1783 profile image

      Trevor Collins 

      6 years ago from London

      I have only just joined this hub doodah. Thank you for some very helpful tips & advice. My friend has a cockatiel called blue! She can say "I love you!" & "Boll~x!" Hilarious & very affectionate. Loves me for some odd reason!


    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These all sounds like wonderful pets. I'll bet that little gecko is a lot of fun.

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Hawaiianodysseus - thank you for visiting and your generous comment. I hope you have had a good Christmas yourself.

      tsadjatko - thank you for mentioning the goldfish - I debated including them, but didn't - however i'm glad you have given them an honorable mention.

      Kaili - thankyou for visiting and commenting - you are quite right about budgies - an equally good choice.

      Marcy - thank you for votng and commenting - guinea pigs only didn't make the cut because they were above the rather arbitrary weight limit I assigned myself - I agree they're great.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      Awww - I see plenty of things to cuddle here! I have had pet rats before (and they're great pets), but never mice. Also had Guinea pigs, and they're great as well. Voted up!

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Wonderful hub. I have always loved budgies. They are also very affectionate and can be trained to talk.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      6 years ago from now on

      Excellent advice!...but I can't believe you didn't mention everybody's favorite, the proverbial goldfish (not a tropical fish), so I did :-).

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      6 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      This is a great hub for pet owners and/or those considering the acquisition of their first pet. You presented this in a very organized fashion with wonderful complementary photos. I especially liked the easy to read chart at the end, a great way for a reader to scan at a glance a "compare and contrast" summary. Thanks for sharing, and Happy Holidays to you and yours!


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