Best Small Pets
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.
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 - 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 - 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.
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 - 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 - 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.
10 - 20 years
1.5 - 2 years
most species less then 1/2 ounce
9 months, varies with species