Types of Small Pets to Adopt


In this Article

  • Types of Small Pets
  • Tips for Adopting a Small Pet

It’s important to think about your lifestyle before selecting a pet to keep you company. 

You might not want to adopt a dog or cat if you live in a small space or if you spend a lot of time out of the house during the day. In that case, you might consider a small pet, instead.

Small pets, such as rodents, reptiles or birds, are good companions who don’t require a lot of space. You don’t need to take them for walks and you can buy their food at your local pet store. Some of them are friendly and cute. All of them can be enjoyable companion animals to have around.

Not all small pets have the same needs, though. Learn more about some of the most popular types of small pets before you decide which one to adopt. 

Types of Small Pets

There are a lot of commonly available small animals that can be kept as pets. Some of them have many things in common. All of them have specific habitat and dietary needs. 

Rabbits.Rabbits are appealing pets because they are quiet and sweet. However, rabbits need attentive care for them to stay happy and healthy. They need a habitat with a sheltered area for sleeping. They also need room to move around and play while they’re awake. 

You can keep rabbits in outdoor habitats, but it’s best to have indoor space for them in inclement weather. Indoor rabbits can be litterbox trained so that they can be loose in the house. However, if you have dogs or cats, you need to prevent them from hurting or scaring your rabbit. Rabbits are also happiest when living with other rabbits. Consider adopting more than one bunny as a pet.

Hamsters. Hamsters are very popular pets because they can be content in a small space and don’t require skilled care. They are fun to watch as they burrow in their bedding or run on an exercise wheel. The drawback to hamsters is that they are nocturnal. You will find that your hamster is ready to explore and play just as you’re ready to call it a night. If you want a companion for the daylight hours, a hamster might not be the ideal choice.

Guinea pigs.Guinea pigs, with their expressive sounds and cheerful demeanor, make pleasant pets. You need to be careful to give them the right diet. Like humans, they can’t synthesize vitamin C, so you need to ensure that they get enough of it in their food. Without it, they can get very sick with a disease called scurvy. 

Guinea pigs need a fairly large cage space with plenty of covered places to hide away. They are happiest with other guinea pigs. Plan on adopting at least two of them.

Ferrets. Ferrets are intelligent and energetic. Some people describe them as being more like cats than small rodents as pets. They sleep most of the day, but during their waking hours they are very active. They like to play with humans or other ferrets. 

Ferrets prefer cages with multiple levels and plenty of areas to climb and hide. You can allow them to play out of their cages if your house is safe for them. They can get into small spaces and they risk getting stuck so ferret-proofing is a must. They are carnivores so they require meat for their diet.

Gerbils. Gerbils are a fairly low maintenance pet. They do well in a large aquarium-type cage. They enjoy having tunnels to crawl through and spaces to hide. They might also like an exercise wheel. Unlike hamsters, gerbils are awake during the day. They like having other gerbils around, so you may want to consider adopting more than one. 

Chinchillas. Chinchillas are known for their thick, soft fur. Like ferrets, they prefer a large living space with multiple levels for climbing. They are friendly and can bond with their owner, but they are nocturnal. You’ll need to plan time with your chinchilla in the evening when they are awake. Chinchillas live as long as 15 years so adopting one is a significant commitment.

Reptiles. While not as cute and fuzzy as rodents, lizards and snakes are interesting animals. Reptiles need specialized habitats that help manage their body temperature. As cold-blooded animals, they can’t regulate their temperature on their own. 

Reptiles are hypoallergenic, which makes them a good choice for people sensitive to animal dander. Many reptiles need to eat live prey, such as crickets or mice, so that is a consideration as well.

Birds. There are a wide variety of birds that can be kept as pets. They range from parakeets or lovebirds that live indoors to backyard chickens. Birds require a very clean cage. They also need a balanced diet. Not all veterinarians treat birds, so it is important to find a qualified vet nearby before bringing home a bird. 

You also might need to consider that your bird will outlive you. In rare cases, larger birds have lived as long as 100 years.

Tips for Adopting a Small Pet

Choosing a pet is a serious commitment. 

You should think carefully about what kind of small pet is a good match for you. If you have questions about which little friend might fit best into your lifestyle, consult a vet or animal breeder for more information. 

Show Sources


American Veterinary Medical Association: “Selecting a pet bird,” “Selecting a pet reptile.”

animal humane society: “Chinchilla care,” “Gerbil care.”

BLUE CROSS FOR PETS: “Choosing the right small pet.”

UNITED VETERINARY CENTER: “The Best Pocket Pets for Your Lifestyle.”

Vet Care PET HOSPITAL: “Beginner’s Guide to Ferret Care.”

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