Not everyone realizes this, but bringing a pet into your home is a significant lifestyle shift. If you didn’t grow up with or haven’t previously lived with animals — and perhaps if you haven’t researched it well beforehand — their various needs can come as a shock.
You have to make sure your house is safe for them, your behavior is adjusted for their care, and accommodations are secured when you leave for extended periods of time. They have their own personalities and preferences that you might have to indulge.
Fortunately for those of us who want animal companionship without too much stress, there are plenty of easy pets to take care of, at least relatively speaking.
The Truth About Low Maintenance Pets
All pets still need care and attention and maintenance, unless you’re getting a pet rock. Even if there are cheap pets in terms of take-home cost, or upkeep cost, all pets still have recurring expenses that add up over their lifetime.
So the easiest pets to take care of are the ones you can realistically manage.
- If you don’t want to fully clean an enclosure — like a hutch or tank, or even litter for that matter — on a regular basis, don’t get a pet that uses one. Consider adopting a fully matured low-maintenance dog or laid back older mutt.
- If you work long, unpredictable hours, go for animals that don’t need as much socialization, like fish, gerbils, and hamsters.
And as mentioned, it’s mostly relative. It depends on the temperaments involved and the living situation. Before making any decisions, spend time thinking about, or discussing with your child, what adding a pet to your life means and will entail for the future. Since you’re reading this article, you’re already on the path to making a well-researched and informed decision.
The Best Low Maintenance Pets
Without further ado, here are a few choices for the easiest pets to take care of.
Pet rabbits have a relatively steep learning curve, as far as mammals go because they’re unique and certainly somewhat fragile. They have more specific dietary needs and require a cage, hutch, or enclosure to be available as a home base, plus free-roam or play space. That means bunny-proofing and regular clean up duty.
But once you get an understanding of the bunny basics, rabbits are independent fluffy house guests who won’t be imposed on. You can lay on the ground and read to them, toss them toys, or gently pat their head when they come out and sit still. Or you can both just hang out in your own spaces doing your own things, and neither of you will mind.
Fish are one of the only pets that allow you to infuse personal style while also casually decorating your living space. Coming home to an immaculate aquarium full of happy, active fish is a beautiful sight, although tank set up and maintenance can be quite involved. Aside from that, there’s no chiller pet than some fish
Best Small Pets
When space is at a bit of a premium, it might be hard to imagine a pet in the mix. These guys won’t take up or need much room to be happy.
Although you may often see betta fish sold in convenient little cups, they do need entire tanks for their life in your home. Luckily, 5 gallons minimum does the trick for this solitary fish, which can easily share space on a table or counter. It’s not tiny but very manageable, and no fish lives its best life in a tank as small as a gallon anyway.
These also make a decent starter pet for certain kids, too.
Hamsters, Rats, Mice
These little rodents need enclosed cages, but you can get away with relatively small ones — aim for around a foot tall, a foot deep, and two feet across. Cages for dwarf hamsters are available in even smaller sizes, but those measurements are the minimum recommended space for Syrian hamsters and mice. The larger pet rat needs a few inches more, especially as they enjoy having a companion as well (as do mice).
Aside from this, these pets just need a safe room or dedicated space where they can roam supervised every day for short periods of time (at least 25 minutes).
Best Pets for Kids
When it comes to getting pets for kids, the best match will truly depend on the individual child. They will require some support and supervision, but hopefully, you are only unleashing an animal unto their care if you feel they can handle it. It’s also possible to get a family pet and let your child take on certain responsibilities.
However, the options below can make good pets for kids generally, based on manageable size and modest needs.
Guinea pigs need bigger accommodations than hamsters, but are also more sociable and develop more recognizable personalities. They live longer, too, which means your child could grow up with this little buddy if well taken care of. Guinea pigs enjoy spending time out of their enclosure, being gently handled and petted.
They’re affectionate and need to spend time with their family, but admittedly do best with a guinea pig companion of their own (of the same sex — otherwise breeding is a certainty). If you can swing for two of these rodents, they make excellent, unobtrusive pets for kids and adults alike.
Somewhat surprisingly, leopard geckos and bearded dragons do well with regular handling and become quite pleased and docile with gentle socialization. But too much will stress them out, so most of the time they will be put away, doing quiet lizardy things in their terrarium home.
These reptiles are a top pick (and not only for children). Just be sure to enforce thorough handwashing after handling. Another consideration is that reptile enclosures have somewhat intricate, balanced environments, and these pets eat live crickets and mealworms, so parental help and supervision is a must in this department.
Best Low Maintenance Pets That Like to Cuddle
Perhaps, because cat behavior can be so rambunctious and mischievous, people act like they are not low maintenance. But their basic needs are straightforward, easy to research, and easy to meet. If you’re looking for an independent animal that still might want to share a nap or lounge on the couch together, you can’t go wrong with a cuddly kitty.
The caveat here is that no two cats are the same. In order to find a cuddle monster, you’ll need a mature cat (their personality is fully formed) and to spend plenty of time with them in an adoption center’s uncaged cat room. Even a skittish cat can bond with you and like to snuggle, but the most affectionate lap cats make their presence known fairly quickly.
Ferrets are similar to cats in that they like to entertain themselves and sleep and roam and use a litter box. But they’re similar to rodents (or crate trained dogs) in that they will need a cage as a home base, and very well may be destructive in their curiosity, so you’ll need to do ferret-proofing and offer stimulating chew-safe toys.
But ferrets are extremely playful, intelligent, and entertaining little pets who like to hang out. They’ll bond with you and will want to spend time together when you’re home. As they grow older (they live 7 or 8 years on average), they become more affectionate and cuddly. Consider if you can handle two, as ferrets do better with a playmate.
Now you should have some solid ideas on great low maintenance animals. Do you have a favorite?
Whether you’re seeking the most affectionate pets, the best pets for kids or the best pets for small spaces — these choices are all relatively low-maintenance and easy to care for. Each brings their own set of challenges and considerations, but all of them also bring enjoyable companionship directly into your home.