10 Small Animals That Can Make Great Pets

When we think about getting a new pet, sometimes it’s easy to default to traditional dogs and cats. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Both can make for incredibly lovable companions (I’m a cat person myself). But what if you don’t have the room for a dog to play or a cat to roam? What if they’re just not your thing? Or what if you want to get a smaller pet for your child’s first pet?

Fortunately there are many small animals that can make great pets — some that are even surprising. Today let’s look at ten examples. I’ve left out fish and reptiles (although they can make fine pets as well). I did that because there are so many varieties commonly available that they would be worthy of a separate list altogether. Let’s focus instead on some furry little friends and two varieties of small birds that you might want to welcome into your home.

Here are ten examples of small animals that can make great pets.

1. Hamsters

Hamsters are a common first pet for children due to their small size. You can keep their cages almost anywhere, making them ideal to keep in a kid’s room.

Credit: Stephanie (via Flickr)

2. Gerbils

Gerbils are another very small option if you’re interested in a rodent as a pet.

Credit: benmckune (via Flickr)

3. Mice

I don’t particularly think of mice as pets (probably because my brother used to have to buy them as food for his pet snake — something I could never bring myself to watch). But some varieties you find in pet stores are absolutely adorable. Where I live, I’m more used to the field mouse variety.

pet mouse
Credit: Ruud Hein (via Flickr)

4. Rats

I didn’t even realize people kept rats as pets until a few years ago. Since then I’ve known several people who do. And while rats aren’t the pet for me, I’ve heard nothing but good things about keeping them. Apparently they’re very social little creatures, and quite intelligent.

pet rats
Credit: Adria Richards (via Flickr)

5. Guinea Pigs

As far as pet rodents go, guinea pigs are more my speed. Sadly, our pet guinea pig (Gaby) passed away just last week, and we’re too upset at this point to rush out and get another. But I can tell you they make wonderful pets and can be incredibly sweet. They come in both long and short-haired varieties, so be prepared to groom them regularly if you get a long-haired guinea pig (also called a cavie).

guinea pigs
Credit: Daniel Hall (via Flickr)

6. Chinchillas

Chinchillas are some of the cutest small animals I’ve ever had experience with. My brother’s teacher had one as a class pet when we were kids. And we were asked to keep it in our house over one summer break. They’re truly amusing little creatures to watch.

Credit: Arkangel (via Flickr)

7. Rabbits

What’s not to love about cute little bunnies? What some people don’t realize is that rabbits aren’t just outdoor pets to be kept in hutches. They can also make for wonderful indoor companions. They can make a good bit of noise with their thumping though, so be prepared for that. Then again, most animals will make some kind of noise you’ll need to get used to.

pet rabbit
Credit: Jannes Pockele (via Flickr)

8. Ferrets

Ferrets are another somewhat common small animal people keep as pets. I don’t have personal experience with these little cuties, largely because I’ve heard they can be bad biters. If you’re a ferret owner, I’d love to hear if you’ve found that to be the case or not (so leave us a comment). As you can see in the picture below, ferrets can even be taken outside for walks on a leash.

Credit: Hans Splinter (via Flickr)

9. Parakeets

The first of two birds on our list is the parakeet. My grandmother kept parakeets when I was growing up, and my only memory of them is being bitten. They’re one of the most common birds I see when I visit pet stores in the area. And they’re always some of the most beautifully-colored birds around.

Credit: Rich Young (via Flickr)

10. Cockatiels

Cockatiels are another type of small bird that can make great pets. I was never a big fan of pet birds (due to being bit by my grandmother’s parakeet as a kid). But a friend’s cockatiel changed my mind. He’s sweet, funny to listen to and watch, and extremely social. They’re also simply gorgeous animals. If you’re looking for a bird you can teach to talk or sing, but you aren’t ready to commit to a larger parrot, a cockatiel can be a good choice.

Credit: Ruben Charles (via Flickr)

Do you own any of these small animals as pets (or have you in the past)? Leave a comment and tell us about your experiences with them. Would you get the same kind of pet again or not? Let us know why. Or did we miss your favorite small pet? If so, leave a comment and share other great examples and your stories about your favorite little critters.

Written by
Jennifer Mattern