5 Great Tips to Choose the Right Small Pet
Several key factors come together to make the perfect equation for owning a small pet.
- Do you have a high-rise apartment with neighbors close by?
- Are you the only member of your household who’ll be spending time at home?
- Do you work long hours, or perhaps have several long road trips coming up?
Owning a small animal has its benefits. They require little space, are low maintenance and often don’t cost as much as larger pets to feed and care for.
Small pets also bring their own unique brand of cuteness into your life. If you’ve decided that owning a pet is something that would make your life better, here are 5 tips for choosing the right one for you.
Plan your small pet buying journey
How do you make sure that you’re choosing the right kind of small pet for you?
The best way to start is to plan your journey, so to speak. If you’ve never owned a pet before or you’re not sure what type of pet would be the best fit for you, you need to do some research. Make a list of the pros and cons of the different kinds of interesting pets out there, and then go from there.
Depending on where you live, some pets are easier to adopt or purchase from a pet store than others, so keep that in mind too. If you really want a certain type of pet (like a dog), and you’re sure that you’ll be able to provide it with the right kind of care, then go for it! If you’re not sure, then it might be best to start with something a little less demanding while you consider the various small pets for sale or even fostering.
Difficult small pets
- Dogs – walking, potty breaks, barking, exercise, potential odors, vet bills
- Fish – water changes, water parameters, treatment for parasites, potential odor
- Large Parrots – loud screeching, destructive chewing, feather plucking, large cage
- Reptiles – some grow quite large, some need live food, mammals for food
Easier small pets
- Cats – potential odor, marking territory, scratching furniture, vet bills, quiet
- Rabbits – potential odor, marking territory, scratching furniture, quiet
- Turtles – potential odor, unhealthy bacteria, need a larger tank as adults, quiet
- Small parrots – some periodic squawking, feather plucking, smaller cage
- Hermit crabs – small enclosure, quiet pets, less hands-on, not very active, some consider them boring
Cats and dogs are some of the best small pets for cuddling.
Costs of pet ownership
Veterinarian bills are a big factor in overall cost of pet ownership. The average vet bill for dog or cat care ranges from $15 (vaccinations) up to $1,000 (some heartworm treatments).
Plan from $45 a month for fish (for food, treats, filtration and higher electric bills) up to $125 a month for some small pet supplies for dogs (grooming, nail trims, collars, leashes, pet sitting, etc.). Keeping a pet indoors will likely incur some periodic costs for carpet replacement, furniture replacement, painting, odor control, carpet cleaning, etc.
Size matters with pets and small pet toys cost less than large ones.
Make sure you’ve considered the space requirements
Available space is an extremely important factor to consider when choosing a new pet.
Some smaller pets, such as hamsters, gerbils and mice, need very little space at all. Others, such as dogs, cats and rabbits need a larger space that may or may not fit into your living space depending on your situation.
If you live in a conventional high-rise apartment or a small house, you may want to steer clear of larger small pets like dogs and rabbits. If you live in an efficiency apartment or tiny house, even smaller pets like guinea pigs and hamsters can be challenging.
A bird cage on wheels or a portable hamster cage that can be moved around depending on your current needs might interest you. These pets are more portable and can be out with the family most of the time and then moved to a smaller area when guests and visitors come over.
If you’re really unsure, you can always look into renting a larger space or something with a back yard. When guests are present, it’s a nice option to let the dog out into the fenced back yard, if available.
You will quickly regret the decision to bring certain types of pets home with you if space is limited. Try to avoid that at all costs. If the pet doesn’t fit your current space, it’s better to wait until your living arrangements improve.
Be clear on what you want to get out of owning a pet
The type of pet you choose will also depend on what you want to get from ownership.
If you’re looking for a pet purely as a companion, you may want to choose a different type of pet than if you’re looking for a small pet to help out with rodent problems at your home.
Keep in mind that not all small pets are lap animals. Guinea pigs, for example, are not lap-friendly. You also want to be clear on what type of care your pet requires.
For example, rabbits need a lot of space to run around in, so if you plan on keeping them indoors, you’ll need to be able to provide a large enclosure, or rabbit proof a couple of rooms in your home and close them out of other areas that are no rabbit safe.
Decide how much time you can dedicate to caring for a pet
Some small pets require a lot more care than others, so decide how much time you can realistically dedicate to taking care of your pet. For example, while you may love the look of a ferret, they are fairly high-maintenance and require a lot of time and attention.
You also want to make sure you can afford the type of care your small pet needs.
For example, if you’re thinking about getting a large bird like a Macaw, Amazon, or Cockatoo, you need to make sure that you can provide it with the right type of food, perches, chewable toys, social enrichment, and out-of-cage-time those kinds of birds require. Failure to provide those items may result in feather plucking, loud vocal outbursts, screeching, and may lead to poor health in your pet bird.
A small dog may seem like a great option, but remember dogs need to walk outside for potty breaks, play time and overall exercise. If you live on the 10th floor of an apartment building in a downtown district a pet dog may not be the best choice.
Who will care for the pet when you’re not available?
Being a responsible pet owner requires lots of planning.
Can you afford a pet sitter?
Pet ownership requires financial planning.
Do you have a family member who can help out?
If you can’t find someone to take care of your pet, you may have to change your plans with short notice.
Animals need fresh water daily and fresh food and bedding every couple of days at a minimum.
If you don’t have much time to spend with your small pet or if you’re not sure how much time you’ll be able to spend with it, you’ll want to steer clear high-maintenance pets.
Determine your priorities and find pets that match those needs
Now that you’ve considered the factors above, it’s time to put them to good use and find a pet that matches your needs.
Some additional considerations:
- Do you want a pet for an exercise partner (walking and running)?
- Do you want a pet you can stroke and pamper?
- Do you want a hands-off or hands-on pet?
Once you’ve determined your priorities, you can then move on to the next step: testing out your pet.
No matter what type of small pet you choose, it’s important to go to a store, consult with a breeder, or adopt a pet from a shelter to see how it fits into your life. Test out the type of pet you’re thinking about bringing home to make sure that it works for you before you commit.
Small pets make great additions to any home, but they won’t work for everyone. Using these 5 tips will help you make the small pet selection easier and find the right one for you.