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What Is the Best Small Pet to Own? Dogs, Rabbits, Birds - Oh My!

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

Picking the perfect small pet might be challenging. Concerns such as, "is my backyard too big or too small" or "do we have the time right now to take care of an animal" are always at the forefront of our minds.

Worry not, brave reader, there are a few tiny animals that make the finest pets for such lifestyles.

Good things come in small packages, they say. And we’re going to walk through a few pets that, even though they are smaller, pack a proverbial punch.

What Makes Small Pets Great

Most of us have been trained since birth to believe bigger is better. That isn’t true when it comes to some pets. Low-maintenance, small animals can be wonderful companions.

Despite this, every living thing still needs a suitable habitat, wholesome nutrition, love and care from its owners, and when the time comes, sufficient medical attention.

Most of us don’t have an infinite amount of space. Especially those that reside in cities. That’s where small pets come into play. They don’t take up too much room, which leaves more space for you and your belongings. They can romp and run around their surroundings without making much of a fuss.

Miniature stomachs don’t require as much food as their larger counterparts. Therefore, they don’t cost as much to feed. Between smaller bowls and smaller portions, you’re going to save money on pet food in the long run.

Just be warned. Some animals may have special dietary needs, so keep in mind that simply because they're small, that doesn't mean they can't have digestion issues.

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Are Small Pets Better for Smaller Kids?

This is a natural connection to make - if you have a small child, then a small pet is best. But is this true?

Small pets for children are an excellent way to teach them about responsibility. Bringing a pet into your family is usually a joyful experience that teaches children empathy and responsibility.

Receiving unconditional affection from a pet is enlightening. And, because they do not take up much space, most of these little pets do well in compact living situations. Sharing their space with your kid isn’t a problem. Even those that require more care and attention will give hours of entertainment and company for your child.

But that’s looking at only one part of the equation. Pet ownership really depends on your child’s abilities as well. Have they shown some level of consideration for their family members? For their toys? Will they learn from having to change the litter box or clean cages? Or will they shirk and run away from the responsibility?

Picking up poop, for example, may not be fun, but has to be done. Children can help care for dogs and cats. They may assist in feeding them, walking them, and cleaning the cat litter. Also, dogs and cats would both be long-term investments because they live for more than ten years.

Your child may look at their pet as just another of their many toys or stuffed animals. They could consider playing with them in the same manner. Horseplay is fine for an animal the size of a horse, but for a poor gerbil, this could be dire.

You should think about some ground rules and the fundamental requirements of the pet that will soon become a member of your family.

Popular Small Pets That People Enjoy

So now you've determined you want a little animal, but you're not sure what species would be ideal for your lifestyle.

Small animals come in a variety of forms, sizes and personalities. Finding the right one may overwhelm you, but we're sure there's someone out there that matches your lifestyle and goes at your pace. When deciding which little pet is best for you, consider its care and attention requirements first. But don't overlook other characteristics such as cuddliness and loudness.

These animals represent a variety of personalities, potential, space needs and budgets, but maybe you will discover one or two ideas to pursue further.

You can call them rabbits. You can call them bunnies. But whatever you call them, just take them home for lots of cuddles and snuggles. They love to just sit and snack all day long. Depending on the breed, they may require more grooming than you’d expect. As long as you keep them active and properly fed, plan on having them around for the better part of a decade.

Be warned, however. Bunnies will socialize and hang with you only if there aren’t any others of their kind to play with. You’re better off only homing one rabbit at a time. Also, smaller children will need to handle it with care as they have very delicate and inflexible spines.

Additionally, they have very sharp incisors and tough nails as they are burrowing animals, so younger children will need to be mindful of this.

As long as you have the time to interact with them, ferrets are great small pets. They bond and interact with their owners. Don’t let their quiet demeanor fool you. There’s a lot going on behind their eyes.

Their intelligence far exceeds their tiny frames. Like some well-intentioned, yet curious, breeds of dogs, ferrets can get into some trouble if left to their own devices. Ferrets have a less frail and more flexible frame, but are easily excitable and may show their excitement by hugging with their mouths.

While their teeth may not be that sharp, their jaws can pack a punch, so smaller kids may need to be supervised when handling these furry friends.

Hamsters are amazing pets for younger kids just starting to learn about the world around them. They keep to themselves for the most part, but once they get settled they can be picked up by larger, capable hands.

While they self-groom, they are finicky about food. Constant fresh food is a must. An often omitted fact, hamsters are nocturnal animals. They may spend large portions of the day sleeping, huddled up in their hidey-holes. This sleep schedule may not align as well with you and yours and should also be considered.

We’ll put a catchall label of birds here. There is a large variety of them available, each with its own sets of wants and needs. Certain breeds of parrots can be taught to speak. (Just be careful what you say around them.)

Colorful in coat and personality, some birds can be taught to play games with astounding results. This just highlights what incredibly social animals they are. With some having a lifespan of five or more decades, they very well could outlive you. But, being birds, they do fly so they should be kept behind closed doors with fans off during out-of-cage time with the little ones.

Strange But Small Pets People Own

We used the term “strange,” but most people might consider these small pets exotic. These bizarre animals can be taken in by your family with little hassle and great results.

Have you ever considered a flying squirrel? Not unlike the ferret, these creatures take a great deal of time and attention. They will bond and interact with their family. And when we say family, we don’t recommend this specific pet for young ones.

As they are considered wild animals by many, make sure that yours has been obtained legally and ethically. But that goes for any animal in this article. Make sure that you have the proper space and habitat for these wonderful creatures as they are agile and active.

Who doesn’t think a hedgehog is just the cutest?! Handling them might get a little pointed, but they will begin to feel comfortable with you with the proper care and time. Able to run and ramble for miles a day, they are an active lot.

Because of this active lifestyle, they will eat and eat and eat. Adjust your food budget accordingly. They do like their sleepy times during the day though, as they are also nocturnal.

Know Which of These Fun Small Pets Actually Do Need More Room

Just because your pet is small, the space they need could greatly exceed expectations.

No matter what size or type of fish you decide to bring into your home, chances are they need a pretty large aquarium to house them and their daily swimming needs.

PETA recommends that you, "Provide at least 24 square inches of water for every 1 inch of fish." For a larger fish, that's a far larger tank than many of us have available. And, the most common rule of thumb in the aquatic world is one gallon per one inch of fish. Even though fish can be among the smallest of pets, they'll still need room to swim.

They might be limited to the land in your home, but turtles will still need fairway to roam. Searching the World Wide Web will show that most sites see a 40-gallon tank recommended. Between a basking area where they can appreciate the heat and light you’ve set up for them, they will also need a shelter to rest in when they’re not playing with their water feature.

Yes, they carry their homes on their back. But their home away from home is a necessity.

There’s a wide, wide world of pets just waiting to be loved, some of them stranger than others.

Dogs, Dogs, Dogs

Determining the best pet is generally a matter of opinion, but cats and dogs typically take the cake. Cats are low maintenance and good with small living spaces, whereas dogs are fun, loving, and protective while often need a large space.

But who wants to give cats any more airtime than they already have? We’re here to discuss small dogs.

Dogs are incredible. Many breeds are great with kids. They give the children in your home an opportunity to test themselves in the ring, going toe to toe with their new favorite pet. Dogs are resilient and adaptable. If a problem arises, a solution is easily found. And, alongside cats, your veterinarian will be able to service them better than most exotic pets.

If we’re talking about more compact canines, there are any number that will fit the bill. From Bichon Frise to Terriers of every variety. From Shih Tzus to bulldogs. There’s a dog out there to suit you and/or your family’s needs.

Mini Doodles Rock!

We think that Doodles are the creme de la creme of the dog world.

While the term “mini” can be misleading when it comes to dogs, Doodles aren’t any different. That being said, there are Doodles that can fill that tiny hole in your family. Mini Cockapoos or Miniature Labradoodles could make your life complete. Maybe a Mini Goldendoodle might be in your future? Does it get any more adorbs than a Mini Pompapoo? Even the name is cute.

Whether you have questions or are ready to bring a Doodle home ASAP, we’re here to help you with all of your Doodle needs.

Jenna and the JLDD Team

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