Cats and dogs have been snuggling their adorable ways into our families for generations, but they’re not the only animals that deserve a spot in our family portrait.
Ferrets are just as cuddly as dogs and cats and have been known to get along swimmingly with other animals. They’re excellent for apartment-dwellers. Be sure to train your ferret and provide puzzles, toys, and games for mental stimulation to make full use of their intelligence. You might be surprised at how much personality you’ll discover in such a small package.
Requirements: A large, multi-story cage, a few hours of playtime outside the cage each day, and a high protein diet.
2. Pot Bellied Pigs
Pigs are sweet, intelligent creatures, but they won’t grow to be small enough to fit in a purse, despite what 90’s wall calendars would have you believe. You’re not going to find a healthy, adult pot-bellied pig under 50 pounds – more realistically, you can expect your pig to grow to be between 100 and 200 pounds. If you’re okay with a pig the size of a medium-large dog and have a large property with plenty of room for them to roam, you’ll adore a pet pig.
Requirements: A medium to a large house or a temperature-regulated outdoor pen, pig feed, and plenty of fresh produce.
Chickens can be surprisingly affectionate and will bond with you if you handle them when they’re chicks. Healthy, young hens will lay up to one egg daily. You could, if you really wanted to, allow your chicken to live inside, but they can’t control their droppings and will need to wear a special diaper.
Requirements: An outdoor coop, daily cleaning, and egg-collecting, fresh feed, occasional table scraps, and water. Chickens are hardy and don’t need much to be content, but they’re capable of much more than we give them credit for; affection, attention, and training are nice extras.
Domestic rats make excellent pets, and they’re quite affordable. They’re curious and intelligent, which makes them great candidates for trick training. They’re just as happy to chill on your shoulder while you watch TV as they are to explore your room, especially if you hide toys and treats.
Requirements: A single-story cage, though larger cages with multiple stories are even better. Rats are omnivorous and can eat a wide variety of foods, which makes them susceptible to weight gain.
Doves and pigeons are two distinct species, though they’re closely related – they both feed their young with “milk” formed in their crop (expanded muscular pouch near the gullet/throat), and they coo day and night. Doves and pigeons are affectionate, especially when handled from hatching, though it takes patience to bond with them.
Requirements: A large cage, toys and time outside the cage for socializing and mental stimulation. Suitable for small homes and apartments, can be left alone during the day.
6. Miniature Horses
Mini horses are sweet and affectionate and can be trained to do just about anything a large dog can do – for example, working as service animals for the blind. They can be ridden by small children and can pull small cartloads.
Requirements: A large home with a yard. Mini horses can sleep indoors, but they should have an outdoor pen where they can exercise and graze. Upkeep is similar to that of a much larger horse; though they require less hay and grain, they need a specialized equine veterinarian. Unlike horses, they don’t necessarily need home visits from the vet, because they’re much easier to transport.
7. Bearded Dragons
As far as reptiles go, Bearded Dragons are among the friendliest and most laid-back, making them ideal for children over 9 years old. They’re relatively easy to care for, and can even be taken outside on a harness for brief walks. Many dragons bond deeply with their owners and seek out affection.
Requirements: Initial tank set up can be expensive, as you’ll need a heat lamp and decorations to create a healthy, enriched environment. Bearded dragons can be very active, and they’re happiest when they get plenty of time outside of their cage to run around and socialize with their humans. They eat a variety of foods, including food pellets, fresh produce, and live insects.
Quail are an excellent choice if you want to have chickens, but don’t have the space. The largest quail are under a pound, so you can easily keep a few in an apartment. They can bond with their owners and lay tiny, edible eggs. Quail can even be clicker-trained.
Requirements: Quail are very low-maintenance, only needing a single-story cage or outdoor hutch. They need a high protein diet, consisting of a seed blend supplemented by fresh produce and insects. Like all birds, they need their cage cleaned often, as they produce waste frequently throughout the day, which can lead to ammonia buildup. Aim for light daily cleaning and fresh bedding each week.
Turtles are cute and they never run away. Many tolerate handling, but it’s generally stressful for them. A healthy turtle can live up 20 to 40 years, so you’ll need to be able to commit to decades of proper care. While terrarium set-up is expensive, turtles need relatively little attention.
Requirements: When kept indoors, turtles need proper lighting and enclosure set-up, which varies by species. Aquatic turtles need to live in a tank full of water, semi-aquatic turtles also need a dry area for basking, while box turtles only need water for drinking. Diet is also highly dependent on species and can vary from dry food pellets to produce to live prey, though all turtles should have access to fresh foods, and cannot live exclusively on a processed diet.
Plants are not generally considered pets, but for someone who’s both busy and has plenty of love to give, they’re a wonderful companion. You can keep a pet plant at work, have another at home on your windowsill, and many more in your garden. The difference between a regular plant and a pet plant? A pet plant has a name, and you look forward to seeing it each day, just to check on its moisture level and to see what new growth it has accomplished.
Requirements: The easiest plants to care for are succulents and cacti, which require very little watering and often survive without much lighting. You can even keep them in a terrarium, which acts as a greenhouse that traps light and moisture.
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