Owning a pet can be one of the most rewarding things you do in your life, but it can also be a lot of work. If you’ve never owned a pet before but want to change that, it may be best to “start small.” No, we don’t necessarily mean “small” as in fish or hamster, but rather, “small” as in easy to care for. A horse, for instance, requires a lot of work and know-how, whereas a dog is fairly uncomplicated in comparison. When choosing your first pet, it’s important that you do your research, and pick an animal that you have the means to take care of.
Some considerations to make before we delve into the list of the top 10 easiest animals to care for are:
- What does your lifestyle look like? If you’re a couch potato, an active dog might not be for you. Rather, you might do well caring for an English Bulldog, a cat or even a gerbil. On the other hand, if you like to run, hike and be outdoors, consider bringing home a German Shepherd or Great Dane, as these are great companions to do outdoorsy activities with.
- How often are you home? If you travel a lot, work long and odd hours or have an extremely active social life, a cat or other independent animal might be a better fit for you. Dogs need a lot of attention and need to be let out a minimum of three times a day to do their business (preferably more if possible). However, all animals need a consistent feeding schedule, so if you’re always away from home, you may need to reconsider your decision to bring home a pet.
- How much attention are you willing to give you new pet? Again, dogs require a lot of attention. In fact, raising a dog has often been compared to raising a human child. If you’re not ready for that type of commitment, consider getting a reptile, rodent or feline, as these types of animals generally like to be left alone.
- How much work are you willing to put into caring for and training your new pet? This article may be about the easiest animals to care for, but the truth is that there is not a single pet you can take home that will require no work. When you take on a pet, you are also taking on the responsibility of feeding, watering and caring for another living creature. You must also maintain a clean living environment for whatever pet you choose to adopt. That said, some pets require more work than others. A fish, for instance, just needs to be fed and his bowl changed regularly. A dog, on the other hand, needs to be house trained, leash trained, chew trained in addition to fed, watered, walked and loved.
- Do you have children? If you’re buying a pet for the kids to “teach them responsibility,” invest in a pet that a) they will love and b) that they can reasonably care for. A snake, for instance, might be easy for you to care for, but it is not recommended that a child handle one. A dog or cat might be a little more work, but they make great companions for children and as your child grows, he or she can take on more of the responsibility of caring for it.
With these considerations in mind, let’s explore the top 10 easiest animals to care for
Of the easiest animals to care for, dogs are probably the least easy, and depending on the breed you choose, you may find your experience more trying than other dog owners’. That said, all dogs require food, water, exercise, a clean living environment, training, love and attention and routine veterinary care. They need their own food and water bowls, a leash, a collar, tags, a microchip (for additional security) and toys. They need to be housebroken, leash trained, crate trained and taught not to chew or bark incessantly. However, dogs make the list because they are easy to love. Once you fall in love with your pooch, you’ll find that caring for him is something you want to do rather than have to do.
Cats are like the Robin to Marvel’s Batman—their companionship is underrated, and their ability to make a person happy is unrecognized. Cats can make great companions, and can even be trained to do fun tricks. Cats also have a strong and independent personality, but also love a good cuddle session. That being said, cats need food, water, a clean living environment and routine veterinary care. They need to be litter box trained, and you need to keep that box clean on a daily basis. However, like dogs, cats are easy to love, and once you and your cat form a bond, she’ll be your new best friend.
Hamsters, like cats, are very independent animals that require very little attention. Unlike cats, however, hamsters don’t like to be held and pet for long periods of time. For this reason, a hamster makes the perfect companion for you or a great “learning pet” for your children. With a good-sized cage and some toys, hamsters can entertain themselves for days. That being said, you still need to feed your hamster, give it water, and maintain a clean living environment for it. This means scooping out the poop and replacing its shavings with new shavings at least once a week. Hamsters, like all animals, need routine veterinary care.
Rabbits are (mostly) docile creatures that thrive in large open spaces with several hiding spots. Contrary to popular belief, rabbits cannot be kept in cages. Rabbits need an enclosed space to rest and sleep in, and a large outdoor area to run around and play in. The two should be connected via a tunnel. They also need some type of bedding, like straw or shavings, that should be cleaned out and replaced once a week. Rabbits need food, water and routine veterinary care. They need human interaction, but not too much, as rabbits are naturally skittish creatures. Additionally, rabbits thrive in the company of other rabbits, so if you’re going to get one, you should get two.
Ferrets are a lot like cats: independent, curious and mischievous. However, they make great pets, as they’re highly energetic and intelligent. Children especially love ferrets, and if trained properly, they can be the loyal and low-maintenance companion you desire. Keep in mind though that because of their curiosity, your home should be ferret-proofed, with all things that could potentially harm or trap your pet put up and out of reach. Ferrets also require routine veterinary care and some training.
Hand-raised birds make lovely and loveable pets, as they tend to bond quickly with their owners. Birds are a great addition to an otherwise quiet environment, and require very little maintenance. They do need a large cage, however, with a few different spots for perching. You will need to change the papers out from the bottom of the cage on a daily basis, as birds defecate more than most other animals. You should do a thorough cleaning once a week. Birds with clipped wings can be taken out of their cages and held, but you must be very gentle with them. For this reason, birds are not recommended pets for children under the age of 8.
Turtles require very little human interaction, but they are fairly high maintenance. Turtles require a just right living environment, which can be difficult and expensive to set up, as they will need a large tank, heat lamps and filters to thrive. Additionally, turtles are messy creatures, and their tanks need to be cleaned out regularly. They also require a special diet, which your veterinarian can advise you on, as well as special medications to remain strong and healthy. If properly taken care of, turtles can live up to 40 years, making turtles a lifelong commitment. If that’s not something you’re ready for, a turtle is not right for you.
Reptiles such as snakes, lizards and frogs are relatively low maintenance. That said, setting up the proper environment for them is a difficult and expensive task. Like turtles, snakes, lizards and frogs require just the right setup. If their environment is too hot, it can kill them. If it’s too cold, it can kill them. If they do not have the right foliage, hiding spots or ground covering, they could suffer from depression and high stress levels. Moreover, reptiles require live prey to eat, which can make some people squeamish. If you’re not into feeding live mice or bugs to an animal, a reptile may not be the best pet for you. That being said, reptiles don’t need a lot of exercise, and they don’t like to be handled a lot. They are the ideal pet for someone looking to take up residence with a low maintenance, quiet, non-attention seeking roommate.
Rats and mice can make fun pets for small children, as they’re active and playful, but easy to care for. Rats, despite their bad name, are highly intelligent and friendly creatures that can be trained to do cool tricks. Mice, on the other hand, are squeamish and are better for looking at than holding. Whichever you choose, rodents do require a sizable cage where they can run around and be happy. They need a lush bed of shavings to sleep and hide in, as well as some toys to entertain them throughout the day. You should clean the shavings of droppings daily, and replace it with new shavings weekly. If you opt for a rat, you should let it out a few times each day so that it can run around and get human interaction.
We’re hesitant to include fish as the #1 easiest animal to care for, as some fish require extensive and frequent maintenance. That said, let’s assume that you’re buying a gold fish or some other non-tropical specimen. In that case, you would still need to invest in a nice tank, filters, rocks or pebbles and foliage, but beyond that, fish require very little investment of your time. You just need to feed them daily, make sure that the pH balance of their water is good and clean their tank weekly. However, if you invest in tropical or exotic fish, your time and money investment could skyrocket, as many fish require a precise environment to thrive. If you’re a first time pet owner, it is not recommended that you make tropical fish your first pet.
Consult With an Experienced Veterinarian Before Making the Leap
If you want to adopt a pet for the first time, the veterinary professionals at the United Veterinary Center are here to help you make pet ownership the fulfilling experience you always imagined it to be. That said, every animal is going to require some level of work and care, and how much time and money you’re willing to invest into that care will dictate which animal is right for you. If you don’t want to invest any time and money, owning a pet is not for you. To determine which animal will best fit your lifestyle, talk to the caring professionals at the United Veterinary Center about your expectations for a pet, and let us guide you toward the best animal for you.