The 10 Best Animals to Keep as Pets

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Updated: December 7, 2021
Image Credit iStock.com/Chalabala
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There are many benefits to owning pets. Whether you hope to teach your children responsibility, are looking for companionship, for anxiety relief, or seeking out a new hobby, owning a pet is remarkably rewarding. While there are many different types of animals you can choose when searching for your perfect pet, the 10 best animals to keep as pets listed below are some of the most popular and are a great place to start your search.

#10: Snakes

Snakes rely fully on external heat or light sources.

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While snakes may not be the most popular choice as an animal to keep as a pet, many people find them to be nice companions. If you live in an apartment, having a pet that doesn’t require outside exercise is nice. For those who want a pet for anxiety, the most popular small pets, such as hamsters, may not be soothing.

Snakes are quiet, clean, and low-maintenance. Because they do not defecate daily, their enclosures are easy to keep clean. Someone who travels for work may find that a snake is the perfect low-maintenance companion for their home.

Like other cold-blooded creatures, snakes need an enclosure that allows them to maintain a healthy temperature. For snakes, this means a minimum of 75 degrees at night. During the day, a higher temperature, with a basking spot that is even warmer, will keep your snake healthy and happy.

The most important consideration when putting together an enclosure for your pet snake is an escape-proof lid. While many owners allow their snakes out to explore under supervision, it is important for their safety, that they cannot exit the enclosure on their own.

#9: Lizards

Some lizard species can go their entire life without drinking water.

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If you are looking for a small pet for beginners, don’t mark lizards off your list. Although some species are challenging, there are plenty of low-maintenance choices as well. Lizards like the leopard gecko and bearded dragon are hardy, do well on an easy-to-source diet, and are not overly picky about their habitat. However, they are reptiles and do require specific conditions in their enclosure, such as a heat source.

Once the habitat is in place, lizards are easy to care for and have a fun personality, making them a good choice as small pets for children. As with any small pet, supervise your child around the lizard until you are confident in their ability to properly handle and care for the pet.

#8: Birds

The love language of the parakeet is regurgitation.

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Birds make fun pets for folks who aren’t looking for cuddling. Depending on the type of bird you select, you can enjoy them for their sweet voice, beautiful plumage, or colorful personality. Birds are a great choice for someone looking for low-maintenance companionship.

#7: Hamsters

The Syrian hamster is the most common pet hamster.

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Hamsters are often considered an excellent pet, and they can be. It is important to realize that although they are small, they do require regular care. Like many small pets, they tend to messiness. Plan to spend a few minutes each day cleaning out their enclosure to prevent odors from developing.

While not always the most friendly choice initially, with patience, and as long as you are gentle, hamsters can quickly learn to look forward to your presence.

#6: Fish

There are over 30,000 different species of fish.

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If you are interested in a pet for anxiety, a fish may be a perfect choice. Setting up an aquarium and tending to the fish inside can become an engrossing hobby. You can have anything from a smaller tank with a single Betta to a larger aquarium, decorated with live plants and housing schooling species of fish, such as tetras. The gentle sound of water moving through the filter as you watch the fish move through their environment will become a pleasant part of your day.

#5: Rats

Contrary to popular belief, rats are very clean animals.

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You may be surprised to learn that rats are great pets for beginners. They are naturally clean, are quick learners, and are social, affectionate animals. One strong argument for rats as opposed to other small pets such as hamsters is that they keep the same clock as people. While many rodents sleep during the day and are active at night, rats are alert and awake during the same time as the rest of the family.

#4: Rabbits

Rabbits are easy to train.

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If you are interested in a pet for cuddling, a rabbit may be a perfect choice. It may take a little while for your pet rabbit to get comfortable being handled. While a good choice for children, it is important to take the time to show the child how to gently handle the rabbit.

Rabbits do tend to be one of the messier pets to keep in the home. Plan to clean their hutch regularly to prevent odors from developing. You can keep rabbits in an apartment, although they do often enjoy spending some supervised time outside.

#3: Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are social companion animals.

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Guinea pigs may not be a choice that comes immediately to mind when selecting a pet for your household, but they are a charming and fun choice. They are friendly and social, are easy to handle, and quickly learn to interact with their family.

Before getting a Guinea pig, it is important to understand how social they are. They do much better if kept in pairs. Of course, this means accurately sexing the Guinea pigs or ensuring that one or both are sterilized to prevent any accidental babies.

#2: Cats

Fun fact: the oldest known pet cat existed 9,500 years ago.

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Cats can be a great low-maintenance pet for beginners. They are great for those who live in an apartment but still want a pet that doesn’t live in a tank or cage. Cats do have a reputation for having an independent nature, but that isn’t always a negative. Cats are often a better choice than dogs if you work long hours or are otherwise away from the home for extended periods.

Just because many cats are less demonstrative than dogs does not mean they aren’t affectionate. While some cats are dismissive of human contact, many are very happy to settle in beside you while you watch television or read. Most friendly cats are happy to spend time alongside their humans, whether they want to actively cuddle or not. For children, a cat is often more nimble than a small dog at avoiding getting underfoot, while not as boisterous as a large dog. Depending on the situation, a cat may be a better animal to keep as a pet than a dog.

#1: Dogs

Dogs are the most popular pet in the world.

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Dogs are probably the choice that comes to mind immediately when thinking of the best animal to keep as a pet. Many dogs are good for cuddling and are probably overall the most friendly of the different common house pets, they aren’t always the best choice for every situation.

Dogs are more high maintenance than many other types of pets. Even a dog that does well when left alone for long periods will need regular exercise and a chance to use the bathroom outside. Many dogs, however, need more than this minimal attention. Dogs that are left alone for extended periods or that don’t get sufficient exercise can become anxious, which often leads to destructive behavior.

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AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

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