The 10 Best Apartment Animals

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: December 3, 2021


Living in an apartment can have its advantages — and it’s sometimes a necessity if you want to be in the right neighborhood — but it does tend to limit what kind of pets you can have in your home. Many apartment complexes will require deposits for dogs or cats, and many have restrictions on breeds or the size of dogs. Then there’s just the practical decision of making sure you have enough space for your pet to live a healthy and happy lifestyle. Fortunately, there are quite a few apartment animals worth your time. The right one for you will vary depending on your exact circumstances, but here are the 10 best animals for apartment living.

#1. Freshwater Fish: The Low-Maintenance Choice For Small Spaces

Best Apartment Animals
An aquarium with a tropical fish jungle landscape, with a natural forest design.

Image Credityou sheng/Shutterstock.com

For small spaces, few pets maximize your real estate better than freshwater fish. Popular species like guppies and goldfish can survive in a five-gallon tank, but there are some signs that expanding your aquarium can actually improve your mental health. Research seems to indicate that watching an aquarium can lower both your heart rate and your blood pressure, and those benefits only improve as you begin to add more fish to your aquarium. There’s some degree of overhead involved thanks to the cost of the aquarium and equipment, but freshwater tanks are very low-maintenance once everything’s set up. Since care generally involves short maintenance once every week or two, these apartment-friendly pets are an especially solid choice for full-time workers.

Since some fish, like the betta, are known to fight, it’s important to do your research when picking tank mates. You can learn more about this freshwater species also known as the Siamese fighting fish here.

#2. Saltwater Fish: The Decorative Approach That’s Slightly More Demanding

Best Apartment Animals
A coral reef aquarium tank with a variety of saltwater fish.

If you’ve already tried your hand at maintaining a freshwater tank or are simply looking for a challenge from the start, a tropical saltwater tank offers a range of different species to choose from, and they tend to display more vibrant colors and patterns than their freshwater brethren. It’s theorized that saltwater fish developed these features so they could more easily identify members of their own species in their dense coral reef habitats. Saltwater fish are more challenging and more expensive to care for on average, and they require closer observation and maintenance at least once a week. Clownfish, hawkfish, and bicolor blennies are all popular choices that are also good for beginners.

If you’re looking to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a saltwater tank in greater detail, you can do so here.

#3. Dog: A Variety of Breeds With a Variety of Personalities

Best Apartment Animals
Big or small, many dogs are comfortable living in apartments, but there are still steps their owners should take every day to keep them happy and healthy.

Having a dog in an apartment complex can sometimes be complicated depending on the demands of your leasing office — but if you can make it work, they can be one of the best choices if you need for depression management. Breeds that are cuddly and small — like the Bichon Frise and Maltese — make obvious sense for smaller apartments and can even be trained to use the litter box like cats. But you don’t need to rule out larger dogs either. Breeds like golden retrievers and bullmastiffs are big dogs, but they have relatively low energy requirements that make them a better choice for apartments than even smaller but more active breeds like the Jack Russell terrier.

Not all of the approximately 400 dog breeds in existence are good for apartments, but you can discover more about many of them here.

#4. Turtle: The Long-Lived Choice Pet For Apartment Living

Best Apartment Animals
Turtles require little space compared to regular-sized turtles. Easy to handle and maintain as they only need a glass aquarium.

Image CreditMark Leung/Shutterstock.com

From the red-eared slider to the painted turtle to the wood turtle, there are a whole lot of turtle species that can be kept as pets — and each of them brings its own unique coloring, design, and personality to the table. For pet owners with an existing aquarium, bringing in a turtle can be a great way to seriously diversify your pet collection while still being apartment-friendly. But it’s important to keep in mind that these pets constitute significantly more commitment than fish. Turtles are messy eaters that require diligent water filtration, and they’re sometimes known to prey on aquarium fish — so it’s of critical importance to make sure you do your research thoroughly. But for those who are ready for the commitment, these are fascinating animals that can learn to beg for their supper.

You can discover more about the advantages and disadvantages of owning a turtle here.

#5. Cat: The Independent But Cuddly Choice

Best Apartment Animals
A cat can happily be an inside pet but needs to be kept occupied and stimulated. 

If you want to find pets that are cuddly without requiring the level of maintenance that dogs require, felines might be the perfect apartment animals for your life. They tend to be significantly more self-sufficient than dogs, and apartments tend to be more accepting of them and less scrutinizing of the breed. You don’t need a purebred cat to enjoy the company, but do keep in mind the characteristics of some breeds if you do decide to take that route. Persians and American shorthairs are popular indoor choices both because they’re breeds that are cuddly and require relatively low maintenance — but even highly active breeds like the Siamese and Maine coon can be fine in a small apartment as long as they get the regular attention they need. Cats rank alongside dogs as some of the best pets for depression.

Check out a rundown of some of the most prominent cat breeds here.

#6. Tarantula: A Spooky Alternative to Conventional Apartment Animals

Best Apartment Animals
A tarantula can make a great pet, but it’s not right for everyone. 

Image CreditMilan Zygmunt/Shutterstock.com

The human brain is hardwired to fear and avoid spiders — so the large, hairy, and multi-eyed tarantula may seem like a strange choice of pet. But their small size makes them very apartment-friendly, and they’re far more docile than their intimidating appearance would suggest. Since they’re silent, take up little space, and require little maintenance, they’re practically the perfect roommate. A modest five-gallon tank should offer enough size for most tarantula species, but ten gallons is the ideal size if you want your new pet to be as comfortable as they deserve. Popular pet tarantula species include the Chilean rose, Costa Rican zebra, and Honduran curly hair. Arboreal tarantula species tend to be more difficult to care for than ground tarantulas, but most species are low-maintenance choices that are especially suitable for full-time workers.

A particularly docile species is the red-knee tarantula. Learn more about them here.

#7. Rat: Petite But Highly Intelligent Pets

Best Apartment Animals
Rats make loving apartment pets and companions. Their small size and relatively easy care make them perfect for small apartments.

Owning a rat is somewhat similar to owning a cat in that they’re both cuddly mammals that are great for depression. They’re also both highly intelligent, and they’re meticulous groomers — so they’re great for small spaces where you don’t want to have to worry about the smell of a small animal. But rats can be even better than cats for small spaces, as an adult rat can be comfortable in a two-foot cage and typically requires not much more than an hour of activity around the apartment every day. Of course, your pet rat is going to be happiest when you take the time to actively engage. Fortunately, these clever little critters love to play and can even be trained to perform a variety of tricks.

You can dig deeper into the interesting nature of rats here.

#8. Bird: A Rewarding But Sometimes Challenging Pet

Best Apartment Animals
A colorful parrot eating from the owner’s hand. Birds make very good pets for apartments as they only need a little space.

Image CreditTumCruise/Shutterstock.com

Birds are another of the best apartment animals that work for full-time workers because they can be perfectly happy keeping themselves occupied in their cages. But most of the bird species kept as pets are highly intelligent and exceedingly curious animals, and their problem-solving skills can often get them into trouble if they aren’t kept stocked with a wide variety of toys to play with. Doves, finches, and budgies are all highly sociable birds that can keep to themselves but are also incredibly affectionate with their caretakers. Parrots like the cockatoo and the scarlet macaw draw a lot of attention from prospective pet owners because of their ability to talk, but they can also be challenging pets that require quite a bit of patience and consistent training. The African gray parrot can learn up to a thousand unique words when properly engaged.

Further, investigate the various bird species kept as pets here.

#9. Chinchilla: Clean and Playful Little Rodents

Best Apartment Animals
Clean, relatively odor-free, hyperactive and lovers of attention, chinchillas can make excellent pets for apartment dwellers in the right climate.

Guinea pigs and hamsters may be some of the most popular rodents to be kept as pets for children, but the chinchilla offers an alternative that’s actually better for apartments. Chinchilla food is odorless, and they’re notoriously meticulous creatures who clean themselves by taking dust baths. Despite their unique appearance, these adorable little critters have a similar disposition to rats — highly sociable, relentlessly playful, and very curious. They’re also almost entirely quiet, but they’re also highly active critters. A pet chinchilla will be most comfortable when it has a cage with a lot of vertical clearance and gets regular time outside of its cage to play with its caretakers and cuddle. Chinchillas can be highly active at night, but they’re small enough that their antics shouldn’t keep you up. They, therefore, make one of the best apartment animals.

Figure out whether or not a chinchilla is right for you here.

#10. Snake: The Cold-Blooded Contender For Apartment Living

Best Apartment Animals
You can encourage a bond with your snake by handling them at the right time and in the right way, associating yourself with good things, and recognizing the signs that a bond is developing.

Image CreditPhotohobbiest/Shutterstock.com

While humans have developed an instinctive fear of snakes thanks to millions of years of evolution, most snake species don’t pose a threat to us. Kingsnakes, rat snakes, and garter snakes are all harmless creatures with docile temperaments, and ball pythons are actually some of the most common choices of a pet snake and make one of the best apartment animals. But all of these species come with rather low standards for maintenance. Most adult snakes only need to be fed every week or two, and the minimal maintenance required to keep the cage tidy can be accomplished at the same time. Just keep in mind that different snake species have different demands and that these reptiles excel at sneaking out of their cages.

Only a fraction of the roughly 3,000 snake species is kept as pets, which you can learn more about here.

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