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10 Best Animals to Keep as Pets

The best animals to keep as pets provide companionship, affection, and responsibility. Pet animals are uniquely diverse due to domestication and selective breeding. Today’s options are fluffy, scaly, or feathery, with each bringing distinct needs and characteristics. Moreover, each species—and even each individual—has specific care requirements. This presents both benefits and downsides. Both are key to understanding their respective popularity and deciding which is the right fit for you.

Best pets
The best pets are domesticated, tamed, or otherwise naturally docile enough to cohabitate peacefully with human beings.

Years of domestication allow for the sheer variety of sizes, colors, and traits present among pet animals. This breadth of characteristics is a testament to their popularity and why many consider pets to be a staple of the household. That said, all pets are dependent on their humans. There is no such thing as a fully hands-off pet, though some may require less attention than others. Breed behaviors, training habits, socialization needs, and health issues complicate care needs further.

Consequently, no one pet fits all. Selecting the best pet is a matter of lifestyle compatibility and weighing your expectations. Some options like fish are safe and comparatively easier to care for than large mammals, whereas others need space to roam and proper training and socialization. However, every pet is a major commitment.

Below is a list of the 10 best animals to keep as pets we’ll be covering in this article, and why they’re so well-liked.

  • Cat: Domestic felines are independent creatures who evolved into beloved companions. They’re well-liked due to their self-cleaning habits, unique personalities, and calming presence.
  • Dog: Dogs are man’s best friend due to centuries of domestication and selective breeding. Their varied sizes and breeds offer something for every lifestyle.
  • Snake: Snakes are reptilian pets humans admire for their sizes and colors. Although an exotic choice, snakes appeal to many because of their contained maintenance and quietness.
  • Rabbit: Rabbits and their respective breeds are highly diverse. They develop close bonds with humans, require routine cage care, and can learn tricks and commands.
  • Fish: Safe and colorful, fish are favored for their less intensive upkeep. Their diverse species and sizes make them suitable for different spaces.
  • Hamster: Hamsters are one of the most popular rodent pets. They’re largely solitary but require spacious cages and plenty of mental stimulation.
  • Rat: Many pet owners love rats because they’re social, intelligent, and smart pets. They form strong bonds with their owners and often learn commands.
  • Bearded dragon: Bearded dragons are the go-to pick for many first-time reptile owners. They’re docile and comfortable with most handling.
  • Guinea pig: Guinea pigs are sociable, vocal, and playful rodent pets. They require more care but offer interactive companionship.
  • Bird: Birds are beloved for their lifespans and varied species. Many develop close bonds with their humans and enjoy socializing.

1. Cat

Domestic cats (Felis catus) are one of the most popular pet animals due to their independence and personalities. Humans domesticated cats to control pest populations (a job many still fulfill today) but gradually became beloved companions. Many breeds developed, each showing distinct characteristics that heighten their appeal. Examples include the vocal Siamese, the sizable Maine Coon, and the highly prized spotted Bengal cat.

Cat care

All cats require balanced nutrition, regular veterinary check-ups, access to a litter box, and appropriate socialization. As animal health varies due to years of selective breeding, your cat may also require specialized care or training to address breed-specific issues. Cats additionally require playtime and affection for their mental and physical health, as well as occasional grooming depending on the breed.

The advantages of owning cats are diverse. For instance, they thrive in large or smaller housing options. Each has a distinct personality, meaning different cats suit different owners. Cats also groom themselves and use litter boxes, which reduces cleaning and hands-on care. Their presence additionally has various health benefits for humans. For example, petting a cat releases oxytocin, which reduces your anxiety and stress.

Cat ownership presents some downsides as well. For example, cats are one of the common allergens, which pose severe health risks for some people. Vet care, particularly for breeds prone to health issues, is a financial burden. Furthermore, cats are prone to damaging furniture as they need to scratch for their claw health. Meanwhile, if they’re outdoor cats, then they may be a victim of traffic and other animals, become lost, or threaten local wildlife.

2. Dog

Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are a beloved house pet and long-time companion of humans. Mankind domesticated dogs thousands of years ago, likely as a means to hunt and provide protection. Today, these animals fulfill various roles, the foremost being man’s best friend. Centuries of domestication additionally led to different breeds with distinct characteristics. Popular examples include family-friendly Labrador Retrievers, energetic and intelligent Border Collies, and protective, hard-working German Shepherds.

Dog care

Care requirements for a dog depend on the individual and its breed. Larger dogs require more food, space, and exercise than midsize or small dogs. A nutritious diet is essential as well as routine health checkups. Certain breeds are more susceptible to health issues than others, which adds to their care. All dogs require training and socialization to develop and reinforce good behaviors. Some breeds additionally need regular grooming to prevent matting and adequate mental stimulation to manage their energy levels.

Dogs are one of the most popular pets due to their various benefits. For instance, due to domestication and selective breeding, dogs form strong emotional bonds with humans. They often feel like part of the family for many owners. Additionally, breeds like Border Collies, German Shepherds, or Labrador Retrievers tend to be working dogs. They fulfill crucial roles, such as herding livestock, rescuing vulnerable individuals, and detecting narcotics or explosive devices.

That said, dog ownership has downsides. For example, dogs are a long-term commitment and require more hands-on care than caged animals. They need regular exercise, regardless of your schedule. They also must be appropriately trained, with some breeds being especially difficult to handle. Untrained, aggressive behaviors tend to be bite risks, which can be fatal to humans or other animals. Meanwhile, genetic health issues are common in many breeds and pose a financial burden.

3. Snake

Snakes (Serpentes) are reptilian animals often kept as exotic pets due to their variety of sizes, colors, and temperaments. Popular choices include the corn snake, Burmese python, kingsnake, and rosy boa. Repite owners prize such less for their less intensive upkeep compared to larger mammal pets.

Snake care

General care includes a secure enclosure as well as appropriate temperature gradients and humidity levels. You’ll additionally need to create a habitat suitable for their size. For example, corn snakes are small and require a modest-sized terrarium, whereas a Burmese Python, a larger species, needs a spacious enclosure. Maintaining this habitat is crucial to prevent illness, stress, and escape. Diet guidelines vary, but all snakes are carnivorous. Expect them to feed exclusively on other animals, be they frozen or live rodents and insects.

The main benefits of keeping snakes as pets include their quiet nature and infrequent need for attention. Snakes are solitary creatures; you don’t need to house individuals together or bond with them the way you would a cat or dog. As they lack an extensive vocal range, your pet snake will not disrupt your home or disturb your neighbors.

That said, there are some downsides to pet snakes. For instance, snakes are a long-term commitment. They live for decades and can never enter the wild as they’ll likely die or disrupt the ecosystem. Specialized habitats present a financial barrier as you must invest in specific enclosures. Additionally, many are comfortable being handled but not frequently as this often causes stress. Finally, snakes are exotic pets. This comes with varied legal restrictions, limiting your options and ability to find a veterinarian who specializes in snakes.

4. Rabbit

Rabbits (domesticated Oryctolagus cuniculus) are fluffy pets appreciated for their curious, playful nature. Their initial domestication was practical: humans bred rabbits for their meat and fur but gradually saw them as companions. Today, pet owners often regard them as one of the best animals to keep due to their docility and varied appearances. Distinct breeds include the Netherland Dwarf, Flemish Giant, English Lop, and Angora rabbit. Each displays unique coats, demeanors, and body and ear sizes that owners adore.

Rabbit care

Rabbit care is multifaceted. For instance, they require spacious enclosures with enough room to hop, hide, and play. Dietary needs include a steady supply of hay, fresh vegetables, and pellets. Rabbits groom themselves but ingest fur, so regular grooming by their owners is key to avoiding digestive issues. Lastly, rabbits need exercise and proper socialization to maintain their well-being and develop positive behaviors.

Owning rabbits has various advantages. For instance, they’re beloved for their more docile yet affectionate nature. Rabbits bond with humans, forming close connections and showing affection similar to cats and dogs. Many even learn vocal cues and tricks, like dogs or cats. Additionally, rabbits are relatively clean animals and can be litter-trained.

That said, rabbit ownership has shortcomings. For example, they’re not ideal for households with small children without proper supervision. Rabbits are delicate and are susceptible to injury if they’re not handled carefully. They may even cause injury as they bite or kick when stressed. Additionally, they need a strict diet due to their sensitive digestive systems as well as a specialized vet, which is exclusive and expensive.

5. Fish

Pet fish represent many small, colorful species that owners value for their straightforward upkeep. Fish are one of the safest pet animals as they pose little risk of allergies or injuries to humans, require no physical bonding, and stay contained to one area. Popular choices include the betta fish (Siamese fighting fish), goldfish, and Neon Tetras.

Fish care

These animals require a clean, stable aquatic environment of adequate size to thrive. Small fish bowls are unhealthy as they don’t support stable water conditions. Large tanks with regular water changes, appropriate filtration, and temperature control are best. Additionally, different species require specific diets as well as compatible companions. Not all fish are social, however, as some like bettas thrive best alone. Regular tank cleaning is additionally key to prevent diseases and bacteria build-up.

The main advantage of fishkeeping is their unobtrusive presence. Fish don’t make any noise and take up minimal space compared to other pets. They also don’t require walks or grooming, making them less demanding of your time and physical effort. Automated feeders and filters additionally support care, allowing for more room in your schedule.

Disadvantages include the initial setup cost of an aquarium and maintenance. Elaborate tanks add to the cost, particularly if you desire to house many fish or decorate your tank. Furthermore, pet fish cannot bond with their owners the same way as cats, dogs, and rabbits do. You’ll also need to monitor fish to prevent disease and be selective about your care, eliminating the myth that they’re a completely hands-off house pet.

6. Hamster

Hamsters (Cricetinae) are house-friendly rodents popularly kept as pets due to their size and appearance. They’re available in a variety of sizes, colors, and breeds. Well-known choices include the Syrian hamster, which is solitary and territorial, various species of dwarf hamsters who can live in pairs or groups, and slender-bodied Chinese hamsters.

Hamster care

Care requirements for hamsters center on a secure cage with ample space and stimulation. There’s debate over the appropriate cage size as hamsters are prone to boredom and require enrichment or risk escaping. Consequently, small cages are not ideal. Hamsters additionally need nesting material for burrowing and regular cage cleaning. Diet-wise, these rodents are omnivorous and require a mixture of fresh vegetables, grain, and protein like mealworms or boiled eggs.

The advantages of keeping hamsters include their upkeep and quiet nature. Hamsters are largely restricted to one environment (their cage) and are less likely to escape with enough enrichment. Maintaining this cage and their needs is less intensive than caring for a larger animal. Furthermore, hamsters are quiet. They make little noise beyond squeaks or chattering, which helps signal different needs.

Meanwhile, the downside of pet hamsters centers on their behavior. While hamsters pose little risk to humans, they tend to be aggressive with one another. Additionally, hamsters often try to escape if they’re bored, which leads to injury or death. They have short lifespans, living for 2 to 3 years at most, and require careful handling as they’re fragile. Consequently, hamsters are not ideal for children without proper supervision.

7. Rat

Rats are another species of rodent and one of the best animals to keep as pets due to their social, intelligent nature. Pet rats are typically members of the fancy rat subspecies (Rattus norvegicus domestica). These animals come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes—creating distinct breeds, including dumbo, hairless, and curly-haired rex rats.

Rat care

Rats are distinct among rodent pets because they’re trainable and highly social. They bond with their owners, require affection, enjoy learning tricks, and respond to litter box training. Furthermore, pet rats need a spacious cage, much like hamsters and guinea pigs. However, they should be let out to roam in a safe space for their mental and physical health. Pet rats are also omnivorous, thriving on a diverse diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

The foremost appeal of pet rats is their affection and intelligence. Like cats, dogs, and rabbits, rats will bond with you if you’re attentive and reinforce positive behaviors. Despite popular belief that pet rats are dirty, they groom themselves and pose little risk to your health. Furthermore, rats are inexpensive compared to larger animals due to their size and cage requirements.

That said, pet rats present various disadvantages. For instance, they need hands-on care and affection as social creatures, which impacts your schedule. Rats bond with humans yet often require the companionship of other rats, which adds to their expense. Another con is their short lifespan. Your pet rat will likely live for only 2 to 3 years, which may be emotionally challenging.

8. Bearded dragon

Bearded dragons (Pogona) are a genus of lizards commonly kept as exotic pets due to their calm and friendly disposition. Two members of this genus are most often found in exotic pet shops: the central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) and Rankin’s dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni). Both are native to Australia, but as the country bans their exportation, any found in the United States or beyond are domesticated and require human care.

Bearded dragon care

Bearded dragons need an appropriate terrarium with proper temperature gradients, humidity levels, and UVB lighting. Keep these spaces clean to avoid disease and bacteria. Bearded dragons are comfortable with being handled, but you must be gentle to avoid startling or hurting them. These lizards are also omnivores. They eat insects, vegetables, and fruits, with juvenile dragons requiring more protein than adults.

The advantages of keeping bearded dragons include their easy handling and feeding. Docility means they’re one of the easiest reptiles to care for. Consequently, they’re ideal for first-time owners, which is their biggest benefit. Otherwise, bearded dragons are more social than other reptiles. They often appear to enjoy pets and approach when they see their owners.

Disadvantages include the initial setup cost for their habitat. Reptiles have specific environmental needs, particularly those taken from their native environment. Vet care is also a concern. As an exotic pet, you’ll need to seek a specialized veterinarian as most only attend to standard pets like dogs and cats, adding to their overall expense.

9. Guinea pig

Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus, otherwise known as cavies) are one of the most popular rodents. They make great pets because they’re highly social, vocal, playful, and enjoy exploring. There is a wide range of Guinea pigs, descending from the domesticated species. Popular examples include the standard coat America, the long-haired Peruvian, the curly Texel, and the skinny pig, which is mostly hairless.

Guinea pig care

Care requirements for guinea pigs are similar to that of other rodent pets. For instance, they require a large cage with proper bedding, with the ability to roam outside their cage for their mental and physical well-being (albeit under constant supervision). Many also need grooming. Diets largely consist of hay, though they eat green vegetables as well for a balanced diet. While they’re not as affectionate as cats or dogs, guinea pigs enjoy being pet and held if they’ve been handled from a young age.

The advantages of having guinea pigs as pets include their gentle behavior. They’re social and rarely aggressive but delicate and require careful handling, especially if you have children. Guinea pigs roam but take minimal space as they spend most of their time in their cages. Finally, they’re unobtrusive animals. Guinea pigs chitter but are quiet compared to large animals or birds.

Disadvantages include their need for space. Whereas other rodents like hamsters are sometimes satisfied with large cages, guinea pigs need to roam—limiting options for apartment owners. They additionally require the companionship of other guinea pigs, which adds to upkeep. Furthermore, guinea pigs must have regular check-ups as they’re prone to dental problems and vitamin C deficiency.

10. Bird

Birds are flying companions valued for their vibrant colors and distinct personalities. You’ll find small species such as canaries and finches, which have melodic vocal ranges. Large birds include signature pets such as parrots, which famously mimic humans and other sounds.

Bird care

Birdkeeping varies on the type of species and its distinct needs. That said, birds foremost need a spacious cage or aviary. The latter is a large, enclosed space that allows for flight. Meanwhile, dietary needs vary, but birds generally eat seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Many thrive on daily socialization and companionship, though not at all. For instance, species like lovebirds require a partner, whereas parrots tend to need individual attention. Lastly, toys and activities are essential for mental stimulation.

Having a bird as a pet boasts various advantages. For example, birds like African gray parrots live for 40 to 60 years in captivity. This creates a strong bond as they become lifelong companions for many owners. Furthermore, many pet birds are social and highly vocal. They’ll entertain you through their singing and talking. Additionally, many enjoy perching atop your hand, arm, or shoulder, and staying near you.

Disadvantages include their daily care, which is more hands-on compared to other caged animals. Many birds are loud, which may lead to noise complaints. Furthermore, some pet birds live for decades—outliving cats and dogs. Consequently, they’re a long-term commitment, requiring regular care from a veterinarian who specializes in birds, which is not as common as dog and cat vets.

How do you choose an animal to keep as a pet?

Choosing which animal to keep as a pet is a matter of lifestyle compatibility. Pets of any size or species are a commitment, as you’re responsible for the animal’s welfare and how that impacts yourself and others. Consequently, the best pet to choose is one that aligns with your daily life. This includes having the necessary space, housing, time, and financial means.

Large pets require ample room, while smaller ones often might need specific habitats to thrive. Any pet is a time commitment, with some needing more hands-on care than others. However, no pet is fully independent. You must budget time every day to tend to them. If you have to spend time away from home, you’ll need to have someone provide this care. Additionally, pets are an expense. Everything from food and cleaning to vet care and medication poses a financial strain. Every pet is different, which means financial considerations vary widely.

Lastly, health concerns also impact lifestyle compatibility. Allergies influence pet choice as certain animals trigger mild to severe reactions. To ensure a healthy environment for all household members, careful selection is crucial. Additionally, consider the animal’s lifespan and typical health needs. Pets like snakes or birds live for decades, which may present a barrier if any health changes arise that would impair their long-term care.

What is the best animal to have as a pet?

The best animal to have a pet depends on your lifestyle and the specific upsides to ownership. Every pet has its benefits. For example, dogs, birds, and cats are among the most loyal pets due to their social nature and ability to form strong bonds with humans. They’re a great choice if your lifestyle has room for a more affectionate, communicative companion. Other creatures like snakes are solitary. This is ideal if you don’t have the time to take your pet on a walk or play with them regularly. No one animal suits all types of owners, so the best pet comes down to your ability to care for them and whether they provide the kind of companionship you hope for.

What is the safest animal to keep as a house pet?

Fish are the safest animals to keep as a house pet due to their care requirements, behavior, and low risk of causing allergies or harm. All animals have complex needs and require careful oversight, but fish are particularly safe because they live in aquariums, which is a contained environment you’re fully in charge of. This limits any potential injuries between the animal and other members of your family, particularly small children. Jumping species like bettas may try to escape if there are openings in the tank. However, this is rare and unlikely to injure a human.

Furthermore, fish are unobtrusive. They require no physical interaction or bonding and pose a low chance of triggering allergies. Some people might be allergic to substances associated with fishkeeping. However, using gloves or alternative methods of care (e.g. switching out to a different type of fish feed) curbs potential reactions.

What is the easiest pet animal to take care of?

Fish are the easiest pet animals to take care of, but no animal is fully hands-off. Different species of fish have distinct needs with some being more complex than others. However, general care and maintenance are straightforward. Fish require a suitable aquarium as well as consistent water quality management and regular feeding (both of which automation simplifies). A fish tank is a sizable investment, but one that remains restricted to one area of your house.

Moreover, fish don’t need daily walks or active engagement. Other pets like dogs, cats, and birds do and tend to take up more space. Fish do need a level of oversight, however, to identify diseases or bacteria, but tank management helps curb these risks. Additionally, the fish’s self-contained environment means there’s a low chance of escape or accidents. This in turn eliminates the possibility of household damages. In short, pet fish are notably more low-effort compared to other animals, with feeding and tank maintenance being the primary tasks.

How do pet animals affect the ecosystem?

Pets affect the ecosystem indirectly and directly. Pet animals pose a direct threat if allowed outdoors. For example, outdoor cats and dogs prey on wildlife, which disrupts local populations and contributes to the decline of certain species. Likewise, abandoned or escaped pets may become an invasive species. Many die from starvation, traffic, or other animals, but some, such as exotic fish or snakes, outcompete native species. One major example is Burmese pythons in Florida. This species is not native to Florida but established a breeding population after they were likely abandoned by their owners. The population now preys on native wildlife, severely impacting the ecological balance.

Meanwhile, the diet of carnivorous pets has an indirect impact. UCLA’s article, “The Truth About Cats’ And Dogs’ Environmental Impact,” writes that meat consumption by pets in the United States generates 64 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. This is hazardous to local ecosystems and the environment as a whole because it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change and impacting biodiversity.

Curbing the impact of pets on our ecosystems is complex. Banning pets altogether is both impractical and unethical as these animals provide various benefits to humans, the most prominent being companionship. Consequently, environmentalists recommend more mindful pet ownership. This includes but is not limited to having fewer pets, keeping them indoors, adopting shelter animals, appropriately rehoming, and providing a higher quality diet.

Taking these steps limits the effects pets have on ecosystems. It reduces overpopulation, prevents the introduction of non-native species into the wild, and decreases the demand for environmentally harmful pet foods and products.

Can you keep the friendliest animals in the world as pets?

Some of the world’s friendliest animals are ideal pets but not all. These animals are notably social and affectionate towards humans. Domestic species like cats, dogs, rabbits, and guinea pigs land on this list and make for great pets but other animals are not typical companions. Others, like sheep, are traditionally kept as livestock, though some individuals keep them household companions. Larger animals such as capybaras or giant pandas are well-liked but wild. Consequently, it’s illegal to keep them as pets due to conservation laws, habitat requirements, and the complexity of their care.

Can endangered animals be kept as pets?

No, endangered animals can’t be kept as pets. Many animals like the Sumatran orangutan are endangered partly due to the exotic pet trade. Local and international guidelines consequently prohibit the buying and selling of pets if they’re listed as endangered. Moreover, it’s unethical to keep these animals as pets as private owners often lack the means to care for them. Some even respond poorly to captivity or pose threats to human safety. This differs from conservation programs or accredited zoos and sanctuaries that have the means to care for endangered animals.