Living in a small apartment, condominium, or even a tiny house, can sometimes deter people from owning a pet. However, there are many species of companion animals that can do well in a small space, provided that their behavioral, physical, and environmental needs are met. Consider one of these twenty-one great pets for your small home.
Dogs can do well in small spaces, although choosing the right breed for you is the key to your success. While many places have size restrictions, the truth is a large dog can live comfortably in an apartment if you provide them with environmental enrichment during the day and fulfill their daily exercise needs. The key factors you should consider are the breed's tendency to bark and disturb neighbors and their exercise requirements.
Considerations for Dogs in an Apartment
- Regardless of your dog's breed or size, they should be let out at least every six hours to relieve themselves. If you work long hours or can't get home on your lunch break, you can enlist a dog walker or neighbor to help. Some smaller dogs can be trained to urinate on a puppy pad or Potty Patch.
- If you have your heart set on a larger dog, pet care expert Morgan Weber of Lucky Pup Adventures suggests a greyhound. "These dogs are couch potatoes who enjoy snoozing on the couch all day and are generally calm and quiet."
- High-energy breeds, such as the Australian Shepherd or Viszla, require several hours of physical activity each day, so they may not be ideal for a smaller space.
- Check with your apartment or condominium management company before acquiring a dog, as many may have restrictions not only for size, but on breeds, as well. Depending on where you live, you may be required to have extra rental insurance or pay a larger deposit.
Cats can be the perfect pet for any small space, although not every breed or personality is a good fit for compact living quarters. Cats generally do well in apartments because they spend a good amount of their day sleeping curled up in a favorite spot. They don't need to be walked and they can be an indoors-only pet. Most cats do need attention when you're home, but that can be a low maintenance activity, such as cuddling in front of the TV, brushing, or playing with toys.
Considerations for Cats in an Apartment
- Some cats breeds, such as the Siamese, are very vocal, so you may want to keep two if you're gone long hours and don't want a lonely cat howling and irritating your neighbors.
- Cats such as the Bengal and other larger cats may not do well in an apartment, as they have much higher needs for physical and mental stimulation. You will need to be ready to provide them with a lot of interaction and exercise to keep one happy in a small space.
- Weber recommends providing cats with fun things to do when you're not home, such as a cat-safe window perch, cat trees, or shelves, so they can explore. If you have a very active cat and work long hours, she suggests having a pet sitter come in during the day and play with the cat to prevent behavioral problems from developing.
- Just as with dogs, your management company may have restrictions on cat ownership. Some facilities require the cat to be spayed or neutered to prevent spraying and heat-related behaviors, such as howling.
Parrots and Other Birds
A bird can be a good pet in a small space with some caveats. Many parrot types require a lot of interaction and stimulation to be happy. If you are away for several hours each day, behavior problems can develop from stress and loneliness. A common reaction for anxious birds is to scream, which will no doubt damage your relationship with your neighbors. Smaller parrot species, as well as non-parrots, such as finches and canaries, can do well in smaller spaces with the proper cage setup.
Considerations for Birds in an Apartment
- If you're new to bird ownership, research your desired breed to make sure you can provide for their daily care. This includes not only feedings, cage cleanings, and cage set up, but behavioral needs, including human interaction, toys, and other forms of mental stimulation.
- Most parrot species also require time out of their cage each day to be happy, so you should factor that into your review of your lifestyle when choosing a bird.
- Some parrots that may be good choices are the cockatiel, budgies AKA parakeets, parrotlets, and lovebirds. Finches and canaries are also good picks, as they don't make excessive noise and their needs aren't as complex as a parrot's needs.
Nano Fish Aquarium
A small aquarium stocked with fresh or saltwater fish is an excellent choice for an apartment. A "nano" tank is anything under 10 gallons for freshwater, and 35 gallons or less for saltwater. These aquariums don't take up much room and can add a beautiful aesthetic to any home.
With fish, you don't need to worry about noise bothering your neighbors or having to provide exercise for your pets. These pets have also been shown to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and even improve the demeanor of people with Alzheimer's disease. There's also a wide variety of fish you can choose from and create your own personal look with your aquarium setup. You are also not limited to just fish in your tank, as you can also include some species of shrimp, snails, and even African dwarf frogs.
Considerations for Fish in an Apartment
- Taking care of an aquarium is generally low maintenance, although your workload will increase if you choose fish with more elaborate water and environmental needs.
- Make sure you research your fish choices thoroughly so you know how many water changes you'll need to do and how often, feeding requirements, and making sure your fish are compatible with each other.
- You may also be limited in the size of tank you can have based on your apartment or condominium complex's requirements.
Bettas are very popular small pets, as they can thrive in a fairly small tank. These stunning fish come in a variety of colors and tail varieties, making them delightful to watch. Aggression is a common trait of the breed -- males do best housed alone or in a community tank with docile fish.
Considerations for Bettas in an Apartment
- Although Bettas can live in small bowls, they flourish in larger environments. Try to get a tank that's at least 5 gallons in volume to ensure your fish is happy.
- Bettas prefer warm water -- around 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit -- so getting a heater for your small aquarium is recommended.
Snakes, particularly smaller snakes, such as a corn snake, do not have large tank size requirements and do not need to be taken out for exercise, making them ideal pets for smaller homes. They also do not require interaction with you to be happy, as many prefer to be seen and not handled.
Considerations for Snakes in an Apartment
- Make sure you do research to determine the adult size of the snake you're considering. Ball pythons can reach up to 5 feet in length when fully grown!
- Many snakes need to eat live prey, such as crickets, mealworms, and rodents. Others can eat frozen dead mice and rats. Some potential pet owners may find this very unappealing.
Lizards, such as bearded dragons and leopard geckos, are fairly easy to care for and can do well in a medium to large tank that can still fit in a smaller sized apartment. Like snakes, they do not need to be walked or exercised and won't suffer from separation anxiety if you work long hours each day. They can be a bit more willing to interact with humans than snakes, as well.
Considerations for Lizards in an Apartment
Frogs and Toads
Frogs and toads can also make good companions for someone who wants a pet that's more for "looking at" than interacting with. There are several species that you can obtain as a pet, such as the fire-bellied toad and horned frog. The tank requirements for a frog can range from about 10 to 20 gallons for a single amphibian, which makes them easy to keep in a small space.
Considerations for Frogs in an Apartment
- Many of these species have very particular care requirements, including specific lighting, humidity, and appropriate temperatures.
- Be sure the enclosure is secure so your amphibian doesn't get lost in your home.
A popular pocket pet is the hamster. If you keep only one, you won't need a very large cage, but if you're looking for more, this can increase the amount of room you'll need, as hamsters generally need to be housed separately. Hamsters don't require a lot of care aside from cage cleaning, feeding, and making sure they have appropriate items for play.
Considerations for Hamsters in an Apartment
- You can interact with hamsters, although you will need to do some work to tame them.
- These rodents are nocturnal, so they could keep you up at night if your apartment is small enough. If possible, place their enclosure in another room, to avoid being disturbed by noise from their wheel.
Like hamsters, gerbils are popular small pets that do not require a lot of room. You can house more than one in the same tank -- the general rule is to have at least 10 gallons for one to two gerbils. Gerbils are much more active than hamsters, so you may find them more interesting as a pet, and they also are less likely to nip.
Considerations for Gerbils in an Apartment
- Though little, these small pets can create a large mess. You'll need to clean their cage regularly as well as any substrate or food they've tossed out of their cage.
- Gerbils are social creatures, so they prefer to live in pairs. But try to get a pair of males or a pair of females, as having one of each sex could result in many gerbil pups.
Guinea pigs are fun pets that have gentle dispositions and can be very cuddly. One Guinea pig needs a minimum of 4 square feet of cage space, but a larger enclosure is better. This may make their cage needs too large for your small space, although you can find Guinea pig cages that are built vertically and have multiple "floors" for your pigs to roam.
Considerations for Guinea Pigs in an Apartment
- Guinea pigs enjoy company, so it's a good idea to have at least two to avoid a single pig getting lonely.
- They do have some specific dietary requirements, but are generally easy to care for.
Although they're adorable, mice need a lot of time and patience to train them to accept handling, and they can be nippy if not handled correctly. A minimum of a 10 gallon tank should be used for up to four mice, although the larger you can go the better. You also need to make sure the lid is secure and the mice have plenty of items and/or treats for them to chew on.
Considerations for Mice in an Apartment
- You can house female mice together, but usually not males, so this is a consideration for cage size if you want more than one.
- Mice can be escape artists -- you'd be amazed at what they can chew through!
Larger than mice, rats are highly intelligent, amusing pets that are easy to care for. They can be tamed to enjoy handling and can be very cuddly. For this reason, these pets can be a great companion for children who understand proper handling, as they're very affectionate. Rats are also social, so it's a good idea to have at least two in one habitat.
Considerations for Rats in an Apartment
- Rats have larger space requirements than many pockets pets, as the minimum recommended tank size for a pair of rats is a 40 to 60 gallon aquarium or cage.
- These small pets don't live very long, with a lifespan of 1 to 3 years.
While some rabbits need a larger cage or hutch than can fit comfortably in a small apartment, there are smaller rabbits that would do well with a small space. Breeds such as the Netherland Dwarf and the Mini Satin can thrive in smaller homes and they can even be house-trained. Rabbits are social and enjoy the company of other rabbits or even a Guinea pig, and they are loving and affectionate. You can even teach them tricks!
Considerations for Rabbits in an Apartment
- It's critical to bunny-proof all exposed wires or cords in an apartment, as a rabbit can chew right through them.
- Training your rabbit to use a litter box can help protect your carpets.
Ferrets have larger space requirements than some other popular small pets, although you can set up a cage for them that is tall with multiple levels in order to conserve floor space. They are very intelligent pets and do better with another ferret than alone.
Considerations for Ferrets in an Apartment
- Try to litter train your ferret, as they have exercise needs requiring out-of-the-cage time daily.
- If you have a busy schedule and seek a pet that doesn't require much time, you may find ferrets a bit too much work to handle. Ferrets are illegal in some states and may be restricted by your housing complex.
A really adorable pet is the hedgehog, although they're not as easy to own as other small pets. They can be very shy and it will take time to get them used to handling. During the training period, hedgehogs can be nippy and you may have to deal with their spines. But once tamed, they are known to be very affectionate and sweet. One hedgehog needs a cage that is at least 4 square feet.
Considerations for Hedgehogs in an Apartment
- Hedgehogs are considered an exotic pet, so you may not be able to easily find a veterinarian to care for them.
- Because hedgehogs are exotic, they may not be permitted by your lease, and you may also be subject to legal restrictions on owning one depending on where you live.
Degus are not as well known as other small pets, such as hamsters and Guinea pigs, but their popularity is increasing. They are very intelligent pets and are known to be affectionate with their owners, although you will need to tame them to accept handling. Degus remain small, maxing out at about 12 inches in total length. They are social and prefer to live with another degu companion.
Considerations for Degus in an Apartment
- Degus need to have some time each day outside of their cage to get exercise, and they are also extreme chewers. They may not be a good choice if you don't have time to supervise their antics each day outside the cage.
- They need a large cage, similar to what you would get for a ferret or more than one Guinea pig.
Chinchillas have particular needs when it comes to their diet, humidity, and room temperature, but overall they are not difficult to care for. These lovely small creatures need a cage that is a minimum of 2 square feet per chinchilla. You can get them multi-level cages to save floor space. A chinchilla can continue to grow until they're 18 months old, so you may not know how big your adult pet will be until then. Their adult size is typically 9 to 15 inches long.
Considerations for Chinchillas in an Apartment
- These pets need time to exercise outside the cage and require social interaction with you to be happy.
- Be sure your chinchilla is housed in a well-ventilated area to prevent respiratory issues -- a common concern in this species.
Another exotic pet is the sugar glider, which looks like a small flying squirrel. These tiny critters typically top out at a mere 5 ounces when they reach adult size. Many owners keep them in large-sized cages designed for large parrot breeds. While sugar gliders are very affectionate animals, they do require a lot of care, particularly cleaning.
Considerations for Sugar Gliders in an Apartment
- Find a quiet area in your apartment to house your sugar glider.
- These pets can be nippy and are known to eliminate wherever they are, which can be a hassle. They also may not be legal where you live, so confirm that it's lawful to own one in your area of residence.
Insects and Arachnids
Bugs are definitely not a small pet for the squeamish, although they do well in small spaces because you can keep them in a small tank. They don't have the same exercise needs as larger animals and, for the most part, do not need to interact with you at all. Some insects and arachnids that are commonly kept as pets are ant farms, African centipedes, tarantulas, praying mantids, emperor scorpions, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Considerations for Insects in an Apartment
- While these pets are generally easy to care for, the drawback is that they are not "affectionate" pets or ones likely to endear you to your friends.
Another type of small pet you can keep easily in an aquarium in your apartment is the hermit crab. Hermit crabs do best in groups of at least three individuals. You should aim to have at least 5 gallons of tank space for each trio of crabs. They can be handled and are fascinating creatures who enjoy playing with toys and interacting with each other.
Considerations for Hermit Crabs in an Apartment
- Hermit crabs are easy to care for, although they have some humidity and temperature requirements to keep on top of. Their aquarium should remain around 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and you should provide them with 8 to 12 hours of LED or fluorescent light.
Choosing a Pet for Your Small Space
When trying to decide on a pet for your small apartment or condominium, cage size is definitely important if you're thinking about a pet other than a cat or dog. However, most pets have exercise and emotional needs that may extend outside of their cage. Just as some large dogs may be better suited to a small space because they prefer to sleep on the couch all day, some small pets may not be a good choice because they need you to spend time supervising and playing with them every day when you're home.
The best course of action is to look at your lifestyle and your time commitment. You can then determine which pet works best for you based on how much care you can provide without overwhelming yourself. Make sure to check with your property manager, as well, as some of these pet choices may not be allowed by your lease.