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Five Popular Small Pets

Kelly Roper
Red betta

There are so many wonderful small pets that it can be difficult to choose just one, but since they don't require a lot of space, perhaps you don't have limit yourself to a single pet. Take a look at this list of popular small pets from different branches of the animal kingdom, and find out what makes them so popular, as well as any drawbacks you should be aware of before bringing one home.


Bettas, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are fascinating fish long admired for their beautiful fins and coloring. These fish have been available as pets for decades, and you'll find them in pet shops, aquarium stores, and even in the pet supply section of stores like Walmart and Meijer's. They come in a rainbow of colors, and there are different types of fins, too, including veils, crown tails and double tails to mention a few.

Why Bettas Are Popular Pets

  • When two bettas see each other, they fan out their gorgeous fins and gills, and put on quite a display. They shimmy furiously as they try to intimidate each other into retreating, and this is really an amazing sight to see.
  • Aside from being popular for their beauty, bettas are also relatively easy to care for. Unlike fish that need filtered aquariums, bettas can survive quite nicely in large fish bowls. That's because they are equipped with two ways of breathing - their gills and their labyrinth, an organ located just behind the top of their heads.
  • You still need to clean their bowls and change their water twice a week, but this is a relatively easy task, especially if you keep a second bowl ready to transfer the betta into so you can clean his previous home.

Potential Drawbacks of Bettas as Pets

  • You can only keep one betta to a bowl, so you'll have to maintain multiple bowls if you want to keep more than one.
  • Males are especially territorial and will fight and tear each other's fins to shreds if they have to share the same space. One may even kill the other.
  • Bettas are jumpers. Unless you cover their bowls with some type of lid, they can jump out and wind up dying before you find them.

Guinea Pigs

Peruvian Guinea pig

Many small rodents and similar animals are kept as pets, and Guinea pigs make some of the best pets of all. The adorable creatures originally come from South America, but they have been completely domesticated for the pet trade.

Why Guinea Pigs Are Popular Pets

Unlike hamsters, mice and rats, Guinea pigs have almost no tendency to bite you. You literally have to stick a finger in their mouths to get even a nibble. Their personality is almost equal to a dog's in that they'll readily come to you for affection once they get to know you. They will also whistle at you in excitement when you approach their habitat.

Guinea pigs are also popular because there are so many breeds to choose from. For example, Americans have a short, glossy coat that requires practically no care on your part. Peruvians have long coats that grow in a series of rosettes. Silkies also have long coats that grow straight or with a slight wave. Other breeds have wiry or curly coats, and some mutated specimens within a particular breed may have almost no fur at all. Beyond that, these beautiful animals come in many colors and coat patterns. There's a look to please just about anyone.

Potential Drawbacks of Owning a Guinea Pig

  • Unfortunately, Guinea pigs are susceptible to breathing problems, so you have to make sure their habitats are well ventilated without being drafty.
  • Although they do tend to choose one spot for the majority of their eliminations, they will still soil around their entire living quarters.
  • They can also be quite messy and kick their litter and stools into their food and water bowls, as well as outside their cage. You need to choose a cage that has a deep litter tray, and use a water bottle with a drinking tube rather than an open bowl.
  • You'll need to clean the cage thoroughly once a week to keep the litter fresh and dry or else it will develop a strong urine odor.
  • Long haired Guinea pigs also require regular grooming to keep their coats in good condition. This includes daily brushing, a bi-weekly bath, and the occasional trim.

Leopard Geckos

Leopard gecko

Leopard geckos are named for their beautiful pattern of dark spots that overlay their golden-tan skin. According to the ClubFauna, there are also a number of amazing color morphs available. These reptiles remain fairly small as adults, and grow about 11 inches long on average.

Why Geckos Make Popular Pets

Unlike some other popular lizards, such as iguanas and chameleons, geckos require less living space. A ten-gallon aquarium is sufficient for single pet, although bigger is still better. In addition to their attractive exteriors, they are also fairly laid back and easy to handle if you accustom them to it from the time they are young.

Potential Drawbacks of Geckos as Pets

Owning a gecko is fun, but it's also a lot of work. Drawbacks include:

  • Geckos require some specific conditions in their habitat to keep them healthy. This means more work on your part, in addition to regularly cleaning their habitat.
    • You need to provide gradient heat so they have areas to warm themselves or cool off as needed.
    • They are nocturnal and bright lights stress them. You need to provide hiding places that will keep you from viewing them whenever you want.
    • Geckos need higher humidity when they are shedding, so you need to provide a moist hiding place, and you may even need to help remove some of the old skin if they don't do it themselves.
  • Their tails will fall off if they're injured. They'll grow back, but they're usually stubbier than their original tails.
  • Two males living together will usually wind up fighting when they reach sexual maturity. It can be difficult to sex these lizards until they're around three to four months old, so if you decide you want two juveniles, you could wind up with two males and need to rehome one.
  • Geckos need live food like crickets, so you'll need to make frequent trips to the pet supply store.
  • Perhaps the most important drawback of all, these lizards can carry salmonella. You need to wash your hands every time you handle them or touch things inside their habitat.

Red-Eared Slider Turtles

Gorgeous red eared slider turtle

Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic turtles. Their striking appearance and relatively mild temperament makes them a good choice for a pet.

Why Turtles Make Popular Pets

Red-eared sliders are prized for their beautiful striped skin and red ear color, as well as their playful personalities. They seem to be more interested in their human caregivers than many other turtle species, and since they are so active, they're very entertaining to watch.

Potential Drawbacks of Red-Eared Sliders

  • It takes a lot of equipment to maintain a large, healthy habitat for these turtles. The initial cost of setting up is expensive, and you'll need to purchase even bigger tanks as your pet grows.
  • Sliders foul their water very quickly, so you have to break down the entire tank once a week, cleanit, and replace all the water.
  • Usually mild, sliders can become aggressive at feeding time, and they can bite you if they feel threatened.
  • These turtles, like most reptiles and amphibians, tend to carry salmonella.

Netherlands Dwarf Rabbits

Netherland Dwarf kit

Rabbits have always been popular pets, but Netherland Dwarf rabbits are one of the most popular breeds of all. They typically only weigh about two pounds as adults.

Why Dwarf Bunnies Make Popular Pets

  • Obviously adorable to look at, Netherlands retain the look of baby rabbits even as adults, so their cute factor never fades.
  • They also have fairly calm personalities that make them easier to keep than some other breeds.
  • They are friendly, and they're so intelligent that you can train them to use a litter box.
  • These rabbits are widely available at pet supply stores, and you can usually purchase them for around $20.00 in most cases.
  • They come in many colors, so you can choose the color you like best.

Potential Drawbacks of Netherland Dwarf Rabbits

  • Netherland Dwarf rabbits are known for having dental problems, so you could wind up with more veterinary costs than you originally anticipated.
  • They are also quite sensitive to temperature changes, so they're not as hardy as many other rabbit breeds, and you definitely want to keep them indoors.
  • Males may become a bit aggressive as they grow older, especially if they feel threatened.
  • Like all rabbits, they poop a lot. This means a lot of cleanup work for you.

What's Your Favorite on This List of Small Pets?

Hopefully, one of the pets mentioned here has sparked your interest and inspired you to explore it further. If not, there's no shortage of small pets to investigate. A quick look at your local pet supply store will give you even more ideas about what's available. Just make sure you do your research before you make a purchase. That way you'll know what to expect from your pet, and you'll know how to care for it and keep it healthy.

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Five Popular Small Pets