When buying any new pet, your friends at American Harvest Pet Hay want you to know that it’s always important to consider what type of furry companion would best fit your lifestyle and preferences. Once you’ve decided to add a small pet to your family, the next step is to select one that will be compatible with your needs, and visa-versa.
Different types of small animals have species-specific characteristics and tendencies, which can have a large influence on what type of pet you choose and the type of relationship they will have with your family. Though there are various breeds within each species, these characteristics still tend to hold up across the entire species. When deciding between species of small pets, here are a few considerations:
Trainability (ranked in order from most to least):
- Rats—Rats are highly intelligent animals, and can be trained to perform various tasks and tricks. Of small rodent species, they are the most trainable and clever.
- Rabbits—Though most rabbits cannot be trained to perform complex tricks, they are still able to be taught some basic actions. Additionally, it is possible to litter-box train your rabbit, thus enabling you to allow it to roam around your house.
- Chinchillas—Though chinchillas can be taught to urinate in a litter box, this is only possible if done at a young age. Unlike rabbits, it is not possible to fully litter-box train them. For tricks, they may be taught a few basic ones.
- Guinea Pigs—Using food reinforcement, it can be possible to train your guinea pig to respond to their name. Outside of this, guinea pigs are not known to be very trainable.
- Hamsters— Similar to guinea pigs, hamsters usually cannot be trained to do many tricks outside of a few basic ones such as standing up on their hind legs.
Cuddliness (ranked in order from most to least):
- Rabbits—Despite coming in all shapes and sizes, rabbits are commonly known to be cuddly and easy to handle. With soft fur and a docile nature, these gentle creatures make great pets for anyone who is looking for an affectionate companion.
- Guinea Pigs—Guinea pigs are known to make good pets for children, as they don’t often bite and are very low-energy.
- Rats—Although there can be issues if a rat is not properly socialized and handled from a young age, many pet rats are known to be very affectionate towards their human owners.
- Hamsters— Due to their small size, hamsters must always be handled with care. Hamsters can become accustomed to human touch, although they must be handled often and from a young age in order to do so.
- Chinchillas— Despite their soft, fluffy appearance, chinchillas are known to shy away from being cuddled. They can be quite bashful, even when raised from infancy, and often dislike being handled can be quite shy, even when raised from infancy, and often dislike being handled
Time Commitment (ranked in order from most to least):
- Chinchillas—Having a lifespan of 12-20 years in captivity, chinchillas are pets that require a long-term commitment. In addition to their long life expectancy, chinchillas require more of a time commitment on a day-to-day basis, as they tend to have more care requirements than other small animals and rodents.
- Rabbits—Healthy rabbits in captivity can live for around 8-12 years, and usually are a bit higher maintenance than the other animals on our list. Though they require less than larger animals, such as a dog or cat, they still have many basic needs that must be tended to.
- Guinea Pigs—Known to be quite docile and calm creatures, guinea pigs make for relatively easy pets, however their lifespan of 4-8 years still requires a fairly serious time commitment.
- Rats—Though domesticated rats can live up to around two years, which is over twice as long as their cousins in the wild, this is still a fairly short lifespan. As highly intelligent and active creatures, rats require both stimulation and activity, but their short lifespan makes them less of a long-term commitment.
- Hamsters—The smallest and perhaps the most low-key of small pets are hamsters, which only live a couple of years at most.
Overall Dependency/Maintenance (ranked in order from most to least):
- Chinchillas—Owning a chinchilla can be very rewarding, but it’s not a task to be taken lightly. Chinchillas have quite a few more needs than other small animals, and can also be more finicky. Before buying a chinchilla, be sure to do your research to determine if you are up to the task.
- Rabbits—Rabbits can require more time and attention than other small animals, however they’re still an easy pet to care for.
- Rats—As previously mentioned, rats are very smart and energetic creatures. Because of this, they require a good amount of attention, but otherwise are not particularly difficult or challenging.
- Guinea Pigs—The long history of domestication of guinea pigs has given them a sweet and low-energy disposition, making them very convenient pets.
- Hamsters—Due to their small size and relatively few care needs, hamsters make for ideal low maintenance pets.