I live in a tiny four-story walk-up apartment in New York City. As an avid animal lover, my home’s size and location limits the type of pets I can own. In an urban area, the caged pet just can’t be beat. Between reptiles, fish, birds, and small pets (hamsters, gerbils, etc.); the small pet is the clear winner. In terms of time and care requirements they have the most basic needs to meet. Additionally, a lizard or fish is not going to love you the way a fancy rat or guinea pig will. And, while a bird can and will show you affection, they demand more of your attention and time. Birds are also notorious for making loud excessive noise. In a tiny apartment, it’s much easier to fall asleep when a hamster runs on its silent spinner than when a bird is chirping away.
Small Pet Diversity
Even within the small pet category, there’s tons of diversity. You’re going to have a different experience owning a hamster as opposed to a guinea pig. Fancy Rats, Gerbils, and Guinea Pigs are super smart and loving. These three species of small pet are social creatures and need a cage-mate to truly be happy. If you have just one, they are going to want all of your attention to get their needs met. Alternatively, hamsters and fancy mice are fine to live on their own. They will take longer to warm up to you, but will grow to love you just the same.
Almost every type of small pet needs an exercise wheel in their cage to keep them happy. Hamsters, Gerbils, Rats, and Mice will use their wheel every night to stay in shape. However, contrary to their peers, Guinea Pigs and Rabbits cannot use exercise wheels. Because of this, you will need to create a safe area for them to roam around freely and stretch their legs.
Cats are Great Too
There’s another pet that often comes up in the apartment pet conversation, cats. Like small pets, cats can be a great pet to own in an apartment. I actually wanted to get a cat in addition to my hamster, but had to hold off as my roommate is allergic. However, if it had to come down to a choice between cats and small pets, I firmly believe small pets to be the superior choice.
There are two reasons for this. First off is the mess. Cat’s have your whole apartment at their disposal. In their unlimited free time, they are sure to knock things over, scratch and claw at your furniture, and shed all over your home. Small pets spend the majority of their time in their cage. When you have to clean up after a small pet you only have to worry about their space. The second reason is allergies. Roughly 10-20% of people are allergic to cats, alternatively far less people are allergic to small pets.
This article does not serve to diss cats, birds, fish, reptiles, or any other type of pet. They all will make great pets if their humans put in the time and effort. But, if you live in an apartment with no elevator like me, you can see how the small pet appeal is clear.