Dogs and cats are the most popular pets in the United States. For those who live in small homes or condominiums or who travel a great deal, however, smaller pets may be a better choice. Some condominiums have restrictions prohibiting dogs and cats on the property, as well. Small pets can offer companionship and affection while generally requiring less space and exercise than larger animals. Understanding the needs and temperaments of small pets is essential in order to find the right animal friend to share your home.
For those who prefer a quiet, relaxed pet, chinchillas are clean and odorless. Native to the Andes in South America, chinchillas can be shy and reserved, but warm up with gentle treatment and careful handling. Chinchillas have extremely soft fur, and tend to sleep during the day, so they are often awake in the evening and eager to spend time with their owner. These small rodents communicate by chirps and barks, and may greet you with small happy sounds upon your return home. Chinchillas enjoy wooden chew toys and exercise wheels, but still require some floor time to explore and satisfy their curious nature. Since chinchillas typically live for about fifteen years, they will be a long-term part of your life; be certain you can make a commitment of that duration before adding a chinchilla to your family.
For those interested in a more social pet, sugar gliders enjoy contact with their owners and require constant attention and companionship; for this reason, sugar gliders are usually acquired in pairs. Solitary gliders require at least one to two hours of human contact each day in order to thrive; as pairs, they often keep each other company, but will not be as social and affectionate with people in this case. These clever and affectionate marsupials have a varied diet that encompasses insects as well as fruits and vegetables. Sugar gliders are not squirrels, but have many traits in common with them; in their natural habitats, they glide in roughly the same manner as flying squirrels. Sugar gliders often form deep lifelong bonds with their owners, and recognize them by scent. These playful marsupials live for about fifteen years.
For those who want an active, playful pet, ferrets are intelligent, curious, and require a great deal of exercise in order to stay healthy. They often invent games, stealing a particular item and storing it in a favored hiding place, and repeating the process when you retrieve it. Ferrets combine the instincts of a packrat with the playful nature of a small dog, and often enjoy games of chase and hide-and-seek with their owners. Ferrets can be trained to use a litter box, but may require multiple boxes in order to “remember” to use them consistently. Ferrets should always be spayed or neutered and de-scented in order to remain docile and pleasant company. While ferrets occasionally nip in the same way kittens do, they can be trained to be gentle with firm and consistent discipline. Ferrets are carnivores, and should be fed only specially-formulated ferret food in order to maintain optimal health; chew toys are also welcome, since ferrets compulsively chew, especially as juveniles. Ferrets generally live for between seven and ten years.
For those who want a small pet or cannot have a larger pet for various reasons, any of these pets can provide warmth, affection, and companionship. Acquiring a pet is a serious commitment in time and money, and should not be undertaken lightly. If you’re ready to accept the responsibility of pet ownership, these pets can offer unconditional love and a lifetime of happy interactions.