Top 3 Low Maintenance Pets: Easy and Budget Friendly
Having a pet around is a ton of fun for many people. Even if you’re a busy working adult or a new-to-pets kid, there are plenty of low maintenance pets that will warm up your home.
That said, even the most low maintenance pet will require daily care. If you don’t have time (or you’re likely to forget) to spend at least 10 minutes a day with your pet, you might not be ready to provide that pet with a great home. Your low maintenance pet will still need a clean cage, fresh water, and fresh food (with the exception of some reptiles that eat less often) every day. Even fish, which many people think are easy to care for, actually require careful tank-cleaning and chemical monitoring of their water!
What to Look for in a Low Maintenance Pet
It’s important to get a pet that fits your lifestyle. I travel a lot and enjoy running, so for me, a dog is actually the best fit. My dog can come along on travels and join me for runs. A cat would be much harder for me to care for because I’d need a sitter many days a year! Small exotic pets or small mammals would pose the same problem. Plus, it can be harder to find a reliable sitter for many unusual pets.
The point is, everyone’s definition of “easy” will vary based on their lifestyle.
Be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably provide for a pet. Be sure to consider:
- Your schedule. Dogs require daily outdoor exercise that can be challenging for some people – but as I highlighted above, that same outdoor exercise need can actually fit nicely into the schedules for some people. If you choose a pet that needs daily care but you regularly travel, that might be a problem!
- Your budget. Some low-maintenance pets are still pretty expensive. Feeding some reptiles gets pricey if you’re unable to raise their food, and fish tank supplies quickly run up a bill.
- Your space. Sure, a corn snake might not require a ton of love and attention every day. But their tank takes up a lot of space! Likewise, many small birds don’t require a ton of time-consuming care or expensive gear, but their cages still take up a lot of room. It’s always best to give your new pet as much space as you can put aside.
- Your motivation and routine. If you’re only halfheartedly excited about caring for a pet, perhaps now isn’t the time to bring one home. But it’s also important to consider what sort of routines you find easy to follow. I personally struggle to care for reptiles because I prefer animals that require daily repetitive tasks, rather than weekly or every-other-week sort of care.
- Your expertise. Of course, most animals that fall under the “low maintenance” category shouldn’t require much expertise to care for them. But many fish species often end up on lists of easy to care for pets – even though this can be very far from the truth!
- Your long-term plans. I strongly recommend staying away from budgies, tortoises, and other long-lived species for new pet owners. Many reptiles and birds can live dozens of years! It’s just too hard to predict where you’ll end up in 10, 20, or even 50 years. Even a budgie can live 15 years and leopard geckos can live 20!
Keep all of these factors in mind as you decide which pet you want to bring home. Even better, see if you can foster your chosen species with a rescue or watch one while their owner is out of town. This will really allow you to get to know the pet’s needs.
Top 3 Low Maintenance Pets
All of that said, there are some pets that are consistently easy to care for. Check out our picks below!
#1: Guinea Pigs, Gerbils, Mice, Rats, Hamsters, and Other Small Mammals
These small mammals or “pocket pets” require daily care and clean cages. Otherwise, though, many of them are relatively tough and self-sufficient. Young children will need to learn how to handle them gently in order to keep them safe. All of the species of small mammals can be quite friendly and cuddly, especially if they’re handled gently and frequently. Hand feeding these pets and being very patient will help gain their trust.
Guinea pigs or rats are generally the sturdiest and friendliest of this group, and both can be quite social. Guinea pigs have the added bonus of being diurnal (active during the day), whereas most small mammals are most active once you’re asleep.
Most small mammals do well in a cage that will fit on top of a dresser, but guinea pigs and rats may need more space. You often can find suitable cages used for under $20.
Be sure to research the specific feeding needs of each of these small mammals. Many need to gnaw and chew in order to survive, meaning it’s important to bring home the right sort of food pellets!
#2 Leopard Geckos, Anoles, and Other Small Lizards
Small lizards don’t need much social interaction from you, their owners. Many of them thrive in vertical environments, meaning they take up a bit less shelf space. In other words, they are pretty great low maintenance pets if you’re not hoping for a cuddle!
That said, it’s a myth that lizards and geckos don’t need any care from you. These lizards need careful monitoring of temperature and humidity, and their cages can have expensive start-up costs. Since they don’t need much from you socially, it’s important to ensure that their cage is spacious and interesting for them.
Small lizards are generally considered easy to care for – but there are two major downsides to these low maintenance pets. Almost all lizard species need to eat live prey, preferably a variety of it. This means you’ll need to make regular trips to the pet store to purchase food (sometimes more than twice per week), or you’ll have to start breeding and raising your own crickets and mealworms. Not so easy! The other downside to these easy pets is that they can live a long time. Sure, it’s easy to care for these guys on any given day – but over the course of 20 years, these animals are a pretty big commitment.
#3 Finches, Canaries, and Other Small Birds
Many birds are loud, friendly, and very pretty. They can be a lot of work! But finches, canaries, and doves are generally a lot easier to care for. They tend to be a bit skittish of handling, so they do best with another birdie friend. Like with the other animals on this list, you should always try to get them the biggest cage you can fit and can afford.
Don’t expect a lot of social interaction from your small birds, but you can expect cute chirps and pretty trills from many of them!
Be sure to carefully consider how long your small bird may live. Birds need a lot of space to fly, plenty of mental enrichment (feeder puzzle toys are a great option), and long-term care. Their cages and food tend to be affordable, but you need to be ready to be a pet owner for the long haul!
What low maintenance pet fits best into your lifestyle? We’d love to hear your input!