This is me when I was 21, with my guinea pig Gulliver. I can’t keep it a secret; guinea pigs are my favorite small pet! Gulliver would squeak whenever he heard me open the refrigerator door–he knew where I kept the lettuce! And he loved to snuggle up with my dalmatian.

Of course, there are many other great small pets. Are you looking for a starter pet for a child? Do you live in an apartment or smaller space? Do you lack the time to care for a cat or dog? One of these small pets may be just right for you.

1. Guinea Pig. I love guinea pigs because they’re cute and cuddly, and full of personality. They squeak, shriek and even purr. Guinea pigs come in long hair or short hair, and many different sizes and colors. I recommend the short haired, because the longer hair requires more care and cleaning.

2. Hamster. Small enough to fit in your pocket, hamsters only require a small cage or aquarium–although larger systems with bridges and penthouses are more fun! Hamsters like to keep busy exploring and chewing. Check out an adorable, long haired Teddy Bear Hamster. Because hamsters are so small, however, they’re not recommended for very young children.

3. Hermit Crab. Not into something cute and furry? Maybe this is the pet for you. A hermit crab won’t cuddle up in your arms, but it’s quiet, interesting and unusual. Plus, it is pretty cool to see a seashell suddenly get up and walk.

4. Rabbit. Rabbits can be very sweet. My rabbits lived in a large hutch outside, but frequently came inside to play. Some rabbits can be litter box trained, and will hop about a safe home environment. Sometimes they are skittish and nervous. Most rabbits require a larger cage than other small animals, and will need room to exercise.

5. Tetra Fish. These fish are a good choice for beginners. Tetra fish are hardy, active and fun to watch. Neon tetra are bright and colorful. Keep them in a school of 6 or more. They’re easy to care for. Also, aquariums are peaceful.

Check out Animal World for more information and help deciding which is right for you. What small pet do you like best?

This post first appeared on, March 2009.