Pets: those lovable balls of energy that can drive you crazy one minute, and steal your heart the next. Take 10 seconds out of your busy schedule to Google pets and you’ll get a plethora of images and articles relating to every topic imaginable relating to animals. If you haven’t noticed, the world is full of dog-people and cat-people. Once you get past that majority, you’ll meet a few people here and there who had a parakeet or a hamster during their childhood. So many people go throughout their entire lives never owning anything besides a dog or a cat. But why? With so many great alternatives out there, I decided to make a list of some pets you’ve never considered, but should.

 Guinea Pigs

Yes, I am starting this list with guinea pigs. And why not? They are some of the best small animals to keep. A well-cared for guinea pig can live for 5-7 years, a relatively long life span for rodents. While each pig will have his own personality, they are generally known for their even temperaments and cuddly personalities. Cavies will need some extra patience due to their skittish natures, but once they are comfortable around their humans, a guinea pig’s personality really shines through. And with proper training, even children can successfully care for them. One of the huge advantages of a guinea pig is actually their shy nature. Because a guinea pig would rather run than fight, they almost never bite. Biting is one the major downfalls to owning other rodents, such as hamsters. Hamsters are prone to biting when they are sleeping, grooming, eating, and so on. While each pet is different, a guinea pig is usually more cuddly and easier to handle.

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Although they are classified as rodents, guinea pigs often seem to be in a class all their own. Owners will quickly tell you about the pig-like squeaks, chortles, and other funny sounds their guinea pigs make. These series of noises add to the character of cavies and allow you to better understand what your pet is trying to say. Additionally, guinea pigs like to exhibit other funny mannerisms, such as popcorning. When guinea pigs are happy, they will often times hop in the air, resembling popcorn in a microwave.

And with the help of breeders, you can now find guinea pigs in a variety of colors and fur textures; anything from long, flowing fur to no fur at all (skinny pigs).

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Overall, a guinea pig’s maintenance level is low. There are very few specifications required and the cost of their upkeep is inexpensive. Depending on the breed, the amount of grooming will most likely also be low. Just be sure to do plenty of research on these sweet little animals before purchasing. While they do not require a lot, guinea pigs still need to be well cared for. As long as you follow a few simple guidelines, you can enjoy your pigs for several years to come. To find out more about caring for guinea pigs, check out my posts here and here.

Pros:

  • Sweet temperament
  • Low maintenance
  • Moderate life span

Cons:

  • Shy temperament
Conures

While conures can still be difficult to find, they are quickly becoming more well-known in the aviary world, and for good reason. These clownish little birds are anything but boring. A conure is no small endeavor and will require a great deal of research and commitment before the final purchase is made. If properly trained and handled, a conure will develop a strong bond to its owner for the next 20+ years of its life. If you’re planning to get a conure, know that they are high maintenance, requiring a great deal of your attention throughout the day. Having a full-time job, plus other daily tasks may be too much to juggle with one of these in the mix. However, if you work from home, or simply have a lot of free time, conures make great companions.

Be sure to research not only the proper care for conures, but also the different types of conures.

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Jenday conures and sun conures can be a little noisier than some of their cousins, such as the green-cheeked conure, who is known as being a relatively quiet little bird. Just do the research beforehand, and you shouldn’t have too many surprises with whatever type you choose.

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Yet, many people adore their feathered companions. Conures are playful animals that enjoy cuddling with their humans and receiving plenty of treats and attention. Because of their intelligence, they are also fun to train and teach tricks. While a conure is not an excellent “talker,” some are able to say a few words.

Unlike so many other pets out there, owning a bird can present a whole new set of challenges, such as those wings, beaks, and mischievous personalities, but if you feel that you can handle a conure, go for it. While there may be challenges and frustrations along the way, in the end, it will all be worth it.

Pros:

  • Affectionate/playful
  • Long life span

Cons:

  • High maintenance
  • Long-term commitment
  • Expensive
Rats

No, I’m not about to start talking about the Bubonic Plague or the sewers. I’m talking about owning a rat, as a pet. Yep. For some strange, unknown reason, many people feel afraid of rodents, particularly rats and mice. However, these are some of the best pets you can own, according to rat enthusiasts.

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After searching the internet for a good 10 minutes, I found countless sources of previous rat owners who missed the days of keeping rats (and strongly want to do it again), while also finding person after person currently keeping rats and loving every minute of it. Strange? Nope, just really happy people.

If you’re still confused, look up some videos of people who have trained their “ratties” to do tricks. Rats are actually very intelligent little creatures who can learn quite easily and look really adorable in the process.

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Another interesting fact about rats is their tendency to develop a bond with their owners. While rats only live for about 2-3 years, on average, they can form strong bonds with you and love nothing more than to spend time with you doing…whatever it is you’re doing.

And just to clear up that bit about plague and sewers, rats are exceptionally clean animals. A healthy rat will groom itself on a daily basis, sometimes more often than a cat. As long as you keep the cage clean, there should be little to no odor coming from your pets.

In general, rats are easy to care for and cost relatively little. Even the rat is inexpensive, depending on where you buy it from. Many people have even rescued feeder rats and found them to be exceptionally affectionate pets. Like any other pet, make sure you get as much information as possible before purchasing/adopting, and the rest should be straightforward.

Pros:

  • Affectionate/playful
  • Low maintenance
  • Trainable

Cons:

  • Short life span
  • Females susceptible to tumors
Bettas

You know I couldn’t get through this post without mentioning one of my favorite pets: bettas. Tiny? Yes. Boring? No. Not unless you’re wanting to take your fish for a walk, only to realize you…shouldn’t. Bettas are what you make of them. I enjoy watching their movements through the water and seeing my boys “puffing” at their reflections. Unlike so many other species of fish, bettas enjoy interacting with you and seeing what you’re up to. Every time someone goes near Yoshi, he swims over to investigate.

Another great “feature” to a betta is that they are freshwater fish. Keeping up with a saltwater aquarium can be challenging and expensive. Moderating the ph levels, adjusting water temperatures, and keeping the fish alive can make for a discouraging experience. In order to keep a betta at his best, provide a couple gallons of water, a heater, and a filter and you almost have everything you need. If you want more care tips on bettas, check out my post here. Having a betta is great for almost any home, whether you’re out most of the day or work from home, you can enjoy this pet with minimal effort.

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Of course, with every betta comes a new array of colors and styles. It is a challenge to find two bettas that look exactly alike. Through selective breeding, enthusiasts have managed to breed bettas into almost every color and have also managed to bring out varying lengths and shapes of fins, giving you just one more reason to love them. Want to learn more? Check out my posts here and here.

Pros:

  • Low maintenance
  • Inexpensive
  • Interactive personality
  • Variety of colors and fin shapes

Cons:

  • Short life span
Sugar Gliders

Have you ever heard of a sugar glider? If you have, I wouldn’t be surprised. These unique little pets are becoming more and more popular. And it’s no surprise why.

If you had to guess what a sugar glider is, you may lable it as a rodent, possibly related to a squirrel. While it does share some similar features, a sugar glider is actually a tiny marsupial, making it more like a miniature version of a kangaroo or koala bear. Neat, right? And unlike its rodent look-alikes, a sugar glider can live for 12-15 years, requiring a long-term commitment. Not that this is a bad thing. A sugar glider, if properly cared for, will develop a close bond to you within the first few weeks. Once the sugar glider has been bonded to you, you can safely take it outside without it “flying” away from you.

Due to its unique nature, you will be paying a little more for it upfront and will have to do some extra digging for information. But if you’re looking for a unique pet, this may be a good option for you. If you’re looking for a great source of information, check out sugarglidercare.org.

Pros:

  • Affectionate/playful
  • Long life span

Cons:

  • Exotic-may present unique challenges to care and upkeep
  • Initial costs expensive

So next time you’re considering a new pet, don’t just buy a dog or a cat (unless that’s what you really want). Why not consider one of these lesser known, well-loved animals instead? You might just be surprised.