Which Small Mammal Makes for the Best Pet?

If cats and dogs aren’t your thing, you’re probably looking at a small mammal to turn into your latest family member. But which small mammal makes for the best pet?

We’re going to give you a brief rundown of the different small mammals you can have as a pet, and the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision for your specific wants and needs.

So, let’s get right to it. 


Rabbits are known for their cute floppy ears and huge feet, but what are the pros and cons of owning a rabbit?

Pros of owning a rabbit

  • Rabbits are quiet
  • They don’t smell!
  • They can live up to 12 years old
  • Great for kids due to their docile nature
  • Rabbits don’t trigger allergies (if you have them)

Cons of owning a rabbit

  • Rabbits love company, so owning only one isn’t really an option
  • They can be expensive – especially if you have two!
  • They may not bond with you immediately – they need time
  • Poop! Rabbits poop, a lot!
  • Rabbits need space to run and dig. Exercise is extremely important and they cannot be left in their cage all day

Guinea Pig

When it comes to guinea pigs, they’re quite a popular pet, but do the pros outweigh the cons?

Pros of owning a guinea pig

  • Guinea pigs are easy to care for, with simple dietary and exercise needs
  • They show affection to their human family
  • Guinea pigs are very calm and gentle creatures
  • As long as you care for them properly, it is unlikely they’ll get sick or have any other serious problems

Cons of owning a guinea pig

  • Guinea pigs do better with a friend (of the same sex), so owning two is the minimum
  • They are fragile, so aren’t best for young children or people who want a pet they can squeeze
  • ‘Needy’ – guinea pigs need to be carefully looked after and shown affection every single day
  • They can be noisy and sleep in short bursts, so they could keep you up at night


You’re on a website dedicated to hamsters, so we could be biased and say, forget about all the other small mammals on this list and just buy a hamster. But we know that they’re not perfect for everyone, so let’s take a look at their pros and cons.

Pros of owning a hamster

  • Don’t need much space
  • Hamster cages are easy to clean and maintain
  • Can be left alone for the day without any issues
  • Not going to break the bank as they’re cheap to own

Cons of owning a hamster

  • They only live on average, 2 – 4 years
  • More likely to bite compared to other small mammals
  • Hamsters are nocturnal, so they’re most active at night, meaning they might keep you up
  • Hamsters have a mind of their own, so you may want cuddles, but they’ll probably want to scurry around instead


Chinchillas aren’t generally on the most popular pets lists, and many people don’t know anything about them, so let’s take a look at this cute creature.

Pros of owning a chinchilla

  • Chinchillas come with minimal cost and are low maintenance
  • They live for 15 – 20 years, so you can enjoy the bond and friendship with your chinchilla for a long time
  • The energy and entertainment a chinchilla can provide are priceless – they’re very upbeat and love to play
  • Chinchillas love to be around people and other chinchillas, making them very sociable and affectionate, which is perfect for those with children

Cons of owning a chinchilla

  • Chinchillas require specific temperatures; they cannot be too cold or too hot and they don’t do well with humidity
  • They’re very active at dusk and dawn, so may disturb your sleep
  • Chinchillas have sensitive stomachs so need to follow a strict diet
  • A big commitment as they live a long time


These tiny mammals are pretty popular, but what is it really like to own a gerbil?

Pros of owning a gerbil 

  • They are very small so don’t require much space
  • Gerbils aren’t nocturnal, so they’ll sleep when you do
  • Gerbils are clean – they don’t produce much waste, so they don’t smell, and you don’t have to clean their cage as often as other rodents

Cons of owning a Gerbil

  • A gerbil’s lifespan is only 2 – 4 years
  • They can be nervous until they get to know you
  • Gerbils have bad eyesight, so when let out of their cage, they need to be watched carefully


Some people hate ferrets and others can’t get enough of them. Ferrets perhaps have the most defined pros and cons on this list. Let’s take a look.

Pros of owning a ferret 

  • Ferrets are intelligent and similar to a dog, will form a strong bond with their owner
  • They’re fairly easy to train, so you can not only train them where to poop, you can teach them cool tricks, too
  • Each ferret is unique, hosting its own personality just like us humans
  • Ferrets can live up to 10 years

Cons of owning a ferret

  • Ferrets aren’t the cheapest small mammal to own
  • They’re quite high maintenance – they need hours every day to be out of their cage
  • Ferrets can get stinky
  • Although they’re very playful, ferrets can be destructive and cause a mess!


Perhaps not everyone’s immediate choice, but mice are still great pets. So if you’re not scared of this small mammal, maybe they’d be the perfect addition to your family.

Pros of owning a mouse 

  • Mice are active during the day
  • They are small and take up minimal space
  • Mice love to be handled by us humans, so if you want a cuddly pet, mice are great. However, they are fragile so aren’t suitable for very young children

Cons of owning a mouse

  • Mice only live 1 – 3 years
  • They are prone to developing tumors
  • They can smell, especially males!


Vermin, that’s what a lot of people think of when you say rats. However, many people keep them as pets and absolutely love them. Like any creature, they have their pros and cons.

Pros of owning a rat 

  • Rats are intelligent and can easily be taught tricks
  • This may come as a surprise, but rats are very clean animals
  • Very low maintenance – you can even leave them alone for a couple of days, provided you leave them with enough food and water
  • Rats are very playful and affectionate and love to be around other rats and humans

Cons of owning a rat

  • It’s best to have more than one as rats thrive with others
  • As they’re highly intelligent, they need mental stimulation else they’ll chew everything in sight 
  • They only live 2 – 3 years
  • Rats can get sick often, which can also be pricey at the vets

Now that we’ve gone through the pros and cons of these small mammals, it’s up to you to determine which one is right for your home and family. However, let’s go over a few specific recommendations.

The Best Small Mammal for Longevity

If you’re looking for a pet to be in your family for a long time, then a chinchilla is your best bet, with them living up to 20 years! A close second and third are rabbits and ferrets.

The Best Small Mammal for Children

Now, we may be biased, but we’d recommend a hamster as the best pet for children. They’re small, easy to care for, and as they don’t live that long, it’s not a huge commitment. Plus, it adds the benefit of teaching your children about death and loss.

However, a close second would be the gerbil, which is very similar to a hamster, except they’re a little cleaner and aren’t nocturnal.

Either way, both hamsters and gerbils are small and cute, which would make any kid happy.

The Best Small Mammal for Low Maintenance

Most of the small mammals on this list are low maintenance, so apart from ferrets, rats, and chinchillas, any of the others are great low maintenance pets.