What kind of pet should I get?
January 12, 2009 8:39 AM   Subscribe

What kind of pet should I get?

Now that I'm done with college, I can have pets again, yay. I'm looking for something small, contained, fun, easy to care for, and that won't die within a week (hopefully). I'd love a dog but roaming animals are out of the question for a while.

Here are some thoughts:

-Fish. I had fish back in high school, but they died quickly. I didn't do much research on it and gave up pretty quickly. I'd *love* to have a giant aquarium, but really don't have the space nor dedication for one, at this point.
-Hermit crabs. Someone on here suggested them as easy to care for and fun and social. I don't know much about them so I'm currently reading up.
-Ant farm. Likely the least fun of the above, but needs very little attention. I'd probably go with this after seeing a few recommendations on AskMeFi.
-EcoSphere/BiOrb. The EcoSphere seems like the ultimate easy-to-care-for thing, but the fact that it's totally closed and once it dies, it's done, is a turn off. And, price.

I had an iguana for a few years as a child. It was pretty cool, but it had mites (eww) and was kind of a pain to care for and wasn't all that fun. My sister has had hampsters and rats, which were pretty fun (especially the rats) but I think a little more than I'm looking for right now. We also had a dog growing up and he was *awesome*. I can't wait to get a dog of my own, but in time.

Anyways, I'm rambling. Gogo AskMeFi!
posted by Tu13es to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Betta fish last for a while and they're fairly easy to care for. I've always kept mine in a 1-gallon bowl with a plant to hide behind. Regular water changes and not overfeeding will keep your fish happy. Plus, unlike other fish I've owned, they will watch you and interact. My last one seemed to like watching people talk. If you get a male one and show it its reflection a mirror occasionally it will puff up and swim around aggressively.

I've also had a bullfrog for about 3 years and she's a lot less fun than a beta fish. She usually hides in her cave and doesn't seem to care when we add crickets to her cage. A fish will at least get happy and pay attention during feeding time.
posted by Alison at 8:52 AM on January 12, 2009


Hermit crabs aren't difficult, but they do require more work than one would think (seeing how they sell them in the malls sometimes :( ) -- humidity levels need to be optimal and the cage needs to be warm. I also had to order online for shells for them to change in and out of -- I am, however, landlocked, so this will be easier to find if you live near the ocean!

This site was helpful and covered the basics.
Good luck!
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:58 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


What about a pair of rats? They're incredibly adorable, only require an hour or so of supervised roaming a day, very intelligent, and surprisingly clean. Plus you get the benefits of cuddling something warm, unlike fish :) They were my first choice, before I decided fish were just easier than anything but still fun to look at, for now. I'll definitely keep rats in the future.
posted by Bakuun at 9:00 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hahaha! I should have read better, I'm so sorry..! I owe you another answer now :P If rats are too much maintenance, I'd go with a betta too. Very pretty and low hassle.
posted by Bakuun at 9:02 AM on January 12, 2009


Best answer: I have one of those Antworks farms but the ants die without a queen. Those big harvester ants one can send away live 1-4 weeks. One of the depressing things about having an ant farm is watching the ants die off one by one. The remaining ants move the corpses to the midden until it's down to the last ant who dies in her tracks but there's no one left to bury her. ::sob::

I have a Biorb. Coming from a background of 30+ years of aquaria keeping, I would not recommend one to someone new to the hobby. Its shape, filtration system and small size all add to up a hefty amount of maintenance and its small volume means that when things go wrong, they go wrong very very quickly. Mine takes a non-trivial amount of daily fussing to look the way it does. Go with a larger-sized tank.

I love my crabs. If cared for properly, they live for quite a while (my oldest is 10 and going strong). They require little maintenance beyond feeding (fresh non-meat/fat table scraps are fine), a minor-amount of poop scooping, and a semi-annual tank wash. They do have a narrow range of humidity/temp requirements which should be addressed when you set up their crabitat. The crabs themselves are surprisingly engaging, they interact (and chatter) at each other, and most don't mind being handled. This is a great resource for getting into hermits.
posted by jamaro at 9:03 AM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have a few suggestions-
I think a lizardlike animal of a couple inches might be good. I've had newts (like a salamander) and those are pretty interesting. They climb around the cage and different types need water or just dry land or plants inside or little sculptures and such. They require different amounts and types of food but its unlikely to be terribly expensive or time consuming. Also, their tanks and material shouldnt be too expensive nor require excessive cleaning. Very little smell from the cage. Wont terrorize you if it gets loose, though you may not catch it.

Frogs (pretty little treefrog types?)- similar to above. Probably a decently fun and pretty animal with minimal care.

Turtles- I personally love turtles but having one as a pet is relatively boring. I've tried the ones which swim a lot and eat little fish but they mostly refused to eat the fish. It was kinda fun to have the two pets in one tank thing though. (Mine didnt last too well because an ice storm with power outage froze their tank... unlikely, but keep in mind they may need some basic heating etc)

We had garter snakes but they died more frequently than the goldfish. I'm not sure if thats a rule or we were bad luck.
posted by nzydarkxj at 9:04 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd agree that you might want to wait on the hamster/gerbil/rat if youre not sure. (just in case you have second thoughts)
I have always found them to be a pain in changing the bedding, which can smell sometimes, if not bad, still smells like hamster which i dont find good either. Plus I found them to be problematic at times. One time mine got loose and jumped off the balcony, and the cat set the replacement gerbil loose from the sky tubing and I accidentally stepped on it. (dont tell my mom. she thinks it was the cat)
posted by nzydarkxj at 9:05 AM on January 12, 2009


Some fish are easy to care for and some are not. Community fish like tetras & white clouds live longer than guppy-type fish and I've found are easier than goldfish. We had a white cloud that lived to be about 7, but YMMV. Tetras and white clouds don't require a heater unless you let your house get really cold, so the upkeep is easier than other "tropical fish". Goldfish are really dirty.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:15 AM on January 12, 2009


You could always volunteer to walk the dogs at a local animal shelter. Shelters are always looking for volunteers and you could make their animals time in a very high-stress environment immeasurably better, if they get the chance to go for a walk. Most shelters are happy if you volunteer on an evening or weekend basis.
posted by Susurration at 9:18 AM on January 12, 2009


My gf and I recently purchased a hedgehog for my little sister (she wanted an easy-to-care-for cute apartment pet). She absolutely loves her little Grampa Moses Snarflepants and spends a lot of time with him (probably more than necessary). She's had him for about two months now and she says he's the best pet she's ever had.

I've had lizards, sugar-gliders, hamsters, all kinds of pets. And I highly recommend hedgehogs for a few reasons:

- They're fairly slow moving. He ain't gonna get a way from you like a hamster, rat or lizard might.

- They sleep a ton and are mostly nocturnal, they don't need a ton of daily attention. (Mind you, this is for an adult - one-year-old - hedgehog. If they're babies you need to handle them for at least an hour a day so they're used to it, otherwise they can grow up to be bitey. Which, honestly, isn't that big of a deal because a hedgehog bite is kind of hilariously ineffective.)

- They don't stink as bad as any of the other mammals I've had. People on the street will tell you that hedgehogs are smelly - this is simply not the case.

- There's a ton of information available about raising a hedgehog on the internet.

- They eat pretty much anything and they love catfood. My sis has hedgehog food but Moses loves catfood so she basically just feeds him that. It's a little fatty so you should try not to overdo it but otherwise it's good for them.

- They have quills and therefore can live with cats and (some) dogs. A 200 lb. mastiff probably would swallow the thing whole, but my mom's border collies are fascinated by it but unable to assail it's powerful spines.

- They love to curl up in the front pocket of your hoody.

Overall, I think the hedgehog is pretty much the perfect apartment pet. Find one to adopt that has been hand-raised and bob's your uncle. If you buy a baby, invest the time getting it used to being held. They're quite clever and they make funny noises to boot.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:31 AM on January 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Budgies can be great companions. They're smart, self-reliant, relatively clean, and males can learn to talk. They do need attention, though. We let our two fly around the living room and put them in a cage at night. If you get a hand raised one it will be easier to handle, otherwise it will take a lot of patience for it to not be afraid of you. I'd suggest doing some research on The Google if interested.
posted by starman at 9:48 AM on January 12, 2009


teddy bear hamster, or if you have the money a sugar glider.
posted by shmegegge at 9:58 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Hmm...in searching a little on hedgehogs, it seems they are illegal in some states and require permits in others? Why is this?
posted by Tu13es at 9:58 AM on January 12, 2009


Why is this?

Usually because the state fears a particular species will become invasive if it were to escape and go feral. Less often, because the state fears the pet species might harbor pathogens which would harm local agriculture.
posted by jamaro at 10:03 AM on January 12, 2009


I'm also voting for a Betta. We've had one for a few months now, and I didn't realize they had so much personality (and I'm a dog person who can't have a dog right now). Ours is really curious, reacts to us when we come up to the tank, and is really easy to care for. We have a 2.5 gallon tank, no filter (they like still water), gravel and a couple of stem plants. We put in 3 olive snails when we started to develop algae (they don't procreate in clear water) and that is a great match for him.

And they can be TRAINED! (Also, see here.)
posted by jeanmari at 10:42 AM on January 12, 2009


Leopard geckos are pretty low-maintenance. My officemate had a pair for several years. They just sat there, occasionally eating a cricket.

My parents have one, it is apparently 7 years old or more and still does what it has always done - sits there, occasionally eating a cricket.

Personally, I like mammals, but you might be OK with a gecko.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:04 AM on January 12, 2009


Bettas rule. My wife had one and he had so much personality. He would get very excited when you came to his bowl and press his face up against it and "wag his tail." He would make eye contact, and I guess he saw me as a threat, because if I leaned over his bowl... I am not making this up... he would leap up out of his bowl at my face. It was a regular bowl with only a 5" diameter opening, maybe, and he would leap out a good few inches, and always land back in.

We miss him a lot.
posted by muscat at 11:07 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I enjoy my two little African dwarf frogs! Very low-maintenance, and fun to watch. They're about five years old now, and a previous one lived for seven, including a cross-country move.
posted by bunji at 11:34 AM on January 12, 2009


My daughter has a goldfish that has been around for 7 years. Tough as nails. It's about 6" long now. Some say goldfish are "dirty", but I've found if you put them in a larger aquarium, and do not put gravel on the bottom (we use 2-4" river rocks), things stay pretty clean (3-4 months!). We do not heat the aquarium, as goldfish take lower temps easily. I think this helps keep it clean. Fun active fish.
posted by ecorrocio at 12:09 PM on January 12, 2009


Corn snakes are great pets. They're a good conversation starter ("you have snakes? cool!") and come in a lot of beautiful colors. You only have to feed them once a week or so, and you can keep frozen mice around so you're not always having to go to the pet store. If you handle them regularly they should get used to human contact and be quite friendly. You can keep more than one in the same cage without worrying too much about them eating each other, if they're roughly the same size. They don't get too big (maybe five feet maximum--which sounds large, but they're pretty slender.)

Overall I think corn snakes have better return on effort invested than most pets, in terms of aesthetics and general interestingness. And their cages are *much* easier to clean than a fishtank. (Ball pythons, rat snakes, and other small snake species also generally make excellent pets, but I think corn snakes are about optimum for low-cost low-maintenance snakey goodness.)
posted by fermion at 2:47 PM on January 12, 2009


Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far, everyone. I think I've narrowed it down to fish, hermit crabs, or maybe a hedgehog. Still more research to do, but please keep suggestions or advice coming!
posted by Tu13es at 5:47 PM on January 12, 2009


Hedgehog! Go for the hedgehog! :D
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:01 PM on January 12, 2009


I have an EcoSphere, and I'd stay away from them for similar reasons that jamaro suggests that AntFarms are bad ideas. You get to watch the shrimp die one by one (and then EAT one anothers' bodies) and can't do anything to help. I've also read that they are sub-ideal environments for the shrimp inside, and are considered cruel by many aquarium hobbyists, though I can't find the relevant links right now. I received mine as a gift, and try to keep the temperature conditions close to what the one remaining shrimp needs, but really, you'd do better by the shrimp to raise them in an aquarium, where you could move them if the conditions were not ideal (deadly).

I'm surprised no one's mentioned green anoles. They're nice little lizards, very intelligent faces and nice to watch. I had one as a kid that lived seven years with diligent cricket feedings and tank mistings.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:38 PM on January 13, 2009


Thanks for the link on anoles, PhoBWanKenobi! I just realized that what my teacher told me was a chameleon was actually a green anole (that I had as a kid). It was very engaging though the live crickets weren't something I was excited about if I recall.
posted by jeanmari at 7:39 AM on January 14, 2009


Response by poster: I ended up deciding on fish! Anything else would be more work than I'm looking for at this point. I got a 30 gallon tank on CL for $100 and assorted accessories and I currently have 6 Zebra Danios enjoying it!
posted by Tu13es at 4:36 PM on February 11, 2009


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