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Exotic Pets for Apartment Living

Finding the Right Type of Pet When you Live in an Apartment

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Because many exotic pets are compact and quiet (and don't need to go for walks) they can be a good choice for apartments. Always check your tenant or homeowner's agreements, however, to find out what pets are permitted before choosing an exotic pet for apartment living. If pets are usually not allowed, you may be able to get an exception, but if this is the case, always get permission in writing (never try to sneak a pet in!). Once you are all clear to choose a exotic pet, figure out what you want in a pet and what kind of space you have. Here's some help with the decision.

Rabbits

rabbit photo
Photo © Lianne McLeod
  • Sociable (often do not like to be held, but happy to be near their humans).
  • Can be litter trained (may take significant effort) and therefore have time out of the cage (some house bunnies are fully free range).
  • Need a fairly large cage, especially if time out of the cage is limited.
  • Should be spayed and neutered for health reasons but also to cut down territorial marking behavior.
  • Like to chew and dig so effort must be put into training and rabbit-proofing (damage to wood trim and carpeting a distinct possibility).

Ferrets

Ferret Picture
Photo © 2006 Lianne McLeod, Licensed to About.com, Inc.
  • Active, social, and love to play (with humans and each other) when awake, but sleep a good chunk of the day.
  • Need quite a large cage as well as playtime out of the cage.
  • Can be litter trained.
  • Must be spayed (critical for health of females) and should be neutered -- most ferrets already are by the time they are sold as pets.
  • Tend to like to hide in small spaces and get into mischief, so good ferret-proofing and supervision is needed.

Rats

pet rat picture
Photo © Lianne McLeod
  • Friendly and responsive; generally easily tamed and often like to hang out on peoples' shoulders or laps.
  • Should be kept in same sex pairs or groups -- need a fairly large cage as well as playtime out of the cage.
  • Tend to be most active at night, though seem to adapt somewhat and will readily wake during the day for action.

Mice

pet mouse on my hand
Photo © Lianne McLeod
  • For apartment living, consider a group of females (males tend to have a stronger odor). Mice are social and happiest with other mice, and their playful antics are fun to watch.
  • Can be tamed but are quick and small so not as easy to handle as larger rodents.
  • Good for small spaces -- even a small group can get by without a huge cage.
  • Do not need extra exercise outside of a well equipped cage, and especially if kept in pairs or groups, mice do not need a lot of attention.
  • Mostly active at night.

Hamsters

Mel - Hamster (Syrian) Picture
Photo © Carla Matias
  • Syrian hamsters are solitary, but dwarf hamsters can be kept in same sex pairs.
  • Can be readily tamed and handled with regular handling (Syrians tend to a bit easier to handle than smaller and quicker dwarf hamsters).
  • Do not need much space or a very large cage so good for small spaces.
  • With a decent sized cage and the right accessories, don't need exercise out of the cage and can entertaining to watch.
  • More active at night.

Gerbils

Darcy - Gerbil
Photo © Kendyl Reis
  • Social, and can be tamed and handled
  • Do best in same sex pairs or groups due to their social nature.
  • Can get by without a huge cage, so reasonable for small spaces.
  • With a good sized cage they won't need playtime out of the cage, and their social antics are fun to watch.
  • Active off and on throughout the day and night.

Guinea Pigs

guinea pig photo
Photo © Lianne McLeod
  • Social and easy to handle.
  • Need a large cage and do best kept in same sex pairs or groups.
  • Even with a large cage, will appreciate time out of the cage to socialize, explore, and play.
  • Are capable of making loud "wheeking" noises, especially if they are looking for food. They are not really loud, but they are not as quiet as most of the other pets on this list.

Reptiles

Leopard Geckos
Photo © Lianne McLeod
  • Wide variety of choices, depending on space and your budget.
  • Typically not as socially responsive as mammals.
  • Lizards: leopard geckos, crested geckos, house geckos, bearded dragons and anoles are good choices for beginners and smaller spaces.
  • Snakes: corn snakes, king snakes, milk snakes and ball pythons are all good choices for both beginners and smaller spaces (be extra careful - snakes are escape artists and you will not be popular with your neighbors if your snake gets out).
  • Turtles: not the best choices for apartment living. With a large (very large) tank, aquatic turtles would do okay, but box turtles and tortoises do best if they can be in a yard at least part of the time.

Chinchillas

chinchilla photo
Photo © Lianne McLeod
  • Social and easy to tame, though may not like to be held and cuddled so much as just being near you.
  • Need a fairly large cage and playtime outside the cage.
  • Like routines and quiet time during day; most active in the evening and early morning.

Degus

Degu photo - Sienna
Photo © Rachel Chapin
  • Social, can be tamed and handled.
  • Do best kept in same sex pairs or groups.
  • Need a large cage and plenty of opportunity for exercise.
  • Most active during the day.
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