While no pet is entirely free of maintenance, small mammals such as guinea pigs, hamsters, hedgehogs, and rabbits are fairly easy to manage. Betta fish, parakeets, geckos and corn snakes are other popular, low-maintenance pets.
Small mammals are a great choice for an easy first pet.
Hedgehogs are probably the easiest to care for since they have minimal social needs and do not require elaborate habitats. However, they can be a bit messy so they do need regular cage cleanings and occasional baths. Pet hedgehogs live anywhere from 5 to 10 years.
Hamsters also tend to be loners, although they need regular exercise in the form of a wheel or ball. Hamsters do also tend to be more aggressive than some other pets, so make sure to handle them carefully and regularly to keep them tame. Hamsters live 2 to 3 years.
Guinea pigs and rabbits are both social animals, so they can be a little more work. Guinea pigs tend to do best in pairs, so it’s a good idea to get two. If you only have one, plan to spend plenty of time with it. Guinea pigs live from 4 to 8 years.
Rabbits can do well alone or in groups. Both species also need fairly large cages and plenty of room to roam on occasion, so they may not be a good choice for smaller homes. Rabbits are also notorious for chewing on everything, including wires and cords, so you may need to spend some time rabbit-proofing your home. However, they can be trained to use a litter box for easier cleanup. Pet rabbits typically live 7 to 10 years.
If you want a low-maintenance fish, a betta, also sometimes called a Siamese fighting fish, is an excellent choice. These brightly colored fish tend to do best alone, and you cannot put two males together or they will fight. Since they breathe oxygen from the air, you can keep them in a simple bowl, although it needs to be cleaned at least weekly. A filtered tank is also good for them and is easier to maintain. Bettas also do not need much space, so you don’t have to spend time on elaborate large tanks. Betta Fish typically live 3 to 5 years.
Geckos, particularly leopard geckos, are another popular pet. These little lizards only grow to about 10 inches maximum, so you can keep your terrarium fairly small. All they need to be happy is a warm place to sleep, some rocks and logs to climb on and under, and a diet of mealworms and crickets. Geckos are nocturnal and tend to be fairly shy, so they’re not too exciting to watch. However, they tend to nap out in the open on a heat rock, so you can keep an eye on them easily. Geckos live 6 to 10 years, or longer.
Bearded Dragons may look like ancient dinosaurs, but they are docile by nature, tolerate human handling, and are fun to watch. They require at least a 40 gallon, well-ventilated glass terrarium that provides a dry, warm environment and typically eat a diet of around 70 percent insects such as mealworms, crickets, and roaches plus about 30% vegetables. Captive-bread Bearded Dragons are best and are available at pet stores. Bearded Dragons typically live between 6 to 10 years.
Snakes can also be easy to care for, but choose your species carefully. Larger snakes can require elaborate setups and complicated diets. However, corn snakes are fairly simple and can be trained to become quite friendly. The biggest difficulty of caring for a corn snake is the diet. They eat mice, although usually they’re trained to eat dead ones that you can buy at the pet store. You do need to keep the mice in the freezer until your snake is ready to eat, and then thaw them out before giving them to your snake. Fortunately, adult corn snakes only need to eat about once a week. They also need a fairly warm cage, a place to hide and a safe substrate, as well as regular cage cleanings. Both wild-caught and captive-bred corn snakes are available, but captive-bred ones tend to be a better choice because they’re used to being handled and they have beautiful colors and patterns. Pet corn snakes live 10 to 12 years.
If you prefer feathered friends, look into getting a parakeet. Budgies are particularly popular. These colorful birds tend to be fairly small, so if you get a large cage, they can easily exercise themselves during the day. They are social birds, so plan to spend a lot of time with your bird or get a friend for it. Parakeets do bond with their owners, and they’re clever enough to learn commands and tricks. Their cages need to be cleaned regularly, and you may need to wipe up messes while your bird is out of the cage. Budgies typically live 5 to 8 years in captivity.