A surprisingly large percentage of Americans own pets – according to a 2021 survey from the APPA, 70% of U.S. households own at least one pet. That adds up to a whopping 90.5 million households! That number is up from just 56% in 1988, the first year that the survey was conducted. When you also consider that as of 2019, about 35% of American households are rentals, it really starts to sink in there are a lot of pet owners living in rentals.
When you consider the benefits of pet ownership, it’s really no surprise that there are so many animal lovers out there. Pets of any kind can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, ease feelings of isolation and loneliness, promote physical activity, and even improve your heart health. Taking care of animals can help children develop into more secure and active adults. Older people who own pets often report feeling happier and having better health than those without pets. Most importantly, however, having a pet can bring real happiness and unconditional love into your life.
Naturally then, people who rent apartments and are thinking about getting a pet might wonder, “What are the best low-maintenance pets for apartment living?” What kinds of animals are best suited for small living spaces and communities such as apartment complexes? What sorts of pet policies or pet restrictions will I need to understand and navigate?
In this guide to the best low-maintenance pets for apartments, we’ll answer all these questions and more. Let’s get started by taking a look at your best pet options.
Fish are easily one of the lowest-maintenance pets on this list. If you want a quiet pet that you’ll never have to worry about escaping your apartment or troubling neighbors – then fish just might be the right apartment pet for you.
There are three basic things you’ll need to consider for keeping fish in your apartment:
- tank size
- water temperature
- compatibility with other fish
We recommend freshwater fish that can live comfortably in a tank that can fit reasonably well in small spaces – something like a 5 gallon fish tank fits that description pretty well. We also recommend fish that you can feed pellets or flakes. All of the fish below are generally pretty compatible with other fish, so long as there’s enough space in the tank for them to live comfortably together.
Because fish are typically kept in aquariums that usually 10 gallons in size or less, they often exempt from “no pets allowed” clauses in rental agreements.
The Best Fish for Apartments
While there are lots of different types of fish that make great pets, when it comes to apartment living your best bet are fish that can live in smaller tanks, don’t require a lot of regular feeding, or that don’t require expensive or exotic food. For the most part fish only need to fed once or twice per day, and need their tanks cleaned about once every two weeks. Let’s look at a few of the fish that make great apartment pets.
Guppies are some of the most popular aquarium fish around because they’re easy to keep, relatively inexpensive, and very hardy. They’re also quite social and will enjoy company if given the chance.
If you’re interested in keeping guppies, you should know that they do need a little bit of space to swim around in. If you keep them in a 5-gallon tank, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t overload it with terrain or too many other fish. Guppies are small enough that a school of five or so should be enough in one tank.
Small neon tetras are another great option for a small aquarium. These lively little fish are brightly colored, with blue and red streaks. Similar to guppies, you’ll want to choose a school for five or so, assuming there are no other tank mates. Neon tetras really prefer their water to be kept clean and clear, which is fine since that way you can see and appreciate their beautiful colors more easily.
Neon tetras can grow up to about 1.5 inches long. They prefer pelleted fish food, but you can also feed them flakes if pellets aren’t available.
If you’re looking for something bigger, Betta fish come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. Adults tend to grow to about 2-3 inches long. They’re known for being easy to breed, and they like to hide away during the day. Betta fish tend to live longer than other pet fish, about 2-5 years.
If you have only a single male Betta, it’s probably best to keep it by itself in a 5-gallon tank since it might get aggressive toward other fish in such a small space. If you go for a larger tank, then it’s fine to keep Bettas with other types of fish.
If you like quiet pets, then aside from fish you’re not likely to find a quieter pet than a reptile. These scaly fellas are calm and docile, and can live out almost their entire lives comfortably in a tank that’s at least 10 gallons in size. The vast majority of reptiles are cold-blooded, so you’ll need to make sure that they have a warm environment in which to live. Reptiles are carnivorous, and usually eat insects or other small critters.
Most of the time reptiles don’t incur any additional pet fees when renting. Be sure to check with your landlord about what types of reptiles are acceptable in your rental property.
The Best Reptiles for Apartments
When thinking about what kind of reptile to keep in your apartment, you should consider some of the same things that apply for keeping fish:
- tank size
We recommend reptiles that are commonly kept as pets over the more exotic types – various types of non-venomous snakes, turtles, and lizards being the most common. Under no circumstances should you ever try to make a pet out of a reptile caught in the wild – not only will they have a hard time adjusting to captivity, they may also carry diseases that are dangerous to humans.
Reptile tanks should be cleaned just about every day, but the cleaning is usually really quick and easy, hence why they’re considered low-maintenance. Each species of reptile has its own feeding schedule, which we’ll touch on below.
Let’s look at some popular reptiles for apartments!
Snakes are bit of an acquired taste as pets, but people who love snakes tend to really love them. Some snakes can live 15-30 years, making them some of the longest-lived animals that people keep as pets. Keep in mind that snakes can grow to be fairly large, so if you plan to keep a pet snake for a long time you will likely need to gradually upgrade its tank size over the years. It’s also worth noting that a lot of people are scared of or intimidated by snakes (then again, maybe that’s partly why you’d choose one for a pet?).
The most popular snakes that make good apartment pets are the Garter, Milk Snake, and Kingsnake. Don’t tell the rodents on this list, but snakes eat them. That’s right – a snake’s diet usually consists of various rodents like hamsters, mice, or gerbils.
That said, Garter snakes will also eat some insects and small reptiles – anything from snails and earthworms to frogs and salamanders. Milk Snakes are pickier, and mostly stick to eating critters like mice and birds. Meanwhile, Kingsnakes will eat lizards, rodents, birds, and both bird and turtle eggs. Younger snakes usually need to be fed about twice per week, but they eat less as they get older – mature snakes typically eat once per week or two.
Like snakes, turtles are long-lived pets – in some cases they can live for 30-70 years! Turtles come in a wide variety of sizes and colors, and can be very fun and expressive pets – they can associate food with their owner and will often beg for food much like a dog. Unlike snakes, turtles can also be taken out to the yard to play with. Most pet turtles grow to somewhere between 4 and 10 inches in length.
The most popular breeds of pet turtles are:
- red-eared slider
- eastern box turtle
- western painted turtle
- common musk turtle
- spotted turtle
- yellow-bellied slider
Pet turtles eat a larger variety of food than the other reptiles on this list. Ask your vet about what’s best for the breed of turtle you choose, but in general turtles can eat a variety of greens, veggies, and fruits in addition to their usual diet of worms, crickets, and snails. Young turtles should be fed once per day, but after reaching maturity it’s fine to feed your turtle every other day.
Even though they’re generally a low-maintenance pet, it’s best to do your research before deciding which lizard you’d like to get as a pet. Many types of pet lizard can live between 10 and 30 years, so just be sure you pick the right one, since like other reptiles it can be quite a long-term commitment.
The most popular lizards kept as pets are typically small to medium-sized species that are easy to care for and handle. These include the bearded dragon, leopard gecko, and crested gecko. These lizards are known for their friendly dispositions and striking colors and patterns. They do not require a lot of space, and can be kept in small terrariums or vivariums. They also do not need a lot of attention, and can be fed a diet of live insects and plants.
Rodents are among the most popular low-maintenance pets for apartments. Keeping rodents as pets can be a highly rewarding experience. These small, cute animals can make great companions and can be trained to do tricks and interact with their owners.
An important thing to keep in mind if you want a pet rodent is that you’ll need to provide them with ample mental and physical stimulation. These animals are naturally curious and love to explore, so it’s important to provide them with toys and activities that will keep them entertained. This can include things like tubes and tunnels to crawl through, climbing structures, and interactive toys that encourage them to play and engage with their environment.
In other words, rodents are probably best suited for renters who have children who enjoy playing with them, and enough space in their apartment for things like rodent tunnels and climbing accessories.
Like fish, rodents are sometimes exempt from additional pet-related fees like pet rent or a pet deposit. Be sure to check with your landlord what their policy is related to caged animals. While it may be tempting to try to hide a caged animal like a rodent from a landlord who doesn’t allow pets, we don’t recommend this. Besides, if many cases maintenance will report pets found in apartments when they come by to fix something or do an inspection, so you’re likely to get caught and could face serious consequences. It’s always better to try to negotiate with your landlord to allow pets, which can be done by changing your lease with a pet addendum.
The Best Rodents for Apartments
Some popular types of rodents that can make good pets include hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rats, and mice. These animals are relatively low-maintenance and can be easily kept in a cage or enclosure.
Keep in mind that rodents need a spacious cage or enclosure that allows them to move around and explore. The cage should be cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of waste and to keep the environment clean and healthy for your pet. Most rodent cages are small enough to fit comfortably in a typical apartment bedroom, which is partly why rodents make such great apartment pets.
Let’s look at the most popular pet rodents with renters wanting a low-maintenance pet companion.
Hamsters are small, cute, and fluffy rodents that are popular as pets. There are several different species of hamsters, including the Syrian hamster, the dwarf hamster, and the Russian hamster. Hamsters have short legs and small ears, and they are typically between 4-6 inches long. Hamsters are also known for their cheek pouches, which they use to carry food back to their burrows.
In general, hamsters live for 1-2 years. Syrian hamsters, the most common type of pet hamster, typically live for around 2 years. Dwarf hamsters, which are smaller than Syrian hamsters, typically live for around 1-2 years. Russian hamsters, which are the largest type of hamster, typically live for around 2-3 years. However, hamsters can live for longer or shorter periods of time depending on their individual health and the care they receive.
Hamsters are omnivores, so they require a diet that includes a variety of foods, such as seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Gerbils are small, cute, and active rodents that are popular as pets. There are several different species of gerbils, including the Mongolian gerbil and the fat-tailed gerbil. Gerbils are known for their small size, their cute appearance, and their soft, thick fur. They have short legs and small ears, and they are typically between 4-6 inches long. Gerbils are also known for their vocalizations. They make a variety of sounds, including chirping, squeaking, and whistling. Gerbils have a lifespan of around 3-5 years.
To care for a pet gerbil, you will need to provide them with a suitable habitat, a balanced (omnivore) diet, regular handling, and regular cleanings. A gerbil cage should be spacious enough for your pet to move around and exercise, and should be equipped with a solid bottom to prevent your gerbil from escaping.
Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, are small, cute, and fluffy rodents that are popular as pets. They have the short legs and small ears, that are typical of all rodents and they usually grow to somewhere between 8-10 inches long. Guinea pigs can pretty vocal pets, as they make a number of different sounds, like squealing, chirping, and whistling. They are social animals and enjoy the company of other guinea pigs or human companions.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, so they require a diet that includes a variety of fresh vegetables and hay.
Insects are great low-maintenance pets for apartments. Keeping insects as pets can be a fun and interesting experience. There are many different types of insects that can make good pets, including beetles, praying mantises, and stick insects. When keeping insects as pets, it’s important to provide them with a habitat that meets their specific needs. This may include a terrarium with the appropriate temperature, humidity, and ventilation.
In addition, it’s important to provide your insect pet with the right diet, which will vary depending on the type of insect you have. Regularly clean your insect’s terrarium and handle your insect gently to ensure they are happy and healthy.
Of all the pets on this list, insects are the least likely to incur any additional pet-related fees.
The Best Insects for Apartments
Some of the best low-maintenance insect pets for living in an apartment are those that are easy to care for and don’t require a lot of space. For example, beetles, praying mantises, and stick insects are all good choices for apartment living. Beetles are interesting to watch and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
Praying mantises are fascinating to watch, as they are predators that hunt and eat other insects. Stick insects are also interesting to watch, as they have the ability to camouflage themselves to blend in with their surroundings. All of these insects are small and can be kept in a small terrarium, making them well-suited for apartment living.
Pet beetles can be a fun and educational pet for children and adults alike. Some of the more popular species kept as pets include the Goliath beetle, the rhinoceros beetle, the elephant beetle, and the stag beetle. These beetles can range in size from 1 inch to over 6 inches long, depending on the species.
Beetles are omnivores and will eat a variety of foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and high-protein foods such as dog food. They also require a source of calcium, such as a cuttlebone, to keep their exoskeletons strong. Most pet beetles have a lifespan of 1-2 years. However, some species can live up to 5 years. Proper care and nutrition can help ensure a long, healthy life for your beetle.
Stick bugs, also known as walking sticks, are common pets for people of all ages. These insects are very easy to care for and can make great companions. Stick bugs can grow up to 6 inches in length and come in a variety of colors and patterns.
Stick bugs are herbivores and feed primarily on leaves, flowers, and other vegetation. They also require a source of water to stay hydrated. The lifespan of stick bugs can vary depending on the species, but most live an average of 1-2 years. With proper care and nutrition, some species can live up to 5 years.
Praying mantises are an interesting and unique pet that can be kept in captivity. They are carnivorous insects and will feed on a variety of live prey such as crickets, flies, moths, and other small insects.
Praying mantises can grow up to 4 inches in size, depending on the species. They also come in a variety of colors and patterns. The average lifespan of a praying mantis is 8-12 months. However, some species can live up to 2 years with proper care and nutrition.
Birds can make wonderful pets because they are intelligent, social animals that can provide their owners with companionship and entertainment. There are many different species of birds that can be kept as pets, including parakeets, finches, and cockatiels. These birds are typically small to medium-sized, and come in a wide range of colors and patterns.
The Best Birds for Apartments
Most pet birds are kept in cages, where they have plenty of space to move around and explore. They need a diet of seeds, fruits, and vegetables, as well as access to clean water and fresh air. Birds also need regular opportunities for exercise, such as time outside of their cage to fly or climb. With the right care and attention, pet birds can live for many years.
For most renters, the best low-maintenance birds for apartments are cockatiels, finches, and parakeets.
Keep in mind that most landlords will consider birds pets with regard to pet-related fees. Be sure to check with your landlord and consult your lease agreement before buying a bird to keep in your apartment.
Cockatiels are small, vocal parrots native to Australia. They are popular pets due to their friendly personalities and their ability to mimic human speech.
Cockatiels typically eat a diet of seed mix, fresh vegetables and fruits, and fortified pellets. They should also have access to a cuttlebone or mineral block to help keep their beaks trimmed and their calcium levels up.
Cockatiels can live from 15-20 years with proper care. They typically reach a length of 12-14 inches and can weigh between 70-95 grams.
Finches are small, social birds native to many parts of the world. They are popular pets due to their bright plumage and friendly personalities.
Finches typically eat a diet of seed mix, fresh vegetables and fruits, and fortified pellets. They should also have access to a cuttlebone or mineral block to help keep their beaks trimmed and their calcium levels up.
Finches can live from 5-10 years with proper care. They typically reach a length of 4-5 inches and can weigh between 20-35 grams.
Parakeets, also known as budgerigars, are small, colorful parrots native to Australia. They are popular pets around the world due to their friendly personalities and high intelligence.
Parakeets typically eat a diet of seed mix, fresh vegetables and fruits, and fortified pellets. They should also have access to a cuttlebone or mineral block to help keep their beaks trimmed and their calcium levels up.
Parakeets can live from 10-15 years with proper care. They typically reach a length of 6-7 inches and can weigh between 35-50 grams.
There are many different low maintenance pets that can thrive in an apartment living environment. These pets do not require a lot of space, and they can be kept in small cages or tanks that are easy to clean and maintain. They also do not need a lot of attention, and can be fed and watered on a regular schedule. With the right care and attention, these low maintenance apartment pets can provide their owners with years of companionship and entertainment, without requiring a lot of time or effort.