Great Pets for Renters That Aren’t Dogs or Cats


Great Pets for Renters That Aren’t Dogs or Cats

Teresa Bergen · Mar 15, 2022
Funny cute guinea pig hiding in a knitted woolen scarf

Maybe you dream of breeding Saint Bernards or running your own reindeer farm – but while you’re living in an apartment, those aspirations had best stay on hold. Many leases rule out larger pets like dogs and cats, but with a little creativity, you might still be able to have a sweet little furry, feathered, or scaly companion around. Here’s why you may want one, and some suggestions for the best pets for apartment living.

Benefits of Pets

Countless studies have shown that animal companions can be good for humans both psychologically and physically. Pets can help people manage loneliness and depression, according to the CDC. Most pet owners have already figured this out. But studies also show that pets can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as improve cognitive functions in older adults. People of all ages benefit from the human/animal bond.

Pet Ownership and Responsibility

Of course, not every pet is the perfect one for you. Pet ownership demands responsibility. When you adopt a pet, you’re making a commitment to care for that pet for its whole life. Some pets require more attention than others, need more exercise, make more noise. Consider the pros and cons of each pet — and re-read your lease agreement — before committing.


Pet hamster on a couch.

Let’s start with something cute and furry. Hamsters are darling, take up little space, and are fairly self-sufficient. Like cats, they groom themselves. Give them a wheel and they’ll oversee their own exercise regimen. Even better, they’re not very expensive. On the downside, they have a short lifespan, usually two to four years. They don’t necessarily get along with other hamsters, either, so you might need multiple cages if you want to keep more than one. Hamsters are nocturnal, and will suit you better if you’re a night owl rather than an early riser.

Guinea Pigs

Want a furry pet that’s larger and potentially longer-lasting than a hamster? Guinea pigs might be for you. Just remember that they’re sociable, so consider getting a same-sex pair. They also need a bigger cage than hamsters. Your guinea pigs might be skittish at first, but they generally warm up to you (and, gratifyingly, they can even purr like cats!). They can grow to weigh one to three pounds and usually live four to eight years. You might even find a rescue guinea pig at your local animal shelter.


Pet rabbit pops its head out of a cage.

Rabbits have tons of personality and may even like to cuddle with you, but they can make more trouble than other pets, so they’ll require more supervision and setup in your apartment. First, be sure to neuter or spay your rabbit, even if you don’t expect them to ever encounter a rabbit of the opposite sex. Unneutered rabbits can be especially aggressive and messy. Your apartment rabbit will also need a home base, like a crate with water and food bowls. And since they’re diggers, you’ll need to place area rugs, furniture, or plastic mats in corners of rooms or other favorite digging spots.


Turtles are cute and interesting pets who live a long time. They have emotions and bond with their owners, according to turtle experts, although this isn’t going to be as obvious as a dog licking your face or a cat purring. Turtles recognize their owners through a combination of smell, sight, and sound. They show affection by following their owner with their eyes, and rubbing their head and neck against you. Once you take care of the initial setup — tank, lighting, and water filtration system —you can have a turtle BFF for 10 to 80 years, depending on the species.


Pet parrot perched on their owner's hand.

Some folks are bird people. Others aren’t. If you bond with birds, you might be able to find a nice quiet one for your apartment. Just be careful of parrots: they get super attached and might stress scream when left alone. Something small like a finch or canary is usually a better bet for an apartment dweller. No matter what kind of bird you end up getting, you’ll have to commit to regular cage cleaning, interaction, and some toys to keep it happy.

Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons are a good choice for lizard lovers. These cute little guys and gals have spiny chins, eat vegetables and live insects, and can live up to 15 years. Still, they need a special setup with the right amount of UV light to avoid getting a bone disease, so they are a commitment. But they’re the most popular pet lizard because they’re usually peaceful and enjoy interacting with their human. Since they value being warm, they’re known for cuddling into their human’s neck or chest and taking a snooze. Bearded dragons get to know you by your voice, so be sure to talk and sing to your lizard a lot.

Corn Snakes

Red corn snake on a branch.

Looking for a friendly, gentle apartment snake? Corn snakes are one of the most popular types of snakes to keep as a pet. These nocturnal, burrowing serpents are easy to handle and feed. A type of rat snake, they got their name because the pattern on their bellies looks like maize. Corn snakes are very pretty. They can live up to 20 years and grow four to six feet long, so they need a big tank. Also, they’re escape artists, so you’ll need a secure lid.

Before adopting any pet, it’s essential for apartment dwellers to review the terms of their lease. Remember, a pet is forever, and there are lots of good options out there, even if you can’t have a cat or a dog.

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