23 Truly Low-Maintenance Pets Because a Dog Is Out of the Question

corn snakes, rats and butterflies, oh my!

low maintenance pets cat

Getting a pet is a simple way to add a different dynamic to your home. But when you have roommates, kids in the family or work long hours, caring for a pet is not easy. Cue: low-maintenance pets. They of course need and deserve the same amount of TLC you’d give Fido, but these animals can be left to their own devices without (too many) worries. Check out this selection of 21 low-maintenance pets that are oh-so-easy to take care of. As with other animals, it's important that you conduct thorough research and talk to appropriate experts before you adopt a low-maintenance pet because these little guys are just as worthy of all the love you can give.

Does My Pet Secretly Resent Me for Being Home All the Time?

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1. Turtles

  • Length: up to 12 inches
  • Weight: varies
  • Physical characteristics: various patterns and colors of the shell

The very essence of a turtle is to be cool, calm and collected, and maintaining them is just as easy. Breeds like the African sideneck or the eastern box don’t grow beyond a foot long, so they can stay happy and healthy in a well-appointed terrarium. And while cleaning their space and providing fresh water is essential, turtles actually don’t need to be fed every day.

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2. Tortoises

  • Length: varies
  • Weight: varies
  • Physical characteristics: large, hard shell in varying patterns

Much like turtles, tortoises are mostly noise-free and stay out of the way. However, if you choose to get a tortoise you must be diligent about their diets as some species require a fair amount of vegetables, while certain breeds of turtles eat meat. Unlike turtles, tortoises need more room to roam, so be sure to invest in a spacious pen.

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3. Hamster

  • Length: varies, up to 14 inches
  • Weight: up to 6 ounces
  • Physical characteristics: small with tan, brown or multi-colored fur and sharp teeth

This one is probably an easy pick for the kids. Not only are they super adorable, but hamsters are also cost effective and even down for cuddles, should you feel compelled. (But they can also be left to their own devices.) In addition to food and water maintenance, make sure you provide enough toys for these interactive little mammals to play with.

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4. Betta Fish

  • Length: up to 3 inches
  • Weight: up to 0.1 ounces
  • Physical characteristics: various vibrant colors, dramatic fins

Not only are they colorful and beautiful to look at, but they are also perfect for smaller spaces since they don’t require large aquariums. Sidenote: Male betta fish should be kept alone since they tend to get territorial with each other, but the ladies can cohabitate.

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5. Guppies

  • Length: up to 2.5 inches
  • Weight: up to o.13 ounces
  • Physical characteristics: various vibrant colors, round or V-shaped tails

Guppies also make for great pet fish. They are not too fussy when it comes to sharing space and can get along with your other little sea creatures. Their diet mostly consists of regular fish food, though they’re known to have a particular palate for frozen bloodworms. Mmm.

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6. Parakeets

  • Length: up to 18 inches
  • Weight: up to 1.4 ounces
  • Physical characteristics: bold colors (usually green or blue), small round beak, long pointed tails

If you want a pet that asserts their presence without taking too much out of you, parakeets are perfect. They are not as chatty as parrots, but they love human interactions and can be trained to do simple commands such as stepping on and off your hand. Parakeets must be fed daily, however.

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7. Green Anole

  • Length: up to 8 inches
  • Weight: up to 0.2 ounces
  • Physical characteristics: slender body, skinny tail, can change color (green to brown)

While these little guys are low maintenance, they do have specific care requirements. They can thrive in 10-gallon tanks or terrariums as long as they're set up correctly. As with other reptiles, green anoles require special heating, lighting and humidity in their living environments, so make sure you're well-informed before taking these babies on.

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8. Sea Monkeys

  • Length: up to 0.75 inch
  • Weight: varies
  • Physical characteristics: tiny invertebrate, translucent

Talk about hands-off. These little guys are the quintessential pick for people who want to have something to look at without having to constantly interact. Sea monkeys only need to be fed every five to seven days and outside of ensuring that their tank is in great conditions, you don’t have to worry about them.

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9. Goldfish

  • Length: up to 2 feet
  • Weight: up to 6 pounds
  • Physical characteristics: golden orange, large eyes, no teeth

Like betta fish, goldfish are a sight for sore eyes and they come in many varieties so you'll be spoiled for choice. They can grow anywhere between eight to 24 inches, so they require a spacious tank or aquarium—not bowl. Goldfish tend to be messy, so make sure you're cleaning their living spaces frequently.

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10. Butterflies

  • Length: varies
  • Weight: varies
  • Physical characteristics: various patterns, colors and wingspans dependent on species

So, you have a fifth grader who is finally learning about metamorphosis, what better way to show them the process than to get some caterpillars for the home. Don’t worry, if you’re not into crawlies, they’ll turn into beautiful butterflies in a week. If you’re not committed to having a pet for the long haul, their lifespan—from caterpillar to fully formed butterfly—is only six to eight months. Added bonus: You only need sticks for them to move around on and they feed on common plants. Oh, and they’re pretty to look at.

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11. Tarantulas

  • Length: up to five inches
  • Weight: up to 6 ounces
  • Physical characteristics: various shades of brown, hairy, long legs

If you’re one of those cool, ballsy people without arachnophobia, treat yourself to a pet tarantula. These bad boys only require that you keep them in a dark area of the house, away from any sunlight…because…of course. Tarantulas can grow to be about ten inches (ahhh!), so they’ll need a spacious terrarium. And they do feed on live insects such as crickets, mealworms, super worms and roaches, so trips to the pet store will be…lively.

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12. Leopard Gecko

  • Length: up to 11 inches
  • Weight: up to 2.8 ounces
  • Physical characteristics: leopard-like spots, long pointy tail, eyelids

Not the type to help you save on car insurance, but the type to make long-term, easy-to-care-for pets. Leopard geckos have a lifespan of about 20 years and can easily cohabitate with each other. They don’t require too much space—a 15-to 20-gallon tank will do the trick—and they feed on crickets, wax worms and meal worms.

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13. African Dwarf Frogs

  • Length: up to 3 inches
  • Weight: less than 1 ounce
  • Physical characteristics: spotted skin, large back webbed feet, small eyes, aquatic creatures with lungs that breathe at water’s surface

These guys are great if you need a pet to bring some zen into the space. According to the pros at Pet Helpful, African dwarf frogs are aquatic amphibians which means they live underwater, so making sure they’re living in clean, filtered water is paramount. Their tank needs to have enough room for them to be able to swim around and come up for air when needed. African dwarf frogs don’t need much human interaction, so it’s advisable to get several in a tank

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14. Rats

  • Length: up to 11 inches
  • Weight: up to 1.5 pounds
  • Physical characteristics: perpetually growing incisors, sleek haircoat, active  

This might sound traumatic to any big city dweller, but hear us out. Rats (the ones that don’t live in the subway tracks) are small, affectionate and easy to take care of since all you need is a well-ventilated cage, some toys and appropriate food. Their habitat needs to be frequently changed, but other than that, make sure they get some exercise outside their cage and you’re good to go.

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15. Mice

  • Length: up to 7 inches
  • Weight: about 1 ounce
  • Physical characteristics: large ears, long whiskers, various colored haircoats

Just like rats, mice also have a bad rep, but when it comes to pets, these fuzzy creatures don’t cause a lot havoc if they’re well-taken care of. Mice also require a well-ventilated cage, some toys, but can eat any food suitable for humans. Because they are very active, some play time outside their cage is also highly recommended.

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16. Guinea Pigs

  • Length: up to 10 inches
  • Weight: up to 2.5 pounds
  • Physical characteristics: various haircoats, whiskers, can be hairless, perpetually growing white teeth

Guinea pigs are excellent beginner pets. While they can be extremely social, they also need their alone time and do best on a schedule for feeding, playing and resting. They do not require baths, so no worries about wrestling it into basin, but their nails require monthly maintenance. Guinea pigs can be hairless, but otherwise come with haircoats in various colors. Their teeth grow continuously, so make sure they always have something to gnaw on.

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17. Snails

  • Length: up to 2 inches (shell)
  • Weight: less than 1 ounce
  • Physical characteristics: single foot covered in mucus, shell attached to body can be damaged if snail is pickup up by shell alone

These don’t necessarily add to the dynamic of your home, but it’s nice to know they’re there. Assassin snails, for example are not the best standalone pets, but they can add some diversity to your aquarium if you invest in fish or sea monkeys. Garden snails have also been known to be low-maintenance pets. All you need is some fruit and vegetables to feed them and a tank that gets an adequate amount of moisture.

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18. Hermit Crab

  • Length: up to 6 inches
  • Weight: less than 1 ounce
  • Physical characteristics: molt, change shells, have pincers

They may look intimidating, but hermit crabs are actually super chill once they get acquainted to their environments— though they will snip if they feel threatened, so a soft touch is key when handling them. Hermit crabs are the quintessential low-maintenance pets since the sand at the bottom of their tanks only needs to be changed three times a year—weekly scooping is recommended, however. Though they eat pellet food, hermit crabs can also ingest bits of your leftovers, just be careful not to give them anything with garlic, onion or citrus.

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19. Bearded Dragon

  • Length: up to 24 inches
  • Weight: up to 18 ounces
  • Physical characteristics: sheds, tiny claws, beards that puff out

No, this isn’t something out of Harry Potter, but actually a popular pet lizard. Once you set them up with the appropriate heat, light and humidity, bearded dragons make for easy pets. They eat live insects, which you can purchase at a pet store, as well as limited portions of fruits, vegetables and greens. These reptiles are also known to be well-tempered, so you can even put them on a leash and take them out for a walk if you can handle the incoming stares.

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20. Praying Mantis

  • Length: up to 6 inches
  • Weight: less than 1 ounce
  • Physical characteristics: various colors, sizes and shapes

Easy to maintain and even easier to acquire—they can be found in most backyards! They only grow to about six inches, so all you need is a cage big enough to give them some roaming room. Their diet is also quite diverse, and they eat everything from moths and fruit flies to instars and smaller mantes (eek).

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21. Cats

  • Length: varies depending on breed
  • Weight: varies depending on breed
  • Physical characteristics: varies depending on breed

Cats are notoriously independent. British shorthair cats, in particular, are a quite hands-off breed for those who want a furry friend who is not so needy, but also not a praying mantis. Evenly tempered, these guys get along with other cats, dogs and children. Just make sure you teach your kids not to jostle them around as they don’t fancy too much human interaction.

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22. Corn Snake

  • Length: 4 to 6 feet
  • Weight: 1 to 3 pounds
  • Physical characteristics: various patterns and colors like orange, red, brown white, black and yellow

The corn snake is an easy-going pet that likes its alone time. It’s a great pick for beginning snake enthusiasts, because all the snake requires is fresh water and a weekly or twice-weekly feeding of thawed rodents. The corn snake is named for the pattern of its scales, which resemble maize, or corn. You’ll need a ten-to-20-gallon tank for a baby snake. Expect to transition up to a 40-gallon tank for a mature snake.

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23. Canary

  • Length: 3 to 4 inches
  • Weight: up to 1 ounce
  • Physical characteristics: yellow, red and multi-colored

Named after the islands from which they came, canaries are a great pet for inexperienced owners and those who want a low-maintenance companion. As long as you provide proper housing (room for flight is ideal, minimum 18"W x 14"D x 18"H) and a good food source (mostly pellets), they’ll be good. No need to coddle or cuddle—they are ornamental pets who prefer not to be handled. Just take note: If you want a bird because it sings, you’ll want a male canary. Females chirp.

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