Caring for a pet can improve your life in so many ways. Research has found that interacting with animals can lower blood pressure, decrease feelings of loneliness, and boost your mood. However, when you live in a small space, owning a pet can be difficult. Not only do you need to find space for all your pet supplies, but you also want to ensure your pet is happy to live in a home with minimal square footage. The good news: it can be done. Here, a veterinarian in New York City—home of some famously petite apartments—tells us the best pets for people who live in small spaces.
READ THIS NEXT: This Is the Least Popular Dog Breed in the U.S., Data Shows.
Small-space living doesn’t disqualify you from owning a dog. “While a good rule of thumb may be big dog equals big space and small dog equals small space, dogs of all sizes can do wonderfully in a small space as long as they have the ability to get out daily,” says Matthew McCarthy, DVM, a veterinarian and founder of Juniper Valley Animal Hospital in Queens, New York. “Your dog needs exercise, depending on their age and physical condition, and even old wobbly dogs like to go up and down the block.”
By exercising regularly with your dog, you’ll deepen your bond, improve their sleep quality, and prevent inappropriate behaviors, like chewing, which are caused by boredom. “Even if you have what would be considered a small space, it is, no doubt, a more spacious and safe space than any shelter could be for these guys,” McCarthy assures.
Cats may judge you for a lot of things, but not the size of your space. “For cats, it’s all about an enriched environment, which is an environment that allows for all their necessary cat behaviors of playing, hunting, and climbing,” says McCarthy. “Because cats can go vertical, one can get by in much less space compared to other species.” As long as they have plenty of perches, shelves, and cat trees, they’ll be happy. McCarthy also recommends food dispensing toys, which will help with their hunting instincts, and playtime with other humans and kitties. In the average studio apartment, you can usually fit two cats before they start feeling cramped.
READ THIS NEXT: If Your Dog Is Playing With This, Take it Away Immediately.
If your home has space for a small enclosure, then you’ll want to consider a rat as your next pet. These little guys are cuddlier than you might think; MacCarthy notes they love to curl up in your lap while you read or watch TV. One thing to consider? You’ll probably want to adopt more than one. “They are quite social and like to be kept with at least one or two other of their brethren,” he says. “Same-sex pairs or groups are ideal as it will keep you out of the breeding biz. Males usually get along fine with other males, especially if introduced at a young age or if they are littermates.” Fortunately, the space you need for two rats isn’t much larger than the space you’d need for one.
These hardy pets can live up to 25 years when cared for properly. All they require is a small aquarium of about 15 gallons for one adult; the tank doesn’t even have to be heated if your home has an average temperature between 60 and 75 degrees. When shopping for your new pet, “make sure that it is an eastern newt,” suggests McCarthy. “Many of the other, more exotic, western newts secrete a potent neurotoxin from their skin that you really don’t want to mess with.” You’ll have hours of fun watching your newt navigate its small-space-friendly enclosure.
RELATED: For more pet advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
This nostalgic pet is easy to care for and fun to watch. And the best part? Their cage doesn’t have to be much more than two feet long, one foot wide, and one foot tall. Syrian hamsters are quite solitary, and you’ll want to house them alone. “Bear in mind that they are nocturnal critters so typically sleep for most of the day, so you might not get to see them at their most active,” says McCarthy. “That being said, most hamsters will wake in the evening hours and happily interact with their humans then.” Just wait till ’til the first time you get to watch them run on their wheel.