Taking on a pet can often feel off-putting as it can mean a complete change in lifestyle and responsibility that some just can’t commit to. While every pet requires extensive research into their care and maintenance and an ongoing level of responsibility, some low maintenance pets are much easier (and cheaper) to look after than others.
Providing a loving home to a pet can be a rewarding experience for both owners and pets alike. If you are looking to a pet for you or your child, but don’t want to change your lifestyle or break the bank, take a look at our guide to the best low maintenance pets.
Guinea pigs are small, sociable and chatty, which makes them great companions. They are the perfect size to be handled by kids and they enjoy interaction, normally living in groups of 5-10 in the wild.
Guinea pigs make an incredible variety of sounds, from ‘wheeking’ to ‘chutting’ to ‘whining’. Kids will love how interactive they are. Just wait until they start ‘popcorning’, which involves jumping around in little hops when they are excited or feeling affectionate. Guinea pigs will typically live for 5-6 years. With many different breeds they have a wide variety of colours and coat lengths.
Dietary requirements include hay, fresh grass and vegetables. When not napping they like to constantly graze. This is because their teeth grow continuously and therefore need to be worn down to the correct shape by eating.
They require vitamin C to keep healthy and this can be supplied in the form of grass-based guinea-pig pellets daily. Also consider leafy greens like kale and broccoli. Fresh clean drinking water must be supplied continuously.
Hamsters can be an ideal first pet for children due to their size and relative ease to look after. Typically a hamster can live to around two years and can often be a first introduction to a child in the ways of life and death.
Be aware that hamsters sleep and rest during the day and need to be undisturbed to stay healthy. This can actually be an advantage if you and your child are out during the day. Typically hamsters wake around dusk and this is the best time for interaction between owner and pet.
They will want a comfortable, dry, draught-free, clean cage to live. Hamsters will require fresh, clean drinking water continuously and a good quality, balanced diet containing all essential nutrients and minerals.
Fun fact: goldfish are the most common household pet in the United States.
The goldfish is undoubtedly one of the most low maintenance pets around, but they still require some degree of care. The first thing to consider is the tank. The old stereotyped cartoon of a goldfish in a bowl is not nearly large enough in reality.
Common goldfish can grow to up to ten inches which means they need a large tank or aquarium of ten feet long and a volume of at least 30 gallons of water to support this growth. A thermometer will help you to ensure the tank is kept at a constant temperature (about 19˚C is generally best). A filter will help to keep your goldfish tank fresh, and you’ll have to clean it once a week.
You’ll also need to dechlorinate any water that you add so to ensure it is safe for your fish to swim in. A good-quality variety of goldfish flakes will be suitable for diet, but be careful of over-feeding – as this can be harmful.
One final thing to consider – with the proper care and environment goldfish can live for decades – more of a commitment than many people realise.
Rabbits are an extremely popular choice for families in the UK.
We keep an estimated 1.5 million of the fluff-balls as pets. This is because they are highly intelligent, inquisitive and therefore highly rewarding companions. They also respond positively to reinforcement training.
Rabbits have many varieties of breeds, meaning varying shapes and sizes. Rabbits are naturally sociable and will get lonely if kept as a solitary pet. It’s best to get two rabbits so they have companionship of their own kind and prevent loneliness. Rabbits can live either indoor or outdoor, but if you choose to keep one as a house rabbit you will have to ‘rabbit proof’ your home. This may involve covering or hiding any cables which may be chewed and removing house plants that could be poisonous.
It is important that rabbits are able to exhibit their natural behaviour. They must be kept in accommodation which allows them to hop, stretch and play. Hay or grass will be the basis of a rabbit’s diet. A daily variety of fresh vegetables and fruit, washed thoroughly before feeding is recommended.
The typical lifespan of rabbits is 8-12 years so consider carefully whether they will be able to receive the care they require – especially when the kids have grown up.
Budgies are intelligent and curious birds. They can live alone but much prefer the company of their own species. They can live up to 15 years, so that is something to consider. Budgies can be housed indoors in a large wire cage with a plastic base or outdoors in a purpose-built aviary.
The cage should have some horizontal bars on it to allow climbing. This means many round cages are unsuitable. A wide range of seeds, grains, and vegetation makes up their basic diet. Occasional small pieces of fruit and veg may be given as treats alongside a constant supply of fresh water.
For birds being kept on their own, toys are essential to keep them stimulated. Budgies can also be taught to mimic sounds and talk. If they hear the same words repeatedly from the same person they may pick them up and begin mimicking the words or phrases.
A solitary bird will need more attention and affection than a pair or group and should be handled every day.
Considering a tortoise can live to over 100 years, it’s definitely a pet for life…and your children’s…and their children.
Quite a commitment.
However they are fascinating creatures and once you’ve invested in the initial set-up for their living area, they can be considered relatively low maintenance pets. Low maintenance forever, though, remember.
Many tortoise species are fairly large and need a decent sized enclosure. Preferably outdoors in areas with milder climates. It may be necessary to bring pet tortoises indoors overnight or during cooler weather. Providing larger tortoises with indoor housing can be a big challenge.
Diets vary based on species, but all pet tortoises need quite a variety of foods. Careful attention paid to the amount of fibre as well as the calcium and phosphorus balances of their food. Some species have voracious appetites.
Time for daily food preparation and the costs associated with the amount of food a tortoise eats should be taken into consideration before getting one as a pet. It’s worthwhile to consider tortoise rescue centres as somewhere to pick up a pet as there will always be displaced tortoises due to their long lifespan.
Chickens may at first glance seem an unusual pet, but they are becoming increasingly popular in UK backyards and there is good reason for this. Chickens are incredibly low maintenance pets. They can be generally fed once a day (check you are buying correct feed for age/breed/size) and don’t tend to overeat so can be left to their own devices when it comes to feeding.
The key thing to think about is the coup and your fence size if grazing them free range. Generally the bigger the coup the happier and healthier they will be. Small coups can lead to disorders such as feather pecking and egg eating. Consider a tall fence if allowing them to roam as some breeds can fly six feet off the ground.
If you have a small garden, and therefore can only accommodate a small coup, then be sure to graze them free range for a few hours each day in the garden. A good quality, solid wooden hen house will be by far your biggest expense when keeping chickens – but it should last a lifetime and expense will be minimal from there.
There are hundreds of breeds to choose from, all with different personalities. Chicken owners often report how surprised they are at just how much individuality and personality chickens have. They can become very loving and affectionate to their owners. They are great with kids and hypoallergenic (assuming coups are kept clean).
Not to mention the added bonus of good quality eggs that hens will lay.
Adopt a pet
If you’re truly wild about animals, then consider adopting a pet.
Many zoos and wildlife centres offer this as way to support their services, and it also makes as a perfect gift.
What’s great about animal adoption is you feel a sense of wellbeing by supporting your favourite animal, while kids are sure to learn a thing or two about the animals.
A typical introduction pack may include a toy animal, an information pack and an adoption certificate. You may even receive personalised materials according to which level of adoption you choose.
The ultimate low maintenance pets.
Just send them your money and get that warm feeling of helping unfortunate animals. If you are not yet in a position to take on a pet you could consider pet sponsorship. Your contribution allows the upkeep of animal shelters, allowing the rehabilitation of unfortunate animals and the maintenance of future pets until they find their forever home.
By Jamie Cameron