Skip to main content

In Photos: America's Favorite Pets

Favorite Pets

rabbit-fever-tularemia

Tularemia, or rabbit fever, can be spread from rabbits, raccoons, skunks or other small mammals.
(Image credit: Stock.xchng.)

Humans have long kept other animals around as companions. Here are some pets that people love to keep around the home. Here are some of our favorites.

Rats

Photo

Photo
(Image credit: Stockxpert)

Rats are very social nocturnal animals, so they need to be kept with at least one other rat. They rarely bite, are easily tamed, and can thrive off human interaction. They can be taught tricks and have been compared to dogs in terms of their aptness in bonding with their owners. Since rats are very social, they require time outside of their cage and attention from owners. Rat owners are best advised to rat-proof areas of the house since the critters will chew on almost anything and also leave behind urine markings as they explore.

Parakeets

Sun Parakeets. Aratinga solstitialis

Pair of sun parakeets (Aratinga solstitialis).
(Image credit: © Svand | Dreamstime.com)

Parakeets are fun pets in that they can be trained to do tricks, such as playing golf, and if you’re patient enough, learn a few words. What’s not so fun is having a smelly cage littered with bird droppings and a housemate that can sometimes get too chirpy.

Turtles

Turtles are portable, cheap, and unlike snakes or lizards, aren’t prone to sneak out of their tanks. Still, pet turtles need a lot of care like elaborate housing, a good water filtration system, and special UV lighting to keep them from developing soft shell syndrome-a deadly condition that occurs when the turtles don't get enough calcium. Also, turtles harbor Salmonella bacteria, which can easily infect children who handle them.

Tarantulas

Zebra tarantula, female (Aphonopelma seemanni)

Zebra tarantula, female (Aphonopelma seemanni)
(Image credit: © Guy Tansley 2003)

You will definitely stand out from most pet owners if you choose a tarantula. The creepy crawlers are quiet, low-maintenance, and can live in a small cage. And although tarantulas do bite, the venom of most species is no more harmful then a bee sting. Still, experts advise against handling them since their exoskeleton is very thin and a sudden drop can result in sudden death.

Hamsters

(Image credit: stock.xchng)

Since hamsters are nocturnal, they make ideal pets for night owls. They require very little space and besides the cost of a cage, food, and some exercise equipment, the furry rodents are relatively cheap to care for. Although hamsters are low-maintenance, they are known to bite people-especially if you startle them when they are sleeping-so it takes some time to tame a hamster and get it used to your presence.

Guinea pigs

guinea pig

guinea pig
(Image credit: Stock.xchng)

If you are looking for more of a long-term commitment, a guinea pig may be right up your alley. Guinea pigs can live as long as 10 years, much longer than mice, which last about two years. They tend to be playful, enjoy being handled, and prefer company. Guinea pigs will need a roomy cage as well as some blocks and tunnels for exercise, though nothing to the extent of the home gym set-up that hamsters require.

Fish

goldfish

Goldfish in aquarium.
(Image credit: © Mingwei Chan | Dreamstime.com)

They aren’t cuddly and you can’t play with them, but fish make good pets for people who are looking for a convenient way to relax. Studies have shown that those who watched fish in aquariums experienced a drop in blood pressure. This is a nifty benefit for a pet that needs to be fed only a few times a week. Just keep my mind the cost of an elaborate aquarium and having to clean it at least once a week.

Rabbits

Photo

Photo
(Image credit: Leo Valen / Stock.XCHNG)

A rabbit is good alternative to more traditional house pets, such as dogs or cats. They can be trained to use a litter box and interact socially with their owners. Although rabbits enjoy the company of people, they prefer not to be held and need a couple hours outside their cage for exercise. They also chew on wires and scratch things with their nails.

Dogs

labrador dog with a fisherman

Dog accompanies his master on a fishing excursion.
(Image credit: Steve Hillebrand, US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Dogs are considered man's best friend for a reason. Research has shown that dog owners have more active lifestyles, lower blood pressure, and are less likely to get sick than their dogless counterparts. One study has even shown that people who engaged in petting sessions received a boost in mood-enhancing hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin. Although these benefits come with the cost of food and veterinary bills, many are more than happy to oblige.