5 perfect pets for small spaces

Caring for a pet can improve your life in so many ways. The research found that interact with animals can lower blood pressure, decrease feelings of loneliness and improve 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 of your pet supplies, but you also want to make sure your pet is happy living in a home with minimal square footage. The good news: it can be done. Here, a veterinarian from New York City, home to famous small apartments, tells us the best pets for people who live in small spaces.

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Living in a small space doesn’t stop you from owning a dog. “While a good rule of thumb may be that a large dog equals a large space and a small dog equals a small space, dogs of all sizes can do just fine in a small space as long as they have the ability to go out every day,” says Matthew McCarthyDVM, a veterinarian and founder of Juniper Valley Animal Hospital in Queens, New York. “Your dog needs exercise, depending on his age and physical condition, and even old, wobbly dogs like going up and down the block.”

Exercising your dog regularly will strengthen your bond, improve his sleep quality, and prevent inappropriate behaviors, like chewing, that are caused by boredom. “Even if you have what would be considered a small space, it’s definitely a bigger and safer space than any shelter could be for these guys,” McCarthy said.

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Cats can judge you on many things, but not the size of your space. “For cats, it’s an enriched environment, meaning an environment that allows for all of their necessary feline behaviors to play, hunt, and climb,” McCarthy explains. “Because cats can walk vertically, they can manage in much less space than other species.” As long as they have plenty of perches, shelves, and cat trees, they will be happy. McCarthy also recommends food-dispensing toys, which will help them with their hunting instincts, and playtime with other humans and kittens. In an average studio, you can usually accommodate two cats before they feel cramped.

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juvenile rat hiding between bowls in the kitchen

If your home has room for a small enclosure, you might want to consider a rat as your next pet. These little guys are more cuddly than you think; MacCarthy notes that they love to snuggle up in your lap while you read or watch TV. One thing to consider? You will probably want to adopt more than one. “They are quite social and like to be kept with at least one or two other siblings,” he says. “Same-sex pairs or groups are ideal as it will keep you away from breeding. Males generally get along well with other males, especially if introduced at a young age or as litter mates .” Luckily, the space you need for two rats isn’t much larger than the space you would need for one.


These hardy pets can live up to 25 years if cared for properly. All they need is a small aquarium of around 15 gallons for an adult; the tank doesn’t even need to be heated if your house has an average temperature between 60 and 75 degrees. When shopping for your new pet, “make sure it’s an eastern newt,” suggests McCarthy. “A lot of other more exotic western newts secrete a powerful neurotoxin from their skin that you really don’t want to mess with.” You’ll have hours of fun watching your newt navigate its space-saving enclosure.

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close up of child's hands holding dwarf hamster

This nostalgic pet is easy to care for and fun to watch. And the best part? Their cage doesn’t have to be more than two feet long, one foot wide, and one foot high. Syrian hamsters are quite solitary and you will want to house them alone. “Keep in mind that these are nocturnal creatures so they’re usually dormant most of the day, so you might not be able to see them at their most active,” says McCarthy. “That being said, most hamsters will wake up in the evening and then happily interact with their humans.” Wait until the first time you get to watch them race on their wheel.

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