Maybe you read our article last week on getting a dog for your apartment, or you’re aware that you’re lazy, or maybe you just fancy yourself an original, but yes – to answer your question – there are low-maintenance pets suitable for apartment dwellings. Let’s be honest: dogs bark and shed and poop and can frequently even be found eating poop. They may be man’s best friend, but they aren’t the smartest. Their sweet little faces waking you up in the morning are only endearing until you remember where that tongue has been. So why not go off the beaten/high-maintenance path?
Things that swim
Fish are the classic lazy man’s pet. It used to be that you just picked up a goldfish at the store, stuck it in a jar with some pebbles and water, threw in a few fish food flakes for good measure, and then waited the 3 or 4 days that it would undoubtedly take to make its journey to the great fish bowl in the sky. Now, aquariums are happening. We don’t have jars of fish. We have full-blown exotic, salt-water aquariums. Besides the initial set up fee (into the thousands) and import duties on the rare Cambodian fish you simply must have, aquariums are pretty rad. The lifespan on a well-set-up aquarium community is substantially longer than the fish in the bowl, and depending on how extravagant you want to go, can even serve as a snooty centerpiece at your wine and cheese party. Plus, if you’re paying for a rare Cambodian fish, you can probably pay someone to handle the tank cleaning and fish flake dispensing.
Things that live in shells
Hermit crabs may be low on personality, but they are a great starter/low-commitment pet because, really, they don’t care about you or need much from you. They don’t carry any diseases and are hypoallergenic (no dander, you see), and are not really aggressive with the whole pinching thing. They really only need a teaspoon or so of food three times a week, seeing as how they’re tiny, and other than that, a moist terrarium and a new shell every so often will keep them fine and dandy. There are mixed reviews on whether or not hermit crabs have the ability to emote or to show affection in any way, so if you’re a little distant with your emotions yourself, this may be the pet for you.
Things from video games
We’re not talking about adopting an Italian plumber, but hedgehogs are experiencing a second pet renaissance. They’re small, quiet, hypo-allergenic, mildly affectionate and absurdly adorable. The quill issue is more of a porcupine thing, but they will nip at your fingers if you annoy them with stories of your 7th grade tuba playing dreams too much. They can subsist nicely on dog or cat food, plus a few bugs now and then and maybe a piece of fruit if you’re feeling generous. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and need lots of hamster-wheel style exercise, meaning that you may want to put your hedgehog’s cage in a room other than the one you’re trying to sleep in. In all, these are laid back guys who don’t take much effort and may even be coaxed onto a leash (!) with the right preparation. It’s worth noting that some states have restrictions on keeping hedgehogs as pets, but that seems ridiculous given how freaking adorable these things are.
Things that slither
If you already have a terrarium but hedgehogs are too warm-blooded for you, try a snake. Easily the most dude-friendly pet, snakes are also reputedly affectionate, live in a cage (except when they get out, which is often), and only need some fat mice from you now and then. These things have long life-spans though, up to 20 years, so getting a snake is only a slightly less long-term commitment than a parrot. Though any snake will do, you might consider investing in one that isn’t venomous and doesn’t enjoy squeezing things to death. I mean, maybe you like to live life on the edge and, if that’s the case, by all means get a huge python. They’re impressive and are great for scaring the crap out of people, but maybe don’t have any other squeezable pets in the house.
Things that oink
Thanks to the genetic splicing that probably brought us seedless watermelons, we now have teeny, tiny pigs. Seriously. They’re all the rage in Britain where they were introduced and, apparently, are the new Best Pet Ever. They aren’t all that low-maintenance, but they’re cute as hell. These piggies start out about the size of a teacup (hence the name) and grow to about the size of a cocker spaniel, but are way, way smarter than dogs AND they clean themselves AND you can litter train them like a cat AND they actually love you back, unlike a cat. These genetic wonderpigs like to stay in pairs, presumably to keep up on their pig news and gossip, but if you have enough room in the apartment and some outdoor space for them to play in, they’ll keep you delightfully entertained.
The illustrious author of this article, Stephanie Huey, is an itinerant writer, sub-letter of apartments and lover of craft beers. Her favorite sentences are those containing syllepsis or ones that mention Vietnamese food, of which is she is inordinately fond.