Pet Alternatives to Dogs : Cuddly, Loving, Low Maintenance Pets for Dog Lovers


There are quite a few animals that a dog lover can be happy with. These animals include:

  1. Hamsters
  2. Ferrets
  3. Mice
  4. Cockatiels
  5. Rats
  6. Chinchillas
  7. Pygmy Goats
  8. Oscar Fish
  9. Iguanas
  10. Cats

Since we are talking about alternatives to dogs, we will look at animals that have at least one of the endearing qualities that dogs possess. These qualities include being affectionate, loving to cuddle and ability to be trained.

Here is a table comparing these animals quickly.

Are they cuddly?Will they play with you?Are they trainable?Space NeededLifespan
HamstersDepends on speciesYesNoSmall2 to 3 Years
FerretsYesYesYesLarge10 Years
MiceYesYesYesSmall5 Years
CockatielsNoNoYesSmall15 to 20 Years
RatsYesYesYesMedium2 to 3 Years
ChinchillasYesYesNoSmall10 Years
Pygmy GoatsYesYesNoFree Roaming15 Years
Oscar FishNoNoYesMedium10 Years
IguanasKind OfYesNoLarge15 to 20 Years
CatsYesYesYesFree Roaming10 to 15 Years

In the above table, under the space needed section, small means their enclosure is small enough to fit in the corner of a room. Medium enclosures can also fit in a room’s corner, but are larger. Large enclosures are several feet long and can only be kept in large rooms.

Free roaming means they shouldn’t be kept in an enclosure, and should be allowed to roam freely throughout the house.

Now let us look at all these animals in more detail.

1. Hamsters

These are the tiniest creatures on this list. There are a few species of hamsters to choose from, and the Syrian Dwarf Hamster is the smallest. It is about half the size of a mouse!

They need to be kept in small enclosures. You will need to clean the enclosures and the bedding daily, but compared to dogs, they require way less time and effort to care for properly.

They are also much cheaper to buy and maintain. Regularly interacting with hamsters will make them comfortable with you and they will allow you to pick them up.

They are too small to cuddle properly, but they are entertaining to watch. They stuff their cheeks with food and store it in a preferred spot.

2. Ferrets

One of the most attractive things about Ferrets is their unique shape. One look at their long and slender bodies, and you know they can run really fast.

Ferrets are very curious by nature. They spend all their time observing things and cramming themselves into nooks and crannies. Their shape allows them to get inside the smallest of spaces.

Before getting a Ferret, you will need to ‘Ferret proof’ your home. But then, you will need to make some adjustments if you’re getting a dog too. They are not for the passive pet keeper, as they require about the same energy and time to care for as a dog.

While they are super energetic and bubbly around sunrise and sunset, they are relatively inactive for most of the day. If you can modify you daily schedule to have a little free time at sunrise and sunset, Ferrets may be the pet for you!

3. Mice

Mice can exhibit many of the traits that we love about dogs. They can be trained to perform simple tricks and can be cuddled with as well.

It is always fun to watch them run in their wheel inside the cage. If you keep multiple females together, they behave very socially and their interactions are fun to observe as well.

If you keep a male along with the females, they will breed very rapidly. Soon, you will have more baby mice than you know what to do with.

Mice are also very curious creatures. You can give them multiple toys and swap them regularly to witness even more different behaviours from them.

4. Cockatiels

It might seem weird to compare birds to dogs at first. However, Cockatiels make great pets. If you get them very young, you can hand tame them. This means that can be trained to come and take food from your hand, fly to and from your shoulders, among other things.

They also mimic our voices in a soft whistle. They are also on the smaller side, as birds go, so they need a relatively smaller cage and less food. They aren’t very noisy either. I used to have 4 pairs of Cockatiels at one point. All of them combined made less noise than larger birds like Macaws and Cockatoos.

Give them a large enough cage and they will be happy inside it for most of the time. You will only need to take them out to socialise once or twice a day.

5. Rats

Rats are very social animals. They love to cuddle and hang around people. They can form bonds with their humans that are remarkably similar to dogs.

Some might be sceptical, as rats are known to carry diseases. However, regular visits to the vet should fix that problem. Also, take your rat to the vet for a thorough examination as soon as you get it for the first time. Don’t worry; it’s not as scary as it sounds.

Apart from that, rats that are bred to be pets are generally quite docile and won’t bite you. They are also big enough to cuddle and hold comfortably, about the same size as a small Chihuahua.

They are also super intelligent creatures. They can be trained to do a wide variety of tricks, as you can see in the video below.

6. Chinchillas

Looking for a pet you can cuddle? Chinchillas have very soft fur that is the densest of all land mammals. In other words, heir fur feels like a plush, velvet pillow. Being so dense, their fur is good at resisting fleas and ticks.

They have similar life spans to dogs, and if you get one young, it will grow accustomed to being held and cuddled.

These are exotic creatures that require specialised care, which includes providing dust baths and a controlled temperature environment.

They also need to be kept inside cages that have about 3 square feet of floor area.

7. Pygmy Goats

Pygmy Goats are probably the most dog-like animals on this list. They love attention, are very playful and love to cuddle. They can even be trained to do basic tricks. Ho doesn’t love to watch tiny goats jump around?

Due to their small size, about the same as a medium sized dog, they can be kept in an apartment as well. But you can keep them on a lawn too.

As an added bonus, if you breed them, they will even provide nutritious milk!

8. Oscar Fish

Oscar fish are among the most intelligent freshwater aquarium fish. They can identify their owners and can be seen coming close to the aquarium walls when they are nearby. They also watch everyone around them, outside of the tank.

Remarkably for a fish, they can be trained to do basic tricks as well. Trusting Oscars will take food from your hand and even let you touch them occasionally.

As far as aquariums go, Oscars need medium sized aquariums. However, you can still fit one of them in the corner of the room. Being fish, they will never leave the tank. So they need a lot less space than a dog. They don’t need to be litter trained and don’t need walks either.

The only major downside to keeping Oscar fish is that they are not good beginner fish, meaning they can be quite hard to care for if you’ve never kept fish before. Apart from this, their personalities vary by individual. Some can be quite tame, but most of them are aggressive and won’t be trained.

9. Iguanas

Iguanas are not what you would call cuddly. They aren’t even furry. But you can still hold them for a few minutes at a time, and they are more intelligent than you might imagine.

I have seen an Iguana that was litter trained and used to be taken to pet shows. There, people would pick him up and take pictures all day. It never attacked anyone.

Again, it is recommended to get a very young Iguana so that it gets used to you and its surroundings faster. That way, you can avoid making it aggressive as it grows older.

10. Cats

Many of us are either cat people or dog people. However, cats exhibit many of the qualities we love in dogs. Contrary to popular belief, cats are affectionate creatures too. They just aren’t too fussy about it, unlike dogs.

They love to be pet and cuddled with, but only for a few minutes at a time. Yes, there are cats that will ignore you most of the time when they grow older. To avoid this, you could simple get a cat breed that is known to be loving. Examples include the Maine Coon and the Ragdoll. These tend not to be very active.

If you want a super active breed that requires a lot of attention like a dog, you can get a Bengal or an Abyssinian. Siamese are also very active, but they ‘talk’ a lot, which you may or may not be okay with.

If you get a kitten, you can train it early on to do tricks in return for treats. Active breeds are great if you intend to train them, as other breeds won’t be as responsive to your efforts.

Syed Baseeruddin Hyder

I’ve been keeping fish and invertebrates in aquariums for over 5 years. Over the years, I’ve kept more than 15 different species of fish and invertebrates. Through ParadiseInATank.com, I hope to guide new and experienced fish keepers alike with as detailed information as I can get.

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