If your family is looking to bring an animal friend into the home, try something more low-maintenance than a dog or cat. These three options are fun, interactive, and a little easier to handle.



Budgies are a smaller, more manageable type of parakeet. They will perch on your finger and mimic words! Their waste dries quickly and doesn’t smell much, so you can get away with aweekly cage-cleaning routine. These birds do require at least an hour’s worth of interaction per day, or you can bring home a second budgie, so they get their fill of socialization.
Life span: 5 to 15 years.

Start-up costs: Budgies begin at about $20, and a good-size birdcage and basic supplies will add up to around $60.


Guinea Pigs

These cute and cuddly critters are great for kids. Many other pet rodents are nocturnal, which means that they sleep during prime human playtime. Guinea pigs, however, are nappers, so they’re usually up for a visit when your kids are. And unlike hamsters, guinea pigs don’t tend to bite or require an exercise wheel that will squeak through the night.

You’ll need at least four square feet of cage per animal.

Life span: 4 to 6 years.

Start-up costs: Guinea pigs begin at about $30. A suitable cage and gear can run $50 and up.


Leopard geckos

These smaller reptiles don’t grow longer than 7 to 10 inches, unlike other lizards and turtles. Leopard geckos eat live crickets and mealworms (available at pet stores); the worms can be bought in bulk and kept in the refrigerator for weeks. To stay healthy, these guys need a heater under the tank, along with a humid shelter, such as a plastic hideout (available at pet stores) filled with damp mulch.

Life span: 10 to 20 years.

Start-up costs: Baby lizards begin at about $30; plan to spend $200 or so on a habitat.