Types of Pets

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on November 08, 2021
4 min read

Many households have pets. Not only are they lovable additions to a family, but they can also be entertaining. Before choosing a pet, consider what pets you already have and what you want to get out of having a new pet.

There are hundreds of different animals kept as pets, from cats and dogs to fish and snakes. Some pet breeds you’ve probably heard of, while others are more mysterious. Learn more about the different types of pets you can adopt.

When you hear the word ‘pet,’ you probably think of cats and dogs. You may even consider birds and fish. More traditional pets are ones that have been domesticated to live as pets. They are usually bred in captivity and haven’t lived in the wild for generations. 

Over the course of history, pets were domesticated because of a few key factors:

  • They grow and mature quickly, making them efficient to raise
  • There are multiple periods of fertility within a year, making them efficient to breed
  • Plant-based diets make them easy to feed
  • They adapt easily to new environments and changes

Cats as pets. Cats are wonderful companions because of their easy-going nature and low maintenance care. Plus, they are playful and curious, so they can be very entertaining pets. 

Cats can be mixed-breed or purebred, and you can choose a cat based on its characteristics, behavior traits, and fur patterns. They can be trained to use a litter box inside.

Dogs as pets.  Dogs bond with their owners and make excellent companions. While they are more high-maintenance than cats, they are also easier to train in general.

Dogs don’t traditionally use litter boxes like cats do, so you’ll have to invest time in training your pet dog to use the bathroom outside. Be available over the course of your day to let your dog out for bathroom breaks and activity.

There is no definitive way to identify an animal as “exotic” when it comes to pets. Traditionally, exotic pets were considered wild animals taken into captivity. However, the definition has expanded to include any animal not bred to be domesticated and live in homes. 

Many states have laws outlining species considered to be exotic. Some breeds of pets are illegal to keep, so check your local and state laws before adopting an exotic animal. These laws are designed to protect exotic animals since they require specialized care. Some types of exotic pets include:

Amphibians. Species that make good pets include African Clawed Frogs, Dwarf Clawed Frogs, Fire Bellied Toads, and Northern Leopard Frogs.

Birds: Many birds like finches and cockatiels are domesticated, but others are considered exotic, including African greys, Amazons, Canary Wing Bee Bees, Cockatoos, and Lories. 

Insects and arachnids: Breeds most frequently adopted include hissing cockroaches, praying mantis, tarantulas, and scorpions. 

Reptiles: Species include Anoles, Bearded Dragons, Burmese Pythons, Ornate Box Turtles, and Chinese Water Dragons

Rodents: While some of these pets may seem to be common, they are still considered exotic. Many families adopt chinchillas, mice, gerbils, prairie dogs, ferrets, and rats.

Consider housing. Cats and dogs can roam freely, but fish and exotic pets require housing that looks and feels like their natural habitat. While some exotic pets, like ferrets, can roam free in your house like cats and dogs, others cannot. For example, reptiles carry diseases that are dangerous for humans, so they should be kept properly caged. 

If you have to purchase a cage or tank, think about how large your pet will grow and purchase a home that will meet his needs long-term. If you adopt more than one of the same animal, they may require a larger home to share or separate homes depending on the species.

Turtles and amphibians may need tanks that have both water and “land” to be completely fulfilled. Since reptiles are cold-blooded, you may have to invest in a UV light to help regulate body temperature.

Veterinary costs. Cats and dogs require regular examinations and vaccinations, and so do many exotic pets. All pets have specific needs, so don’t assume that small pets like fish are easier to care for. Do your research and find a veterinarian who specializes in the care of your particular pet. 

If you already have pets, talk to your veterinarian before adopting another one. Your vet can help you navigate local laws for exotic pets and ensure all your animals are compatible and will get along. They can also give you tips for introducing your new pet to the ones you already own.

Food: Pet food nutrition labels aren’t the same as those for human food but as with human, quality as better. Cats are meat eaters and need diets that are high in animal protein. Your dog must have water, protein, fat, carbs, and some vitamins and minerals to be healthy.  Other animals, like snakes, are carnivores and need to eat thawed, pre-killed rodents to meet their nutritional needs.

Some reptiles require a variety of fresh vegetation. You may be tempted to just give lettuce, but your pet will not get enough nutrients to thrive without variety.

No pets should be given human food unless it is cooked meat or fresh fruits and vegetables that are safe for your particular breed. Processed foods are highly dangerous to many species. Fresh water is an important requirement no matter what kind of pet you adopt. Always check with your vet for advice on what is best for your pet's nutritional needs.