The 20 Least Expensive Pets to Own

The 20 Least Expensive Pets to Own
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Owning a pet can be one of life’s greatest joys and comforts but the cost of a furry companion can add up.

From the initial purchase to the cost of food, vet bills, grooming and the ongoing expense of care, having a pet often puts a dent in your personal finances.

But not always. Here’s a list of economically friendly pets that won’t break the bank.

Budgerigar

The domesticated Budgerigar is the most popular of all pet bird species, according to BirdLife International. This popular parrot makes a great choice for those who live in small spaces. However, the Budgerigar is a social bird and often requires company as well as a supply of new toys, branches, or other items to chew. Cages should be large and airy and owners should expect to put up with some noise.

Budgerigar
A Budgerigar perched on a branch in Queensland, Australia. This popular parrot makes a great choice for those who live in small spaces.
Tim Graham/Getty Images

Hermit Crab

Hermit crabs are a good choice for those who find themselves short on time to provide the care for a more high-maintenance pet. A hermit crab will need a 10 gallon tank filled with plenty of sand to burrow in and other items to provide stimulation such as tree branches.

Importantly, hermit crabs require a few different sized shells during their lifetime and enough sand to bury into when they molt, according to the Hermit Crab Association. Their tank should be equipped with a hygrometer to ensure adequate humidity levels of at least 75 percent. Temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees can be maintained using a tank heater or a heat lamp. Crabs are social creatures so it’s a good idea to keep more than one.

hermit crab
A white spotted hermit crab crawls along the sand.
Lillian SUWANRUMPHA/Getty Images

Axolotl

Although the axolotl is known as a ‘walking fish’, it is not a fish, but an amphibian. These strange-looking creatures are relatively inexpensive and can be maintained in an aquarium that does not require any heating or specific filtration.

axolotl
Although the axolotl is known as a ‘walking fish’, it is not a fish, but an amphibian.
CM Dixon/Getty Images

Pug

Although dogs are usually a lot more high-maintenance and costly than other pets, pugs are a fairly low-maintenance and economical choice. Their short, smooth, glossy coat needs minimal maintenance and their smaller size means they don’t require hours of walking a day, the American Kennel Club says.

Pug
A pug stands in the exhibition hall on the final day of the annual Crufts dog show in Birmingham, England.
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Ants

Although a slightly more niche option for insect enthusiasts, ants can be an intriguing pet to own. Ants live in colonies and setting up a colony enclosure, called a formicarium, is probably the most challenging part of ant ownership.

Pet ants can be kept in a simple glass test tube until the colony is big enough to be moved to an enclosure with a nest and an “outdoor” compartment where the ants can feed, keepinginsects.com advises. The glass test tube should be filled with sugar water capped with cotton wool. Behind this cotton will be the ant queen and her offspring.

When moved to a larger enclosure, ants require a nest area made of gypsum or concrete with tunnels in it, covered by a glass slate to keep the nest dark. Obtaining ants is as easy as buying an ant colony or a fertilized queen ant, or collecting one from nature.

Ant colony
A thriving ant colony seen inside a formicarium enclosure.
Roslan RAHMAN/Getty Images

Guinea pig

These small rodents typically live for five or six years and only require a cage, some bedding, food, and water. However, they are social animals are typically require the company of another guinea pig. They are also able to keep active on their own if provided with enough toys and other items for stimulation.

Guinea Pig
A Guinea Pig roams amongst the leaves at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis, Missouri.
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Scorpion

Not usually a typical choice for a household pet, the scorpion only grows three to eight inches long and lives anywhere from two to six years, making it a perfect choice for those with little space who don’t desire a furry companion.

Scorpions only need to be fed every other day, and their diet consists of insects like crickets, small mealworms, and wax worms.

According to the Entomologists’ Society, the main requirements these critters need are a secure enclosure that can be maintained at an appropriate humidity and temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

scorpion
A scorpion crawls along the ground at the Scorpion Kingdom laboratory and farm in Egypt’s Western Desert.
KHALED DESOUKI/Getty Images

Snake

Snakes probably are not the first animal that comes to mind when considering a pet but they are surprisingly easy to maintain and can make great companions, if not conversation-starters. Snakes species which are easy to own include the corn snake, California kingsnake, rosy boa, gopher snake, and ball python. The corn snake is fairly docile, only grows two to five feet in length and primarily eats small rodents.

corn snake
A corn snake is displayed in a vivarium in Sasali natural life park in Izmir. The corn snake is fairly docile, only grows two to five feet in length and primarily eats small rodents.
MUSTAFA OZER/Getty Images

Fish

Although some tropical fish can cost thousands of dollars, other less expensive options include the goldfish and betta fish. These fish will need a tank filled with water, fish pellets and decoration inside the tank.

Water should be changed every week or two. Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, should live alone and usually live for three to five years.

Goldfish
Goldfish swim in a tank as part of an art exhibition ‘Art Aquarium’ in Tokyo.
Yoshikazu TSUNO/Getty Images

Chickens

Provided you have a backyard and space for a coop, chickens are a surprisingly easy choice. Chickens are omnivores and eat anything from fruits, vegetables, grains and even food scraps. They also don’t mind being held and pet.

As a bonus, the average hen lays 276 eggs every year, according to a survey issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Chicken
Hens can provide a household with 250 fresh eggs every year and can live up to 10 years.
Tim Graham/Getty Images

Rat

A rat doesn’t seem like the most cuddly choice, but if handled from a young age they can make very affable companions. They require a wire cage, bedding, toys and eat a varied diet of fruit, vegetables and grains.

Rats
Rats require a wire cage, bedding and toys. They eat a varied diet of fruit, vegetables and grains.
Sanjay Kanojia/Getty Images

Leopard gecko

Unlike many other lizards and reptiles, the leopard gecko is a friendly and sociable choice for a pet. The little creatures need lighting in their enclosure, a moist shelter for shedding and a warm place to call home. Leopard geckos eat live insects and worms and only grow up 10 inches in length.

leopard gecko
The leopard gecko is a surprisingly friendly and sociable choice for a pet.
FRANCOIS GUILLOT/Getty Images

Hamster

Hamsters are small and low-maintenance and can entertain themselves with a wheel or other toys. However, they can be very active and are nocturnal.

Hamster
Hamsters are small and low-maintenance and can entertain themselves with a wheel or other toys.
FREDERICK FLORIN/Getty Images

Sea monkeys

For small children or those looking for a beginners pet, a pack of sea monkeys could be the perfect first pet. The small swimming critters are ideal for children who cannot take care for other live animals. They require hardly any maintenance, and only need to be fed growth food every five to seven days. Sea monkeys live up to two years and only need to be fed once a week.

British shorthair cat

Cats are certainly not the cheapest option but for those who love felines, the British Shorthair is a low-maintenance and cheaper alternative. Unlike dogs, you don’t need to worry about giving a cat lots of exercise and because they are so independent, cats can be left alone for extended periods of time provided they are left with food and water. Cats also groom and wash themselves and the British Shorthair is particularly easy as it has an undemanding personality, easygoing temperament and molts far less than other cats, Cattime.com recommends.

British Shorthair Cat
This British Shorthair Cat can groom and wash itself and moults far less than other cats.
MANAN VATSYAYANA/Getty Images

Pygmy goat

Pygmy goats are curious and love to explore, play and socialize. They can easily adapt to any environment but do need a yard. Goats are low maintenance and eat grass, hay, grain and pellet feed.

Pet goats require little to no grooming however they can be destructive to fences and gardens and can call loudly, which neighbours may find a nuisance, British animal charity the RSPCA warns.

goat
Pet goats can easily adapt to any environment but do need a yard.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hedgehog

Hedgehogs are very quiet and low-maintenance pets. These spiny little animals need to be fed and cared for in the evening hours so make the perfect companion for night owls. They require a cage with soft bedding.

But please note, it is illegal to own a hedgehog as a pet in some jurisdictions in the U.S. such as New York City.

Hedgehog
A Hedgehog is seen at the San Francisco Zoo. The small animals are very quiet and low-maintenance pets.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rescue greyhound

These lean dogs are low on grooming needs and don’t require an enormous amount of care and upkeep. Although they may be a larger dog, they are a low energy breed and don’t require excessive amounts of exercise or food requirements.

In fact, the American Kennel Club says the breed is “perfectly happy to lounge around the house all day”. Greyhounds can cost thousands of dollars to buy outright but many are now a popular rescue choice and can be adopted for free.

Greyhound
Greyhounds can cost thousands of dollars to buy outright but many are now a popular rescue choice and can be adopted for free.
Richard Stabler/Getty Images