What Small-Animal Pet Is Most Popular in Each State?

Written by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance -

  • TrustedHousesitters analyzed more than 3.5 million posts made on social media to reveal the most talked-about pets in the U.S.
  • Hedgehogs, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters and mice all ranked near the top as the most-loved small-animal pets
  • If you’re considering a ferret, rabbit, hedgehog or other small animal as a pet, please do not buy one from a pet store, as you’ll likely be supporting “ferret mills” or “rabbit mills,” which are the equivalent of puppy mills; adopt one from a rescue organization instead

Cats and dogs are by far the most popular pets in the U.S., but they’re not the only ones. There are hamsters and hedgehogs, rabbits and ferrets, and a host of other wonderful creatures bringing daily joy to pet-loving Americans.

What’s more, the popularity of different pets varies by state, according to a recent study by TrustedHousesitters.1 They analyzed more than 3.5 million posts made on social media to reveal the most talked-about pets in the U.S., according to state. If you’re wondering which pet is most popular where you live, aside from the usual cats and dogs (and assuming you live in the U.S.), this is the time to find out!

Most Talked-About Small Animal Pets by US State — Cats and Dogs Excluded

The study broke down talked-about pets into multiple categories: dogs, cats, small animals, reptiles and “everything else.” Here we’ve focused on the most popular small animal pets in each state.2

Hedgehogs

Most popular in: Alabama, Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Wyoming

Hedgehogs are small, quill-covered animals native to Europe, Africa and Asia, but in the U.S., their popularity is growing as pets. African pygmy hedgehogs (a descriptive name, not a true species) are the domesticated type kept as pets. While undoubtedly adorable and curious creatures, hedgehogs are nocturnal (so they are noisy at night) and can easily become overweight when kept in captivity.

Many pet owners are unaware that they require regular exercise (including an exercise wheel) and supervised time outside of their cage for mental and physical health. Further, hedgies can and do bite, especially if not well-socialized or if startled or frightened.

These pets are illegal in some cities and states, so know the laws in your area before moving forward. If you decide a hedgehog is right for your family, avoid purchasing one via the exotic pet trade, which may capture animals from the wild, and adopt a domesticated hedgehog from a rescue organization instead.

Ferrets

Most popular in: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin

Ferrets can be affectionate and entertaining pets, but, like hedgies, are not legal in all states and cities. They also have a love of chewing everything and anything. In fact, I’ve removed plenty of foreign objects from the bellies of ferrets, including pencil erasers — swallowed by three different ferrets in one week.

To prevent ferrets and other small pets from ingesting something that could cause an intestinal blockage, be sure to supervise them closely when they're out of their cage and provide suitable chewing options to satisfy this natural urge. Ferrets also require multiple-level houses that allow them to run, tunnel and hide (look for cages exclusively designed for ferrets), as well as a meat-based diet and lots of time outside of their cage.

Rabbits

Most popular in: Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas

There are more than 3 million pet rabbits in the U.S.,3 which require special care, including a species-appropriate diet of fresh hay and vegetables and treats such as apples, raspberries, bananas, pineapples and strawberries. Rabbits should be kept indoors, as they’re sensitive to extreme weather and temperatures.

While a large cage is required, rabbits still need plenty of time to roam around outside of the cage in a bunny-proofed area. Rabbits (like guinea pigs, chinchillas and rodents) have teeth that keep growing, so it's natural for them to chew objects to help grind down their teeth.

So be sure your rabbit doesn’t have access to dangerous items like electrical cords or children’s toys. The key is to provide safe objects for your bunny to chew, including wooden chew toys. There are many rabbits looking for homes at rescue organizations across the U.S.

Hamsters

Most popular in: Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia

Syrian hamsters (the most popular type for pets) are solitary and must live alone (one hamster only per cage). They grow to about 6 inches in length and have an average lifespan of 1.5 to 2 years. In addition to the “basics” — food, water, a wheel for running — hamsters will enjoy a place to hide, burrow and sleep inside their enclosure, so be sure to put a small box with an entrance hole or a small flower pot in the cage.

Hamsters also like to crawl through tunnels, which you can easily make at home out of cardboard toilet paper or paper towel tubes. Cage enrichment items, such as hammocks, ledges and chew toys, should be considered essential as well, as they’ve been shown to make your hamster happier.

Mice

Most popular in: New Jersey

Mice are nocturnal, social creatures that do best in pairs or more (but be sure to keep same-sex pairs). They enjoy cages with several levels and “furniture” to mimic surroundings similar to the burrows where their wild counterparts live. This will cater to their nesting instinct, and they enjoy nesting materials made up of long strips of paper or cloth along with opaque or semi-opaque nest-boxes.4

If you’re considering a ferret, rabbit, hedgehog or other small animal as a pet, please do not buy one from a pet store, as you’ll likely be supporting “ferret mills” or “rabbit mills,” which are the equivalent of puppy mills. Adopt one from a rescue organization instead.

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