Once you’re out in the real world paying bills, going on terrible dates, and generally realizing being an adult is overrated, having a loving pet to come home to can be a lifesaver. But they also require a lot of space and responsibility. If you’re not ready for a dog or cat but want the intellectual and emotional stimulation of something slightly more interesting than a plant, consider one of these idiot-proof companions to keep you company until your life becomes less pathetic. After all, who says you have to have a “real pet” just because you’re not 11?
#5. Betta Fish
The website BettaFishCaretaker.com calls this long-finned freshwater tropical fish “a pretty tough camper,” which means you could probably take your anger out on it and it would live, so you wouldn’t have to feel bad. And it would take a real idiot to kill a betta. Lots of kids take care of them with ease, so as an adult you got this shit on lock. If you can survive filing your taxes, getting in a fender bender, and voluntarily not using your ex’s HBO Go account, you can certainly keep this breed of fish alive as well as some snot-nose named Emma who just won one at the street fair near her dad’s new apartment.
Bettas are great pets for kids because they require very little to stay alive: You feed them once a day or so, you change the water when it gets brown, you try not to knock over the bowl while pulling a sweatshirt over your head that used to fit (how the fuck does someone get too fat for a sweatshirt?), and try not to drop its little scaly body on the dirty floor of your bathroom while changing its water.
OK, now you’re just doing it on purpose.
I do speak from experience: I myself am the proud owner of a betta. His name is Feesh, and he’s 4 years old and half blind, and a lot of the time I think he’s dead. So far, he is not dead. Plenty of sites will have you believe you need to change your betta’s water once a week, but as someone who’s let it get so bad that her roommate’s boyfriend once meekly asked, “Is he OK in there?” I know for a fact you can let that water sit for at least two months. After all, you live in the kind of squalor no expert would advise, so if you can live in a disgustingly dirty house, your fish can put up with it too.
Sometimes I show Feesh a little plastic dinosaur to make him mad (because it’s good to make your betta mad so they can stretch their gills). Since I started working from home, I upgraded his tank from a vase I found on the street to a 2.1 gallon tank from Petland Discounts. I also got him a bamboo stalk from the dollar store, and some colored rocks from the dollar store, and a loose marble I found on the shelf of the dollar store, because the dollar store is like Ikea for fish. Then I bought him a little hammock, because bettas, like depressed people, apparently love hammocks. Then I ordered small moss balls on Amazon called marimo that take nitrates out of the water. Then I went to my psychiatrist and he doubled my meds.
I’m doing well!!!!
While sometimes I feel like the only sad adult with a betta, I know for a fact they’re out there. Just today, I saw a woman walking down the street, holding a fishbowl with a betta in it. Instead of wondering what happened (“Did she just break up with a 9-year-old?”), I just thought, “There goes a depressed person.”
I feel you, sister.
#4. Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs seem like they’re only in the wheelhouse of overly excitable redheads in third grade who somehow try to deny wetting the bed at a sleepover even though, like, it’s pretty fucking obvious because their sleeping bag is soaking wet and reeks of piss. But guinea pigs are also excellent companions for people in their late 20s whose grandmothers have given up hope of surviving long enough to see them walk down the aisle.
Not only are guinea pigs, according to LoveThatPet.com, possibly “the gentlest of all pets,” they share your aversion to any physical activity, since “they should not use exercise wheels. Ever.” Wow, you guys both are harmed by the mere thought of breaking a sweat! Even though exercise would help you work off some rage, decrease your anxiety, release endorphins, and help you work on your negative body image, we both know that’s not happening anytime soon, so take a cue from guinea pigs and cancel your gym membership.
Then you might as well stop grooming, too.
Housed in hutches, they do smell like cedar, which will be nice at first — just like a cabin in the woods! — but over time, with the addition of gallons of urine and pounds of feces, the cage will start to smell mildewy and musty — just like a cabin in the woods! Your houseguests may notice the odor, but let’s be honest — when was the last time you had houseguests? What is this, Downton Abbey? Is “houseguests” even a word? You should consider a guinea pig if the closest you’ve had to houseguests in the past year was one of the following:
-someone else’s delivery pad Thai that you accepted anyway, then ignored the doorbell while eating it with your hands
-a Mormon missionary (who actually made some good points)
-a concerned neighbor asking if you are aware of the recent string of pad Thai thefts in the area
-your ex asking why you have so much pad Thai in your fridge
-your ex asking if you stole delivery again
-the police, with lots of questions
While many consider guinea pigs to be lesser than dogs or cats, it’s clear that they beat the competition hands-down when it comes to wearing costumes. Here’s just the first half of the first page of a Google Image search for “guinea pig costumes”:
How could you kill yourself when there’s this many guinea pig costume options?
And if you still really want a dog, you could always fake it:
Bonus: It looks like he’s skateboarding!
The one downside of guinea pigs is that they do best in pairs, which will only remind you of your low likelihood of finding a partner your age with a job without settling. Why should a guinea pig get a life mate if you can’t get that bartender-slash-SAT-tutor to call you back?
Also, I was holding my little cousins’ guinea pig when my other cousin announced she was engaged. Everyone was cheering and looking at her ring and cooing while I was holding a tiny furry jelly bean in the corner, saying, “He’s really affectionate.”
I stand by my choice 100 percent.
#3. Hermit Crabs
Hermit crabs are given to children as pets because of the typical child-pet characteristics: hardy, can defend self, has built-in protection, looks like shit, no one cares if die. They’re great for kids with weird allergies and/or moms who are not about to be vacuuming up to 15 years’ worth of fur from an animal that she never even wanted. They’re also great if you love insects but wish they were slightly more upsetting.
Plus, the FAQ section on Hermit-Crabs.com has some terrifying entries:
… who are “The Others”???
According to Hermit-Crabs.com, “Quite often I find about 20 hermies of my clan all piled on top each other, sleeping.” More helpfully, the site goes on to tell us one big bummer: “The name ‘hermit’ is misapplied to our little friends — they are quite gregarious and like to be around their own kind.” Ugh. Just another friend who’s all, like, “No, yeah, definitely come with me to this party; I don’t know anyone. We can hang out in the corner and talk shit all night,” and then you get there and that same goddamn friend spends the whole night talking to everyone, even that guy Chad who just sold his startup, and Chad is the worst. Fuck.
Hermit crabs would talk to Chad.
Still, they’re not half-bad pets for sad grown-ups. They will frequently tuck up into their shells, which you are known to do for days at a time. And trying to pull them out will make them pinch, just like when you tell your friends to stop trying to cheer you up and just let you be sad for a few years.
When you need a little change, you can paint on the little guy’s shell, just like how you get tattoos whenever you think you’ve figured out the key to fixing your life.
Who needs to leave the house to see a terrible movie when you can reenact it in your bedroom?
So, if you hide from other people while secretly longing to clamber on top of them, consider a hermit crab. I had a friend who had them and she’d put stick-on earrings on them, and now she’s getting married, so it’s worth a try.