YES, that is a bucket of rats at the top of this post. Why? Because rats are amazing, charming, funny, loving little pets and they look cute in buckets. Those rats are Lydia (sleek black girl at the top), Denny and Wickham (the two black and white boys below her), Baldrick (the naked one), Edmund (the huge black one), George (the fluffy white one) and Kitty (the little blonde head).
Sadly, rats have their downsides, just like any pet. One of them is that I really struggled with their care during bad flare-ups. That’s what I want to talk about today – which pets are good for people with endo, and which are a little harder?
This is not intended to be a round-up of every possible pet ever, and even within my list there is so much variation between breeds and between individual personalities that it may be completely inaccurate for some people.
I also note that there is always a financial burden and a responsibility to provide proper care, including vet care, when taking on any pet. The benefits of pet ownership are many, but it doesn’t come free.
I say all of the below with the massive caveat of adopt, don’t shop. There are so many animals out there in need of a good home. Shelters and rescues are overflowing. Support them to literally save lives.
Now, without further ado, I give you my three best and worst of common house pets for someone with endo.
Now, people may say I’m biased because I have a cat, but I also have a dog, several fish and have had a literal bucket of rats. I am biased towards all animals. I am an animal nut. That being said, cats are hands-down the winners for me in terms of the best pet for someone with endometriosis.
Cats are indisputably relaxed animals. They don’t need walking (although you can walk some cats). They don’t need their enclosure cleaning (just litter trays). Basically, all you need to do is feed them and socialise with them. They’ll do the rest.
Cleaning litter trays is relatively easy and something I can handle on even my worst days. You can even get biodegradable litter tray liners to make things easier.
Keeping my boy entertained is supremely easy – ten minutes with his Cat Dancer, which I can operate lying down on the sofa, and he is exhausted. Simplest toy ever, but he goes wild for it.
Now, as we know, not all cats are snugglebugs, but if you are fortunate enough to have one that is, you’ve just scored yourself a heatpack and TENS machine all in one. Seriously, Max purring whilst lying on my pelvis was what convinced me a TENS machine could help. Purring is also a very calming noise.
So, cats get a 10/10 for being about as low-maintenance as a pet can get whilst still providing furry warmth and extreme cuteness. Who comes second?
2) BETTA SPLENDENS, AKA SIAMESE FIGHTING FISH
Why am I being so specific? Why this fish and not any other? Well, bettas are capable of living in much smaller tanks than most fish and aren’t terribly dirty. They are also full of personality, relatively hardy and very attractive.
That being said, I just have to do a little myth-busting. Too often bettas are often advertised as being able to live in tiny containers, a litre or less. These gimmicky tanks rarely have any room for filtration or heating. It’s all done on the basis that bettas live in tiny, stagnant pools in their native waterways of Thailand.
None of this is really true. Yes, bettas can live in tiny, filthy pools due to their clever labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe air from the surface. However, they don’t like to live there and will only do so if they become trapped as the waters in larger water bodies recede. You are more likely to find wild bettas in small, still pools, or carving out their own territory in larger water bodies like rice paddies. Importantly, all of these water bodies are warm, because Thailand is a tropical country, and bettas are tropical fish.
Ideally, bettas should be kept alone in tanks of about 20 litres, with a heater set to around 27C, and a gentle filter. They should have plants or decorations (nothing with rough surfaces) to hide in and interact with. They can live happily in much bigger tanks (I’ve kept them in 90 litres with no problems), but those generally require a greater weight of water to be removed. Smaller tanks (no smaller than 10 litres, I beg you) require far more frequent water changes.
Bettas in warm, well-sized, interesting tanks will be happier, more active, and live longer, healthier lives, making their time with you much more rewarding for both you and the fish.
If properly cared for, bettas are relatively low maintenance. You only need to feed them twice daily and change around 5 litres out of their tank per week. That’s five kilos. If you can’t manage that weight all at once, you can break it down to 2.5 litres twice a week, or 2 litres three times as week. You could even do a litre a day, but that’s not fun for you and more stressful for the fish.
I rate bettas an 8/10 for low maintenance, whilst still giving you a sassy attitude and a beautiful face.
Mice rank number three for me on low-maintenance pets. Really, I’m only putting them below bettas because they smell worse and you tend to see more of your betta. Mice spend a lot of time snoozing.
Male mice are best kept alone, unless two males are raised together, but females are generally fine in groups. Obviously never mix the genders because you will end up with hundreds of mouselets in a very short time.
Now, why have I chosen mice over rats as better pets for someone with endo? Rats are larger, so they are easier to hold, generally less zippy, far more cuddly and very friendly. Mice are generally happy to sit on your hand, where they will immediately poop, but don’t really interact with humans in the same friendly way rats do. It’s like we are too big for them to properly understand.
Well, size really is part of it. Even two rats require a pretty large cage, because they love to climb and explore (sometimes). Mice do too, but they are so tiny that they can do it in a fraction of the space without being bored. My rat cage stands as tall as I do and twice as wide. My mouse cage I could carry easily in my arms.
Bigger cages require more cleaning. They take more bedding, and although rats can be litter trained, mine only really figured it out in relation to Number Twos. They’d still urinate on everything, then sleep in it. In the end they really needed a light clean daily, and a thorough clean weekly.
My mouse, on the other hand, although he tended to poo everywhere (including his food bowl), required only a weekly cleaning, which involved dumping out his dirty bedding, giving everything a little wipe, and sticking clean stuff back in. Nothing was heavy and I could put the cage on the floor and clean it sitting down. Much easier than the rats.
Overall, I give mice a 7/10 for being very cute and low-maintenance, even if they aren’t hugely bothered about interacting with people unless there is food involved.
So, that’s my round-up of the best pets for endometriosis. I’d probably rank small snakes and lizards next in line, as the physical demands of cleaning their enclosures aren’t too bad and they don’t mind terribly interacting with you. Depending on the species, some birds may be even better, as their demands can be quite small, but they can be charming and highly interactive pets. Larger and more destructive species may be harder to care for. Guinea pigs and rabbits take a little more physical effort, in my experience, but may be more interested in a cuddle (just watch out for rabbit feet kicking at tender tummies).
But who are my three worst pet for someone struggling with chronic pain? In reverse order, I give you…
Now, I don’t mean to imply dogs are bad pets. They are amazing. I love my little corgi very dearly, and I am literally incapable of passing a dog in the street without smiling at it. However, for someone struggling with a flare-up, dogs aren’t the easiest pets to care for.
Dogs need walks. Unless you have managed to find a dog with no legs, you are almost certainly going to need to exercise it at some point. Some breeds, like greyhounds, will be pretty happy with a gentle 20-minute walk each day. Others, like border collies, need a 20-mile run before breakfast and then a walk, some time chasing a ball, and preferably an afternoon of herding sheep, if you have any available. Ultimately, if you have a flare-up that goes on for a week and is so bad you can barely sit up, your dog is going to miss out on exercise it badly needs. Apart from being bad for your dog’s physical health, it may also lead to destructive behaviours brought on my sheer boredom.
If you are considering a dog, think about one that doesn’t need strenuous exercise. Don’t be deceived by size – many smaller breeds actually have higher exercise requirements than some of their larger cousins. I am a great advocate for greyhounds, because, as stated above, they are very lazy, they are generally gentle, they are funny and silly with hilarious long legs and snoots, and there are always greyhounds who need rescuing. Also consider older dogs, who don’t need to gallop around like puppies any more and are happy to plod at a more sedate, endo-friendly pace.
“Goldfish?” I hear you think. “But surely they’re like bettas and don’t take much looking after.” Not so, friend.
I blame petshops for this. They market goldfish as these incredibly low-maintenance, hardy fish, which leads to thousands of goldies being sold and then being killed very quickly by misinformation and inexperience.
Goldfish are generally hardy, and they don’t require heaters like tropical fish. However, they create truckloads of waste and dirty their waters extremely quickly, even with a filter. No doubt you’ve heard the story that goldfish only grow to the size of their tank? That’s not true, and when it is it is because their growth is being stunted by dirty water. (And I’m not talking visible dirt, I’m talking ammonia, which is the invisible but poisonous by-product of fish waste and decaying food).
Your average comet goldfish – the plain ones without the fancy tails – can grow over a foot in length and live thirty years, given proper care and the right environment. Fancy goldfish, such as fantails, bubbleheads, ryukins and black moores, can grow to 15 or 20 cm and live as many years. My sister’s foot-long goldfish recently died after something like thirteen years with us. He started out in a tiny tank because we bought into the petshop nonsense, but ended his days in a large pond with friends.
In my view, not giving a fish the care it requires is animal abuse just as if you failed to provide adequate care for a dog or cat. Therefore, I can’t possibly recommend goldfish to someone with endometriosis, because the tanks required to properly house these potentially massive fish are correspondingly large, particularly when you take into account that goldfish love company and thrive in groups. For three comets, you’re looking at hundreds of litres, with frequent water changes toting around large amounts of water.
However, if you have a pond that is sufficiently large, hardy goldies like comets and shubunkins make their way off my worst-pet list, as ponds are far more low-maintenance than tanks. Seasonal cleaning is generally enough, so it can be worked in between flares.
And that leaves our number one spot open for….
I know most people are not considering horses as pets. However, I also know that they are the dream pets of many, having shared that dream myself. But horses are easily the most expensive critters on this list and require by far the most physical care.
Horses need exercise. If they live in a stable rather than a paddock, that means exercising them yourself through riding or lunging. If you ride, you need to care for the tack, which is heavy. You also need to muck out the stable, which is very physical work.
Even if your horse is a free-spirited paddock dweller, you still have a lot of physical work to do. You have to hike the food and water out there, groom your horse, clean their hooves, check their teeth, eyes and feet for injury or irritation, and spend time bonding with them. Now, if you agist (board, for non-horsey people) your horse somewhere, you can pay staff there to do the hauling of feed and water, but a) that costs heaps of money, which too many people with endo do not have, and b) that doesn’t negate the need for you to physically spend time with your horse.
Don’t get me wrong, I love horses, but unless you are super rich, they are going to be a very hard pet for someone with endometriosis to cope with.
That summarises my list of the three pets I would consider first, and the three that I think come with a whole lot of warning labels for anyone dealing with endometriosis. Do you agree? Any you think are better or worse? What have your personal experiences been with pets and your illness? Let me know in the comments.