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Home > General > 11 Most Popular Pets in South Africa in 2023 (With Pictures)

11 Most Popular Pets in South Africa in 2023 (With Pictures)

close up of a budgie

Pet ownership in South Africa is on the rise, with a significant increase in adoption after the lockdown. According to reports, at least 60% of South African households own at least one pet. Following the hard lockdown in March and April 2020, there was a significant increase in adoptions for dogs and cats, reptiles, birds, and fish.

Here are the most popular pets in South African households.


The 11 Most Popular Pets in South Africa

House Pets

1. Dogs

a german shepherd lying on table outdoor
Image Credit By: lancegfx, Pixabay

Globally, dogs are the most popular pet. South Africa has 9.1 million pet dogs, more than twice as many as Australia. Dogs were previously kept primarily for security or as guard dogs in South Africa, but in recent years, owners have begun to perceive them as “heart dogs.” With 1,2 million cases of house break-ins in 2019 and 2020, it’s no wonder guard dogs are a popular pet in South Africa due to the high crime rate.

Popular guard dog breeds include rottweilers and German shepherds. While large-breed dogs dominate the South African dog population, smaller dogs are becoming more popular as they are more affordable to feed and don’t require as much space.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is considered South Africa’s national dog and is the only officially recognized dog with its origin in South Africa.

2. Cats

Serengeti cat closeup
Image credit: LTim, Shutterstock

One of the reasons why so many people enjoy feline companionship is their adaptability. Cats make excellent pets whether you live in a large house or a small apartment. With the number of Ailurophiles (cat lovers) it’s no surprise that cats are a popular pet. They are great companions and are known to relieve stress and improve heart health. In fact, It has been scientifically proven that stroking a cat can lower one’s blood pressure. While South Africa is the second most stressed country in the world, cats make a great companion for South Africans.

Today, South Africa has approximately 2.4 million cats.

3. Fish

goldfish in aquarium
Image Credit: seaonweb, Shutterstock

Fish make excellent first pets for children. The goldfish, scientifically known as Carassius auratus, is arguably the most popular pet fish and was domesticated more than 2,000 years ago in China. A goldfish that can live for up to 30 years, making it one of the most long-lived pets available.

Compared to goldfish, Betta fish are much easier to care for. They are native to Southeast Asia and thrive in secluded areas. They only require small tanks and can live in stagnant water.

Koi fish are one of the most popular ornamental fish species in South Africa. They are kept for their beauty and are considered a luxury item. South Africa’s ornamental fish industry peaked in the late 1990s and has been declining since. This is due in part to the South African economy’s decline, and in part to the rise of the internet. The hobby of fish keeping has been replaced by an interest in social media and electronic devices, particularly among the youth.


4. Rodents

syrian hamster playing
Image Credit: _Johannes Menge, Shutterstock

Because they are easy to care for and extremely adorable, hamsters, guinea pigs, and gerbils make excellent family pets. Most of these animals thrive in small living spaces, and they are extremely easy to care for.

Unless you want a solitary animal like a hamster, try to find same-sex couples to keep your pet happy.. The Norwegian rat, guinea pigs, European rabbit, and house mouse were the most commonly traded small mammal species. Prices ranged from R9.00 to R12,000.00, with rodents being relatively inexpensive.

Domesticated rats make wonderful pets for both children and adults. They are highly intelligent (commonly used in intelligence and psychology research), clean, and sociable. They interact with their owners in the same way that dogs and cats do, and they can be trained.

Although rodents are nocturnal (they sleep during the day and are active at night), rats will quickly adjust their schedule and be ready to play when they arrive home from school or work. Pet rats and mice do not require vaccinations and do not carry any diseases. In South Africa, the  two common hamsters kept as pets are the dwarf and Syrian hamsters.

5. Budgies

yellow budgie on owners fingers
Image Credit: Mario Snchz, Shutterstock

One of the most popular pet bird species is the budgie. Although most people call them budgies, the correct term is parakeet. If properly tamed and cared for, budgies are extremely friendly and affectionate pets. They are not only small and easy to care for, but they also respond well to training and can learn a wide range of entertaining tricks.

They can learn to talk, and their cute and comical little voices will delight both children and adults. Males, in particular, are known to be excellent birds for first-time owners because they bond easily with their owners and are easy to train. The Budgie is the world’s cheapest talking parrot.

6. Horses

Belgian warmblood purebred horse
Image Credit: Lucia L, Shutterstock

With over one million in South Africa, most horses are beloved pets to South Africans. Several South Africans are able to stable and look after their horses on their own farms, and they are a popular pet for companionship, racing and riding.

Being around horses provides a peaceful state of mind because they are very calm. They teach us to slow down and appreciate what mother nature has provided us with, which many people take for granted. Horses can recognize human emotions, according to researchers in the field of equine studies. Like dogs, they provide comfort and become more playful if they notice you are sad or troubled.

Horses can be purchased for as little as R2,000.00 and as much as R200,000.00. The price is determined by the horse’s breeding, training, species, and level of competition.

leaves divider leaf Exotic Pets

Iguanas, geckos, chinchillas, African gray parrots, and non-venomous snakes are the top five most popular exotic pets in South Africa.

7. African Gray Parrot

African Gray Parrot_Tracy Starr_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Tracy Starr, Shutterstock

African Grays are among the most extensively researched pet bird species and have proven to be extremely intelligent animals. The highly intelligent African gray is widely regarded as the best talking bird, with some birds having vocabularies of hundreds of words. Despite the fact that the bird is not native to South Africa, it is by far the largest exporter. It is also frequently ranked as the best exotic pet in the country.

8. Snakes

Paradox ball python
Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

Owning a snake as a pet in South Africa is a popular choice. Most provinces require permits to keep local snakes, with the exception of KwaZulu-Natal, where most snakes, including those caught in the wild, can be kept without a permit. Only captive-bred snakes may be kept as pets in other provinces.

Brown house snakes make wonderful pets and typically grow to be at least 2 centimeters long. It is mandatory to install an enclosure with a minimum length of 5 millimeters and dimensions of 75 cm x 45-60 cm x 95 mm.

Ball pythons are very popular among pet owners. The snake’s adaptability to new environments and gentle nature makes it an excellent beginner snake. Depending on its size, a ball python will require varying levels of housing. It is critical to follow a few rules to ensure that your pet is not only healthy and attractive, but also active.

9. Iguanas

iguana on a carpeted floor
Image Credit: InWay, Pixabay

The green iguana is a popular pet lizard among South African reptile keepers. They are only found in Central and South America. Iguanas require a significant time commitment and a high level of care. They have strict feeding and housing requirements, can grow to be quite large, live for a long time, and are extremely strong. Captive iguanas must be picked up and held on a regular basis for taming purposes, so they can learn to trust you and feel safe in their surroundings. This can be difficult because they often find human contact unnatural and may resist it.

10. Gecko

Striped Leopard Gecko
Image Credit: Pepi M Firmansyah, Shutterstock

Geckos are primarily nocturnal and are common in coastal areas of the Western Cape, where they are frequently seen feeding on insects near outdoor lights. Leopard Geckos can be purchased from South African pet shops, reptile expos, and private breeders. Leopard geckos are easy to handle, and babies will hiss at you and occasionally bite your fingertips (just to tickle you). Babies quickly calm down and become a joy to handle.

11. Chinchilla

chinchilla eating inside cage
Image Credit: rossiaa33, Shutterstock

A chinchilla is a timid creature by nature, but with plenty of gentle handling, they make an excellent pet. They are popular pets, but they require specialized care to remain happy and healthy. Chinchillas are primarily nocturnal, but they become active in the evening and throughout the night. However, very young children and chinchillas aren’t always a good match because the animals are sensitive to rough handling and aren’t always good at sitting still to be petted.


Are Tigers Legal in South Africa?

South Africa has turned a blind eye to tiger farming despite welfare concerns, cruelty, illegality, and violations of conservation principles. According to the NSPCA, owning a pet tiger is legal in Gauteng, and animal welfare organizations have no recourse.

The price of a pet tiger varies greatly depending on where you live. A Bengal tiger, which can weigh up to 14 kilograms, is said to cost around R20 000 to own as an original. This is usually done by breeders, and it will not come from another country.

tiger cubs lying on grass
Image Credit: Pixabay



Like most countries, the most popular pets you can find in the home of a South African are dogs and cats. Large dogs are popular among South Africans, especially as guardians for homes in a country with a high crime rate. Pet companionship has also become more popular since the hard lockdown in March 2020. Exotic pets such as snakes, are allowed to be kept as pets too.

Featured Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

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