When you think of the quintessential pet animal, you will probably think of dogs or cats. But as we all know, dogs and cats took thousands of years of domesticating in order for them to take up their spots by humanity’s sides. So, one group of scientists decided to determine what animals are perhaps most naturally suited for human protection and companionship, and surprisingly, neither dogs nor cats are in the top 25.
Experts at Wageningen University in the Netherlands ranked 90 species by the following criteria: Biology, needs, danger to humans and well-being when kept in captivity. This way, they weren’t just measuring whether or not an animal could be kept as a pet, but rather how much they would benefit from being in a human home. Curiously, they chose to incorporate a lot of generally wild species into the list, which is how we get the screaming hairy armadillo, Bactrian camel, and red-necked wallaby as pet recommendations.
The top spot is taken not by a guinea pig or even a llama (both make showings), but instead by the sika deer, a type of deer native to East Asia and especially common in Japan. Japan as a country has a pretty large tame deer population; the city of Nara in particular is known for its large sika deer population, and having visited the spot before, I know first-hand how gentle and cute these deer are. (They also scream pretty loudly, but they can’t be louder than the screaming hairy armadillo.)
Check out the full list of “best pets” here. And of course: Science may tell us what the best of everything is, but that doesn’t take away from the animals who already have our hearts.