When considering a new pet, some of the first questions future pet-parents ask themselves include, “Is it friendly to children?” or “How much does it cost?” but some of the most important questions are around the pet’s maintenance.

How resilient are they to health problems? How much time are you willing to put into grooming? Are you willing to spend additional money on a specialised diet? Will you be able to love and care for them if they live for 30 years?

Across all species, there are lower and higher maintenance pets for a variety of reasons. Neither is better than another; it all comes down to your lifestyle and ability to care for them. Read on to see what some of the highest maintenance pets are!


At first glance, the Sphynx might look like a low maintenance cat. After all, you don’t need to brush a cat that doesn’t have any fur. But that’s where the maintenance comes in – and make no mistake, these are one of the most high-maintenance cats you can own!

Normally, a cat’s fur would pull the oil from their skin but without fur, the Sphynx becomes oily and requires a weekly bath. Because of their oil production, the Sphynx – just like a hormonal teenager – may develop blackheads and acne, which will require an antibacterial soap prescribed by your vet. Along with this, you’ll need to clean the crevices in their ears, necks, legs, and wrinkles regularly.

Seasons are also troublesome for these birthday-suited beauties: in winter, they’ll need to wear a jersey to keep them warm and in summer, you’ll need to apply pet-friendly sunscreen.

More high-maintenance cats: Persians, Maine Coons and Himalayans due to their long fur; Bengals because of their high exercise needs; Munchkins and Manxes due to genetic health problems.


Dogs can be high maintenance for a variety of reasons: high exercise needs, a need for mental stimulation, stubbornness/difficulty in training and of course, their coats.

Border Collies are known as one of the highest maintenance dog breeds due to their intelligence and high exercise needs. Developed to control sheep, they’re genetically predisposed to having enough space to run around all day and are regular champions at dog intelligence competitions, so this isn’t a pup that will be happy to laze about on the couch all day.

Without enough mental and physical stimulation, they may become destructive, withdrawn, depressed, or bark excessively.

More high-maintenance dogs: Akitas, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers need an assertive and experienced owner; Australian Shepherds, Vizslas and Beagles because of their high exercise needs; Bulldogs, Pugs and Basset Hounds for genetic health problems.


The maintenance that comes with birds has a lot to do with their size and habitat – it’s only natural that a large bird who requires a lot of space will come with more maintenance as they’ll need a larger enclosure, more food, and more clean-up will be required of you.

Cockatiels and Budgies are some of the easiest birds to care for, while Macaws are some of the hardest. A Macaw will need a large enclosure – large enough that its long tail doesn’t touch the bottom – and more fat in its diet than other birds.

Macaws are intelligent with stubborn and playful personalities, so if you aren’t prepared to put in time socialising them and ensuring they have a range of activities for entertainment, they can become depressed or aggressive.

Remember, Macaws also have a booming ‘voice’, so while they may be suited to a freestanding house, your neighbours in your city apartment complex may not appreciate your new friend.

Other high-maintenance birds: Indian Ring-Necked Parakeets are sensitive and need lots of playtime out of their cage – they also live up to 30 years; African Greys need at least 2 hours of vigorous exercise out of their cages each day and like a routine schedule; Crimson Rosellas tend to be nippy (not ideal for families with kids!) and are stubborn to tame.


Fish have gotten a reputation as low-maintenance pets (how many movies show children winning a goldfish at the funfair?) but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. While fish are less expensive and require less time and energy than other pets, they can be some of the most high-maintenance pets you can have!

Aquariums require regular testing and cleaning, fish need to be acclimatised when they’re brought home and most require multiple, short feeding sessions per day to prevent overfeeding. Because a fish tank is a self-contained eco-system, you’ll also need to pay close attention to the fauna and flora you bring in to keep a healthy balance.

Due to load shedding, keeping a tank temperature-controlled (as some fish need) can be tricky and may require you to invest in a UPS. That’s right – instead of making yourself a cup of tea or having WiFi during load shedding, your power source will go towards keeping your fish safe.

High-maintenance fish: Bala sharks can grow up to 30cm and need a tank of at least 400L, something pet shops often don’t tell new owners; Puffer fish are messy eaters (more cleaning for you!) and won’t tolerate any tankmates; Guppies are highly vulnerable to disease; Goldfish need much more space than a standard fishbowl can provide.

No matter what kind of pet you have, our plans are perfectly suited to take care of your new family member! As the first insurer in SA to cover exotic pets, we know exactly what your fish, bird, or reptile needs to live a long and happy life. Get a quote in under 3 minutes here!