Pets are more than just adorable. They help their owners feel better, stay healthier, and, in some cases, live longer.

And while pet owners would be loathe to rate their animals in order of quality, scientists have no qualms about doing so.

A group of researchers out of Wageningen University recently ranked 90 different species in terms of their suitability as pets. They used criteria such as the animal's danger to humans, its needs, its well-being when kept in captivity, and its biology. The framework they used was also curated by gleaning information from a variety of different encyclopedias on short phrases that best describe each animal.

Who, according to research, makes the best pet? Shockingly, it's neither a dog nor a cat--in fact, neither canines nor felines even made the list. It's not even hamsters (though those do make the list).

The number one spot is taken by ... the Sika deer.

Why, you ask? Well, presumably because in addition to posing very little threat to humans, the Sika deer (also known as the spotted deer or Japanese deer) does well in captivity, and rates rather low on its scale of needs (i.e. it doesn't treat you like the devil when you try to put it in a carrying case). 

The researchers, all animal welfare experts, ultimately hope the new framework will be utilized to better grasp the impact of keeping wild animals in captivity.

Here's the complete list:

1. Sika deer
2. Agile wallaby
3. Tammar wallaby
4. Llama
5. Asian palm civet
6. Himalayan striped squirrel
7. Common Yellow-toothed Cavy
8. Golden spiny mouse
9. Common wallaroo (one wonders what distinguishes a common one from an uncommon one)
10. Arabian Spiny Mouse
11. Swamp wallaby
12. Bactrian camel
13. Brazilian Guinea Pig
14. Chacoan mara
15. Red-necked wallaby
16. African pygmy mouse
17. Fat-tailed gerbil
18. Finlayson's Squirrel
19. Günther's vole
20. Tricolored squirrel
21. Desert hamster
22. Campbell's dwarf hamster
23. Tayra
24. White-nosed coati
25. Screaming Hairy Armadillo

In one of those puzzling turns that certain research studies can take, the list doesn't appear to take into consideration the practicality of actually owning the creatures. One need look no further than numbers 4 and 12 to grasp the complications of caring for such a pet (especially if you live in an apartment).

Still, there's a certain logic to placing value on domesticated animals that don't need to be walked constantly, and are very safe to be around humans of all ages (i.e. won't ever bite or scratch the toddler).

So this holiday season, instead of wrapping up a button-nosed kitten or precious puppy in a box with a bow, consider getting your child a swamp wallaby, fat-tailed gerbil, or screaming hairy armadillo.

It's sure to delight.