Hmmm,I would suggest mice or maybe a gerbil if you are looking to go the "smaller" route.Normally I suggest rats,because they make some of the best pets when it comes to rodents.
A pair of female mice are easy to care for,active & entertaining,not expensive and with handling/taming can be quite friendly. Female mice need to be in pairs/groups. But if you get a male,they need to be kept separate. However males stink really bad.
Gerbils can be high strung,but I hear they make great little pets. I only ever had ONE gerbil several years ago and I couldn't pick her up. Gerbils should be kept in same sex pairs though.
I have a Syrian hamster now,but I cannot handle him. He is friendly and will sit in my hand if I keep it in his cage,but the moment I try and pick him up,he jumps out of my hand. I find most hamsters don't bond with their owners very well either and seem to only want food and they do their own thing or they are super grumpy and bite. It can go either way I suppose. And then I hear about hamsters who do seem to bond with their owners (I never had a hamster that bonded) and are very sweet.
It comes down to the animal's individual personality I believe. Whatever route you choose,make sure you research to make sure the animal is right for you (or your girlfriend). Good luck!
* Lisa *
* To the world you are ONE person,but to a rat you are the world *
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* It's a rat thing...you wouldn't understand! *