I’m a total nerd when it comes to unusual animals. One of my favorite sites to check out is The Featured Creature- a photo blog of the world’s whacky and wonderful critters, some of them in unfortunate circumstances. It’s not unheard of for animals to be endangered because of humans, whether it be the recent shark cull in Australia, hunting the Tasmanian Tiger into extinction in the early 1900’s, or some idiot deciding to keep a zoo in his home in Ohio only to kill himself (not before “liberating” the animals of their cages) and subsequently leading to the death of eighteen Bengal tigers, seventeen lions, six black bears, two grizzlies, and a baboon. That idiot, Terry Thompson, unfortunately isn’t an isolated case. Sure, not many people decide to free the beasts and off themselves, but keeping these kinds of animals in improper conditions (pretty much anything other than the wild or maybe a nice zoo) leads to pain and suffering on behalf of the animals and possible pain and suffering for their “care” takers, as well.
I’m not here to tell you you shouldn’t get an exotic pet; there’s plenty of types of animals that are unusual enough to make any passerby gasp that don’t simultaneously make you an awful person for trying to own. Some of these might come with legal restrictions, so make sure you check locally, especially in regards to shipping across state lines and making sure they don’t escape. Here’s eight of my personal favorites:
Yep, you heard me. They’re not just for rolling in the mud on farms these days. Pigs are quickly becoming very popular house pets, acclaimed as being very intelligent as social, playful, surprisingly clean and affectionate, able to be housetrained and who get along well with other animals, especially dogs.
Things to look out for: There are some pigs being advertised as “micro mini,” pigs who stay the size of small piglets. While there are certainly some pigs that stay that small, there is no guarantee they will (even if the breeder says it is and you’re paying $3,000 for it so why would they lie to you?!). Many micro mini pigs can grow to the size of a medium or even large dog, so if you aren’t prepared for the chance that might happen, a piggy sadly might not be for you.
You may have actually seen one of these guys at a pet store, or you may have unfortunately seen one at a coat store… They’re sought after for jackets and gloves but trust me, it’s much better when it’s attached to a real live critter. Chinchillas are soft, can be very goofy and acrobatic and can make for good companions. I have one myself! They require a good sized cage but otherwise don’t take up much room, they are generally fairly quiet and if you get them young enough and socialize them properly can be very fond of human touch.
Things to look out for: Man, these guys are messy! While they can (and usually will) be trained to urinate in a litter box, they have no control of their feces. The good news is that their excrement is small, dry and odorless and super easy to sweep up with a broom or vacuum. Chinchillas are also nocturnal meaning they sleep during the day and do their thing at night so if you’re a light sleeper, he may have to be kept in a room that isn’t meant for dozing. Their teeth constantly grow so if you don’t provide them with enough to chew on it can lead to many medical problems (or some chewed up furniture). And finally, when most people think of rodents, they think short-lived hamsters, gerbils, and mice, but chinchillas can live up to twenty years. They’re a huge commitment but well worth it.
3. Munchkin Cat
Thinking about getting into exotic animals but need a slower approach? Why not start with a cat? You’re right, that doesn’t sound too exotic, but what if I told you it looked like a cat mixed with a dachshund?! Now we’re talking! These shorties have recently come into the limelight on Vine with a little munchkin named Yoda. From what I’ve heard, their height doesn’t inhibit them much (perhaps when it comes to jumping up on high places) and it doesn’t pose any more health problems than your “normal” housecat.
Things to look out for: You’ll most definitely have to get one of these from a breeder since there won’t be any showing up in shelters or in rescues, and you might have to dish out the bucks for one since they’re pretty hard to come by. You’ll also have to take into account shipping and vet bills like any other cat.
4. Fennec Fox
My ex-boyfriend first introduced me to the fennec fox and I was smitten. Picture a cute little blonde chihua but quadruple size his ears and you have a fennec fox. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle up to one of these dudes, especially a puppy?
Things to look out for: These guys love to dig and as such have a habit of escaping outdoor enclosures. You’ll have to make sure these guys can’t get out and you might have to jump through hoops to make sure you have your fox secure. Also, they don’t bark. I’m not sure how to describe some of the noises they make other than screeching and blood-curdling screams. So, these aren’t the dudes for you if you live in an apartment or have neighbors that can… hear.
You’ve probably seen these guys and perhaps forgot about them since they’re still not too common as pets and you rarely see them in stores. It’s an adorable bundle of cute with a button nose and dark glossy eyes and a PILE OF SCISSORS COVERING THEIR ENTIRE BACK. No worries though, you can pet their quills if you do it the right way and they only release them (kinda like a porcupine) if they feel threatened. There are commercial blends to feed them or you can also feed them a mix of high quality cat food.
Things to look out for: You’ll probably have to get one of these from a breeder, but in some states it’s illegal to ship or own them, so you might have to take some extra steps to procure one. It also might be difficult to find a vet in your area with experience and expertise when it comes to hedgies.
You heard me right. Jellyfish! Moon jellies are actually overpopulated right now since they’re the choice food of sea turtles whose presence is missing in the deep blue these days. These moon jellies have been washing up on beaches, clogging waterways and wreaking all sorts of havoc. (I’m sure they don’t mean it, though!) The best part is that they can’t sting humans since their venom doesn’t affect us.
There was a super cool dude who started a Kickstarter campaign to produce and sell jellyfish setups. It ended up being a huge hit and now he has his very own dedicated website- Jellyfish Art. You can buy the tank and moon jellies and have them delivered right to your door and damn are they beautiful!
Things to look our for: Jellyfish can be extremely fragile- they’re very sensitive to temperature and dirty water so require careful maintenance and cleaning. They also can’t be put in just any tank. They can get themselves stuck in corners of rectangle and square fish tanks so really, your best bet is to dish out the money for the tanks that are jellyfish tested and approved.
7. Octopus and Cuttlefish
I know, the list keeps getting weirder and weirder. There’s actually a fair number of people who keep octopuses (octopi?) as pets, all of them probably insane, so if you’re crazy enough you should totally go for it. I’m mostly kidding. They claim that an octopus can be very inquisitive and have a lot of personality, some even playing with toys. Plus, there’s a lot of different breeds to choose from and only a few breeds are endangered (please don’t get those ones!) Similarly there’s their cousin the cuttlefish, also super weird looking but enthusiasts go crazy for them.
Things to look out for: If you keep one of these, you can only keep one in a tank and with no other fish or invertebrates because it will definitely get eaten. Also, octopus can be quite the escape artists, many being able to break out of very small spaces and can get surprisingly far! You’ll require a whole hell of a lot of duct tape for these suckers. It’ll probably be hard to find an octopus, and they’re not cheap. On top of that, they don’t live a very long time. For most species you’ll be looking at 1-2 years, and for the cute pygmy octopus, maybe 6 months.
8. Praying Mantis
You may have seen these guys in your back yard and what a treat that was! But did you know that praying mantises come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colors? Seriously, I’ve been obsessed with these guys for a long time and will have to get one eventually once I figure out which kind I want. There’s so many cool ones to choose from like the beautiful pink or white orchid mantis, the very alien violin mantis, or the super sneaky ghost mantis. There’s so many more kinds to choose from, all very distinct and super duper strange looking. Most also don’t seem to mind having a human companion; many like to explore their people and their surroundings but also don’t mind just being looked at. Most eat relatively common insects, like flightless fruit flies which can be picked up for $10 at Petco, or crickets which you can get at your standard pet store.
Things to look out for: It’s pretty much illegal in all states to let any mantis that isn’t the common mantis you could ind in your yard to go outside, so don’t even think about it. They don’t live very long, most having a life span of anywhere from 6 to 18 months. For most species you can only keep one at a time or risk them cannibalising each other. So far the only one I’ve discovered is the ghost mantis if they have enough room, and once they’re full-grown you might have to split them up.
Well, there you have it. Exotic animals you can keep legally while still having a clear conscious. Please remember to thoroughly investigate any species you decide to get and make sure you can devote the time, money, and patience and commit to giving your pet the loving home it deserves.