Most of us realize that animals like tigers, chimpanzees, and crocodiles are not ideal house pets. If not, have a listen at this 911 call made by a chimpanzee owner after her pet savagely attacked and ripped off her friend’s face:
But not all “exotic pets” are dangerous. In fact, to me, there’s a fine line between an “exotic pet” and a “wild animal.” Are you looking for a safe pet, but don’t want to settle for an ordinary cat or dog? You’re in luck, because we live in a world where you can be the proud owner of a…
I will start this list on the less extreme end, beginning with a creature that is less “exotic” and more “huh, interesting.” Descended from the European polecat, this adorable weasel became the companion of every cool kid during the ’80s. Nowadays, they are so common that some may even argue that they no longer qualify as “exotic.” Many people are in love with these cute and inquisitive animals, but ferrets are not for everyone. They need at least four hours a day out of their cages, although ferrets love to sleep-up to twenty hours a day! This is because of the ferret’s high metabolism; they need to conserve energy. It’s best to give them about four small meals every day. They are known for carrying a musky odor, so are not necessarily a pet for the squeamish, or for someone with a sensitive nose. Like their wild weasel ancestors, ferrets have a gland around the anus that produces a foul odor, and although this gland can be removed, they will still produce a natural smell from glands on their heads, and from their waste products–especially if you don’t keep the environment clean! Bathing the animal to reduce the scent actually does more harm than good, stripping away the oils in the ferret’s coat and prompting the animal to produce more smell. In spite of this, ferrets are popular because of their playful, energetic nature that makes people laugh, and they can form close bonds with their owners. It’s worth mentioning that you should check your local laws before you decide to welcome a ferret into your home, because they are illegal in many states of the US, as well as in many cities, and in some places, it’s necessary to acquire a license before owning one. I will always recommend spaying and neutering your pets if you aren’t using them for breeding purposes, but spaying and neutering also helps reduce their odor. It’s extremely important to spay a female ferret unless you’re going to breed her. Ferrets are “induced ovulators,” meaning that if the female goes into heat, she will continue to produce hormones until she has mated. If these hormones are allowed to build up, they will essentially cause her to develop blood poisoning and die.
5. PotBelly Pig
This pet has a lot to offer–besides helping you make your ham sandwich. Pigs are extremely smart; in fact, some say that they are even more trainable than dogs. They also have an excellent sense of smell and can be trained to sniff out drugs or explosives. Usually, if your pet has a pendulous belly and a back that curves inward, it means that your pet is overweight, but this is normal and healthy in a potbelly pig. However, they are prone to obesity, so you should research dietary needs before adopting one. You should give them fresh veggies, as well as food made specifically for pot-bellied pigs, rather than farm pig feed. This is because farm pig feed is manufactured to fatten up the animal, and is made for types of pigs that are typically much bigger than this breed. Farm pig feed will cause your pet to gain a lot of weight, which is unhealthy for them, paving the way for heart and joint problems. In fact, obese pigs are known to become blind, simply because of the fat folds that hang over their eyes. Pigs can be territorial, especially males. If you decide to keep your pig in the house with you, it’s a good idea to provide a pot of dirt and/or grass for them to satisfy their rooting instincts; otherwise, they may tear up your carpet! When taken outside, they’ll tear up and root in your lawn. If you still want to really bring home the bacon, it’s once again a good idea to check your laws before doing so. In many places, potbelly pigs are considered “livestock,” and you cannot own one unless your property is zoned as a farm. Some breeders are now selling what they claim to be a smaller breed of pig, often titled “micro pigs,” “mini pigs,” or “teacup pigs,” but these are usually regular potbelly pigs, often underfed to stunt their growth, and often bred from parents that are not yet fully grown. This allows the breeder to show potential customers inquiring about the animal’s adult size to show the customer parents that are not fully grown, and some people end up getting rid of their pets when they realize that the “mini” pig they paid thousands of dollars for grows into a king-sized potbelly.
4. Savannah cat
The Savannah cat is registered as a cat breed, but there’s a catch: it’s part wild. The Savannah is an inter-species hybrid created by crossing a domestic cat with an African Serval. Despite this, it is very loyal and loving toward its owner–some would even compare this cat to a dog! Certain places have outlawed Savannah cats for fear of them escaping, hunting prey, and causing problems with ecology. In lieu of a picture, I have provided a video that provides much useful information about the Savannah cat. It is a clip about Savannahs from the Animal Planet show, Cats 101.
3. Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
A lot of people will probably feel creeped out by the idea of owning a pet cockroach. After all, when the little buggers show up in our houses, we spray Raid at them and try to swat them with newspapers. However, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are a different species of cockroach than the pest ones we find in our houses (usually German, American, smokybrown, Oriental, or brown-banded cockroaches.) They’re prolific breeders, so it’s best to have just one. This is the only type of cockroach that can hiss, and it’s native to (surprise!) Madagascar. This is a good pet for children because they are hardy and easy to care for; plus, they don’t bite or sting, and they are incapable of flight.
2. Fennec fox
Pictured above is a pet Fennec fox sitting on a couch. Most species of foxes make bad pets; they are nippy, defensive, wild, instinctively spray urine, and carry a musky smell that will make your house uninhabitable. The Fennec fox, however, is the exception. Hailing from the Sonoran Desert and in some parts of North Africa, the Fennec fox has a beige coat to help it blend into its sandy habitat. Their comically large ears actually serve a practical purpose: they help the animal’s body dissipate heat, which is useful in the hot deserts to which they are endemic. Fennec foxes will also produce an odor, especially when stressed, but the smell is no worse than that of a ferret. Fennec foxes are also very tameable and adapt well to domestic life. Once again, it’s a good idea to check local laws before setting your heart on one, because some areas make them illegal, in part because they are escape artists that can cause ecological problems if they get loose. For this reason, you should watch doors and windows if you have a fennec fox, and not let them run loose outside.
Yes, believe it or not, it’s possible to live with a skunk as a best friend, without having to wear a clothespin on your nose all the time. I was able to find this cute picture of a skunk and a dog enjoying some cuddle time. Skunks aren’t legal in many areas, and are not generally recommended for inexperienced pet owners, as they can be obstinate, their inquisitive nature means that they can easily get stuck in places, and they have dietary needs of fresh veggies with specialized skunk feed. Nonetheless, if they’re tamed and acquired from a young age, skunks can become affectionate and bond with their owners. In the wild, skunks release their infamous smell when they feel threatened; the smell comes from a liquid solution stored in two glands located around the anus. In pet skunks, these glands are usually removed so that the skunks no longer have this odor. Skunks are responsible for more cases of rabies than most other animals; this is part of the reason why they are only legal in seventeen states. Pet skunks cannot ever be released into the wild, because they don’t have their main defense mechanism anymore. They can live for over ten years and are nocturnal, so they’ll sleep while you work, and just be getting up when you come home, unless you work the night shift. They are interesting pets as long as you can care for them.
Please remember that all of these animals, like all pets, have certain requirements and are not cute playthings to own until the novelty wears off. Every pet is a friend to be cared for through its entire life.