The Complete List of 26 Exotic Pets and Animals

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Written by Thomas Godwin

Published: December 13, 2023

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There are a surprising number of exotic pets and animals out there. Usually, owning one requires some extensive paperwork, jumping through some legal hoops, or preparing yourself for a much higher degree of maintenance. Owning or rehabilitating an exotic pet isn’t always easy, but it can be fun and rewarding for you and the animal, especially if you’re properly prepared and it’s legal in your state. With that being said, here is our list of 26 exotic pets and animals, some of which will definitely surprise you!

1. New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog laying in flower bed by tree


New Guinea singing are an ‘in-between’ species, not quite full-blown exotic and not quite domesticated.

Let’s start off with something simple, straddling the line between exotic and unique. The New Guinea singing dog is the first on our list of exotic pets and animals. There are some who argue this isn’t an exotic animal, just a very recent descendant of feral dogs. However, we beg to differ. These dogs carry a Class III wildlife label in several states and are higher maintenance dogs than most.

2. Fox

Fennec foxes (Vulpes zerda).

©wrangel/iStock via Getty Images

A pair of fennec foxes snuggled up for a relaxing day in the dirt.

Foxes fall under the Class III wildlife classification, and you can’t own one legally, if it comes straight from the great outdoors. If you want to own a fox, it has to be the result of a captive breeding. Foxes are not easy to won, as they are highly destructive. This means a lot of patience, training, and love on your part.

3. Raccoons

baby raccoon siblings

©Becky Sheridan/

Cute baby raccoons. You know you want one.

There are a few states that allow people to own raccoons, including Florida, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Texas, South Carolina, Michigan, Nebraska, and Rhode Island. For the most part, though, you will need a permit and can only own one if it was born or bred in captivity. They aren’t typically thought of as exotic pets and animals, but the little ones are really cute.

4. Owl

Long-eared owl (Asio otus)

©Piotr Krzeslak/

Similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, interest in owning owls as pets increased exponentially throughout the Harry Potter movies.

Out of our list of exotic pets and animals, the owl is perhaps the most surprising. This is because there are several states that will allow you to legally own this bird of prey. Many of these states will only allow it if you are rehabilitation certified.

5. Bat

©Public Domain - Original / License

Fruit bats are the predominant bat type owned by people, and only in states that allow it.

Like most of the exotic pets and animals that some states will allow residents to own, bats have to come from captivity, whether they are born that way or you adopt one. Owning a habitat is necessary. However, you can purchase bat homes online and simply allow wild bats to nest in it. Bringing one in from the wild is a non-starter, because of the potential for disease.

6. Llama

llama animal very happy and smiling


Llamas are surprisingly low maintenance and a lot like dogs in their levels of affection.

Llamas have more leeway in most states than some other exotic pets and animals on this list. Most states will allow ownership of a llama, though some require more paperwork than others. This may have something to do with their use as therapeutic animals for those dealing with various mental conditions.

7. Skunk


Obviously, the most important task is to get a skunk’s scent glands removed, assuming you want to share the same room with one at any given time.

Skunks are more popular as pets than one might think. It’s only legal to own a skunk in 17 states, and they fall somewhere in between in terms of maintenance levels. They are quite playful, but can escape easily. A skunk without its scent glands is highly vulnerable in the wild.

8. Porcupine

Hystrix cristata, crested porcupine


Porcupines, at least as pets, are a prickly bunch (pun intended), and difficult to train.

Owning a porcupine adds the word ‘pain’ to exotic pets and animals. However, if you learn the right way to pick them up and pet them, their prickly hide is avoidable. Its not a good idea to own a porcupine if you have an overly curious and excitable dog.

9. Alligator


©Will E. Davis/

Believe it or not, you can get your hands on an alligator pet in some states, if you’re prepared for the immensity of the task.

Out of all the exotic pets and animals on our list, this is one of the scariest. There’s just something about an alligator that eclipses the dread of a lion or a tiger. Maybe because it spends most of its time looking up at our kicking feet when swimming in a river or water hole. There are a few states that will allow you to own one. This should be one of the most careful considerations you ever make, however, as an alligator will happily treat your dog, cat, or even you, as its next happy meal.

10. Tiger

Portrait of a Royal Bengal Tiger alert and Staring at the Camera. National Animal of Bangladesh

©Thinker360/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

There are more tigers in captivity and private ownership today than there are tigers living in the wild.

You don’t have to be Mike Tyson to own a tiger in the United States. If, of course, you’re willing to take the risk and endure the extremely high maintenance these animals demand. Tigers are capable and perfectly willing to consume nearly 100 lbs of meat on a daily basis. Your grocery bill just went way up.

11. Spotted Genet

genet sitting on tree limb


Is it a cat? A monkey? No, it’s just a spotted genet on the lookout at night.

Believe it or not, spotted genets are related to cats. Ferrets as well, somehow or another. They highly resemble cats, however, and love to scale things, just like cats, but even more so. They’ll scale walls, furniture, curtains, toys that you set up for them, your leg, your head, and anything else it can get its claws on.

12. Whip Scorpion

Tailless whipscorpion

©Dr. Morley Read/

If you can imagine waking up with this resting on your chin…

The whip scorpion isn’t for everyone. But, there’s always somebody that has a peculiar fascination with arachnids. More power to them. If you have the aquarium and the courage, you can definitely have your very own whip scorpion. Careful. They bite, and it hurts. They also spit acid. Fun stuff.

13. Sugar Glider

Flying squirrel sugar glider california forest nature pine trees


Who doesn’t want one of these gliding around the house?

Sugar gliders are tiny, can fly, are marsupials, and look like someone mistakenly crossed a squirrel with a mouse, before giving it wings. These are probably some of the cutest exotic pets and animals you can own. They aren’t easy to care for, however, so be careful what you wish for.

14. Bearded Dragons

pregnant bearded dragon in a terrarium is looking at camera

©Claudia Nass/iStock via Getty Images

Though they seem common enough, bearded dragons are considered to be exotic pets and animals.

One of the strangest, quirkiest, and cutest reptiles on our list of exotic pets and animals, bearded dragons are also native to the semi-arid, arid climates within Australia. They’re surprisingly low maintenance, as long as you don’t mind a high upfront cost for a terrarium.

15. Wolf

Portrait of a Grey wolf angry in the forest

©AB Photographie/

Wolves, the ancestors of dogs, are not domesticated, and you have to jump through hoops to own one. It’s illegal in all of the states, with a few situational exceptions.

Since wolves are classified as endangered, it’s very difficult to get your hands on one. In most cases, your best bet is to go with a wolf hybrid. Even so, many states regulate wolf hybrids as well, and it’s illegal in others. If you choose to own a wolf hybrid, it’s best to do so in a home without children or other pets.

16. Deer

White-tailed Deer

©Christopher Roth/iStock via Getty Images

As you can see, white tails get their name from the distinctive underside of their tails.

Yes, you can actually own a deer in America, if you’re in the right state, that is. Even in the ones where it’s illegal, you can often own one by paying a fee and obtaining a permit to do so. Though they may not seem like exotic pets and animals at first glance, they are inherently wild and high maintenance.

17. Squirrel

Squirrel on a Tree Branch

©Troy Thomas/iStock via Getty Images

There are five types of squirrels living in the U.S. However, most are familiar with the gray and red variety.

It’s legal to own most squirrels as pets in the U.S. The gray squirrel is an exception only because of its status as a game animal. If you’ve ever owned a ferret, you’ll have a good idea what a squirrel brings to the table. They are hyper and super playful at times.

18. Sloth

Pale Throated Sloth


Of all the exotic pets and animals out there, sloths are the least likely to escape quickly.

The sloth is not as slow as its namesake implies. However, it’s far from quick. They are very high maintenance as well, requiring a very large habitat, plenty of large objects to climb on, and a specific temperature range. As a class III animal, you have to have a special permit to own one.

19. Monkey

Goeldi monkey

©Maria Teresa Tovar Romero/iStock via Getty Images

There are many states throughout the U.S. that allow residents to own monkeys.

Depending on the state, you may have to pay a fee, become certified, or obtain some sort of permit. But, it’s legal to own monkeys in large parts of the country. Of course, that depends on the type of monkey, since there are 170+ different species.

20. Opossum

Opossum Baby

©Heiko Kiera/

Regular opossums and four-eyed opossums are the most common exotic pets and animals in the U.S., with the latter being the rarer of the two.

Opossums are the kinds of exotic pets and animals that usually find themselves in rehabilitation homes. Opossums have a tough time staying out of the way of passing vehicles. Being certified to rehabilitate wild animals at home is your best bet for owning one. In many states, it’s illegal, though some will allow it under certain circumstances.

21. Peacock

Peacock opens mouth

©Nagel Photography/

Peacocks are incredibly beautiful birds, especially when they spread their tail feathers.

The peacock has a long and illustrious history as pets. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the ancient Greeks (Aristotle wrote extensively about peacock behavior), the Romans, the Congo peafowl, and ancient Chinese cultures have proven this connection throughout the ages. Today is no different. Peacocks are a lot easier to own than some of the other exotic pets and animals, without all of the legal wrangling.

22. African Golden Cat

African Golden Cat

African Golden Cats actually have two colorations, the golden cat and the silver cat.

The African golden cat won’t get as big as some of its cousins, but a male is capable of reaching 30 lbs. These are Class II wildlife animals and require a special license to own, at least in the states that will allow it. These cats require a substantial habitat and are very high maintenance.

23. Dwarf Crocodile

Largest Caiman - Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman

©Danny Ye/

As a ‘dwarf’ species of crocodile, the male is capable of reaching 5′ 2″ in length, with females maxing out at 3′ 11.

Just because Cuvier’s dwarf crocodile doesn’t get nearly as big as its cousins, doesn’t mean it can’t seriously hurt someone or devour another pet. They require a large enclosure, with a small pond or pool. While its possible to have one inside the home, you can’t teach one to use the litter box.

24. Coyote

Handsome Urban Coyote - San Francisco

©Matt Knoth/

Coyotes, like wolves, are wild and not easily tamed for domestic rehabilitation or as pets.

Coyotes are not like dogs, and it would be incredibly difficult to keep one inside the home and it remain happy. A coyote needs a large enclosure or yard to move about. As a wild animal, you can’t just own one. You have to be certified or licensed as wildlife rehabilitation qualified first.

25. Clouded Leopard

baby clouded leopard

©NataPics, CC BY 2.0 - Original / License

Clouded leopards, raised by people rather than in the wild, are generally playful and affectionate. However, their fangs are very large.

There are currently four states that have zero regulations on big cat ownership. The remaining states require state permits, outright ban, or partially ban ownership. Clouded leopards are far from the biggest cats but they still fall within that category. For the most part, owning one will require a license of some sort, depending on your state.

26. Bobcat

Young Bobcat Kitten in Tree Eyes Open

©WhirlVFX - Pamela Werrell/

At a young age, its easy to mistake a bobcat for a housecat gone feral, until you see that bobtail.

Though bobcats are on the smaller scale, where the big cats are concerned, they are still regulated the same. In most states, you’ll need a permit or license and, in others, it’s outright banned. Fortunately, bobcats are considered to be one of the easiest exotic pets and animals to raise in a home environment. They are often affectionate and playful, exhibiting little of their inherent wildness.

Summary Of The Complete List of # Exotic Pets and Animals

Exotic Pet/AnimalScientific Name
#1New Guinea Singing DogCanis dingo hallstromi
#2FoxVulpes vulpes
#3RaccoonProcyon lotor
#6LlamaLama glama
#8PorcupineErethizon dorsatum
#9AlligatorAlligator mississippiensis
#10TigerPanthera tigris
#11Spotted GenetGenetta genetta
#12Whip ScorpionUropygi
#13Sugar gliderPetaurus breviceps
#14Bearded dragonPogona
#15WolfCanis lupus
#18SlothCholoepus didactylus
#21PeacockPavo cristatus
#22African Golden CatCaracal aurata
#23Dwarf CrocodileOsteolaemus tetraspis
#24CoyoteCanis latrans
#25Clouded LeopardNeofelis nebulosa
#26BobcatLynx rufus

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About the Author

Thomas is a freelance writer with an affinity for the great outdoors and Doberman Pinschers. When he's not sitting behind the computer, pounding out stories on black bears and reindeer, he's spending time with his family, two Dobermans (Ares and Athena), and a Ragdoll cat named Heimdal. He also tends his Appleyard Ducks and a variety of overly curious and occasionally vexatious chickens.

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