- Llamas, cousins of the camel, rank high among the best exotic pets for their affectionate natures, even allowing owners to hug them. They are expensive to care for, however, and do best with a partner or several to socialize with.
- Leopard Geckos only need a 10 gallon tank for living space, are friendly to humans, and don’t need UVB lamps like many other pet lizards. But owners should not forget when handling them that leopard geckos carry salmonella.
- Like many other exotic pets, the chinchilla has special care requirements, such as when bathing. They like to bathe in dust rather than water, so the owner must prepare a bed of special volcanic rock formula for the rodent to roll in several times a week.
Cats, dogs, and rabbits are fine. But you’ve never stuck to the status quo! You’re a rebel in search of a non-traditional pet — an animal that will make people take notice. Rock on, Dr. Distinctive! For you, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best non-traditional pets.
#10 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Ferret
Even though ferrets rank among the best exotic pets, they’re not for everyone. For starters, ferrets need large cages, and they don’t do well in apartments. Plus, they can be nippy and aren’t great with small kids. Apart from that, their needs are minimal. Ferret food is available at most pet stores, and they only need a bit of time outside their cages each day.
On the upside, ferrets are very smart. And once they are bonded to a human, ferrets can be very snugly and lovable.
#9 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Leopard Geckos
If you’re in the market for a non-traditional pet but don’t have tons of room, look no further than the leopard gecko. Their name derives from the species’ leopard-like spots. However, unlike the big cats, leopard geckos are friendly and pleasant with humans!
A 10-gallon tank is all the space they need to live a good life. Moreover, unlike other lizards, they don’t need a UVB lamp. But make sure you wash your hands after handling one because they are salmonella carriers.
Click here to learn more about geckos, of which there are over 2,000 species.
#8 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Chinchillas
Originally from the Chilean highlands, chinchillas are incredibly soft rodents, and increasingly, people people view them as some of the best exotic pets to own. But like many exotic animals, caring for a chinchilla takes a bit more work than a dog or cat.
Firstly, it’s always wise to get chinchillas in pairs, as they prefer constant company. And despite their pint-size, chinchillas need lots of room to frolic. Plus, their grooming needs are out of the ordinary. Instead of water baths, chinchillas take “dust baths.” Owners buy a special volcanic rock formula that chinchillas use to clean themselves. Then, several times a week, you must prepare a bed of it in which your child rodents roll around. As you might imagine, it’s a pain to clean up.
Click here to learn more about chinchillas, which are very smart.
#7 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Hedgehog
Hedgehogs are super pets for introverts. The non-social bundles of fur have a simple diet and require an enclosure similar to a guinea pig’s pen. But only welcome one hedgehog into your home at a time because they don’t like sharing spaces.
You can pick up hedgies from pet stores across the country. Keep in mind, though, that hedgehogs bred as pets are slightly different than those in the wild.
What’s the biggest drawback of hedgehog ownership? They have weak bladders, which means you’ll be spending a lot of time cleaning out their enclosures.
Click here to learn more about hedgehogs, one of the oldest mammals on Earth.
#6 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Fennec Fox
Big ears are typically seen as less than attractive, but on Fennec foxes, they’re up there on the cuteness chart with Baby Yoda — excuse us, Grogu. When it comes to the fox family, the fennec fox is among the best exotic pets.
Fennec foxes, which are more cat-like than dog-like, need lots of care and space. Most people who keep them as pets build large outdoor enclosures. But they can’t spend all their time caged up. Letting them out at least once a day is a must.
Fennec foxes can be litter trained like domestic cats, but their wild roots still dominate. If you take Fennecs to the dog park, don’t let them off-leash — for both their safety and that of the other dogs.
Click here to learn more about Fennec foxes, which get all the water they need from food.
#5 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Emperor Scorpion
For those who are a little more rock-n-roll, an emperor scorpion may be the perfect non-traditional pet. These African natives sport huge front claws and grow to about 8 inches. Unlike Indian red scorpions, emperors’ venom is very mild. Plus, individuals of the species are almost always docile. Despite their “gentle” natures, scorpions are more of a look-don’t-touch pet because they don’t love being handled.
Emperor scorpions are fairly easy to care for. They can be housed in a 10 gallon glass aquarium tank, and would need 3-6 inches of bedding such as peat, soil, or vermiculite to allow for burrowing. It’s also good to provide some spots for hiding, like flat stones, broken flower pots, or reptile hides. They usually feed on crickets, meal worms, and moths.
We’d be remiss not to include a word of caution here. Even though emperor scorpion venom is mild compared to other species’ loads, some people are very allergic to it, and a sting could send victims into anaphylactic shock.
Click here to learn more about scorpions, which are carnivores.
#4 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Skunk
Did you ever imagine that a skunk would be considered one of the best exotic pets? Some people do keep skunks as pets. They may stink to high heaven, but the little rascals are pretty cute. Plus, they’re very affectionate when bonded to people.
Domestic skunks usually have their scent glands removed and don’t spray around their respective houses. But it’s a controversial procedure that’s already illegal in England. Moreover, skunk pets are only legal in 17 U.S. states: Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Skunks as pets are very playful and require a lot of stimulation. If left alone for too long, they can get into things sort of like a human toddler. All skunks have long claws, in the wild, they are used for dipping up warms and other insects. However, when raised as a pet, these animals will use their long claws to open doors, cabinets, and even refrigerators. Additionally, “skunk-proofing” your home before your new pet comes home is the best option.
Click here to learn more about skunks, of which there are 11 species.
#3 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Capybara
Capybaras are the kindest animals of which you’ve ever heard. The highly social and oversized rodents regularly top friendliest animal lists. But, they’re not the easiest to keep as pets. Capybaras need lots of room and a wading pool. Moreover, since they’re unfailingly social, you can’t have just one capybara. He or she will quickly become depressed, even with human companionship.
For those with the requisite space and time, however, capybaras are lovely animals that exude peace, love, and understanding. But there’s one major caveat: only people in Texas and Pennsylvania can keep them as pets!
Click here to learn more about capybaras, which are excellent swimmers.
#2 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Llama
For those who can afford them, llamas are the new designer pet, coming in second on our list of the best exotic pets. The South American cousin to the camel, llamas are one of the few animals that people can safely hug. Moreover, they’re so attuned to human emotions that Andean peoples call them “silent brothers.”
But as you’d imagine, keeping llamas requires lots of property and food. And, like many non-traditional pets, it’s never wise to get just one. They need a friend or four to be truly happy.
Click here to learn more about llamas, which are now used as nursing home therapy animals.
#1 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Sugar Gliders
The sugar glider tops our list as one of the best exotic pets to own. Sugar gliders are “flying” marsupials about the size of gerbils. The curious animals need lots of toys and large enclosures to live their best lives. They also like to spend oodles of time with their people when kept as pets.
However, if you’re plagued with olfactory sensitivities, sugar gliders may be offensive to your senses. Plus, they’re talkative and will chatter through the night.
Summary of the 10 Best Non-Traditional Pets
And now for our recap of our out-of-the-box choices for pets:
- The 10 Best Emotional Support Animals There are many animals that are trained to offer emotional support to humans. Learn about them in this interesting piece.
- Pet Octopus: Do Octopuses Make Good Pets? Did you ever dream of owning your very own octopus? We’ll answer the question of whether or not they can be kept as pets.
- 10 Best Pet Snakes Many pet owners have found happiness cohabitating with snakes. Here’s our guide to the 10 best choices for pet snakes.
The Featured Image
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.