The World’s Top 10 Non-Traditional Pets

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: February 6, 2021


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

Ferret’s popularity is on the rise in the United States. More and more families are welcoming the furry little creatures into their homes.

But 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.

Click here to learn more about ferrets, which scientists now believe is a subspecies of the polecat.

A ferret walking on rocks near purple flowers and green vegetation.
Ferrets need large cages and are not great with small children.

#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.

A leopard gecko standing on a tree branch.
Leopard geckos don’t require much space to thrive.

#8 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Chinchillas

Originally from the Chilean highlands, chinchillas are incredibly soft rodents, and increasingly, people are taking them in as non-traditional pets. 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.

A chinchilla sitting on a desk near flowers.
Chinchillas do better in pairs and need lots of room to roam.

#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.

A hedgehog laying in fallen leaves near a green plant with red fruit.
Pet hedgehogs are slightly different from their wild counterparts, and they don’t enjoy sharing their space with other hedgehogs.

#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.

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.

A fennec fox standing on a rock.
Fennec foxes are more like cats than dogs and require lots of space and care.

#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.

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 bite could send victims into anaphylactic shock.

Click here to learn more about scorpions, which are carnivores.

An emperor scorpion with its claws open.
An emperor scorpion’s venom is mild compared to other scorpion species, and they don’t love to be handled.

#4 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Skunk

Yes, some people 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.

Click here to learn more about skunks, of which there are 11 species.

A skunk standing in the grass.
Pet skunks usually have their scent glands removed and generally don’t spray around their homes.

#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.

A capybara standing in the grass.
Capybaras need lots of room, a wading pool, and usually a companion, as they tend to get depressed and lonely.

#2 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Llama

For those who can afford them, llamas are the new designer pet. 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.

A llama standing in dead grass near a small body of water.
Llamas are friendly animals that are receptive to human emotions.

#1 Best Non-Traditional Pets: Sugar Gliders

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.

A sugar glider resting on a person's hand.
Sugar gliders require lots of toys and a large enclosure and love to spend time with their humans.

Those are our picks for the 10 best non-traditional pets. Next up: The Top 10 Ugliest Animals on Earth!