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What is an unusual pet?

Having a pet is a very common thing – dogs, cats, fish, hamsters are all quite popular household pets that many families have. However, some people decide to think outside the box and have more exotic, unusual pets. While cats and dogs are perfectly nice, some people desire a more unique pet to call their own. Let’s explore what makes for an unusual pet and some examples of animals that can fit this description.

What qualifies as an “unusual” pet?

There are a few key factors that characterize a pet as being “unusual”:

  • It is a non-traditional domesticated animal that is not commonly kept as a pet. Dogs, cats, small rodents, fish, and birds are standard pets most people are familiar with. An unusual pet steps outside those normal categories.
  • The animal is exotic or wild-caught. Unusual pets are often species that are not native to where the owner lives and have been imported in some way, as opposed to traditional domesticated breeds.
  • It requires specialized care. The needs of unusual pets are typically more involved than a regular dog or cat. They may need special habitats, diets, temperature control, or other specific requirements.
  • Legality. In some areas, it may actually be illegal to own certain unusual pets without special permits and licensing due to wildlife regulations or public health concerns.

So in summary, unusual pets are non-traditional animals that need specialized care and may be regulated where you live. The more “outside the norm” the pet is, the more unusual it would be considered.

Examples of unusual pets

Here are some examples of pets that would often be considered unusual:

Exotic reptiles

Snakes, lizards, and turtles more outside the range of common pet store animals can be fascinating but challenging unusual pets. Some specific examples include:

  • Iguanas
  • Chameleons
  • Bearded dragons
  • Monitors
  • Corn snakes
  • Ball pythons
  • Chinchillas

These reptiles come in amazing colors and patterns. However, they have very specific heating, lighting, housing, and dietary needs to stay healthy that require substantial research and investment. They can make rewarding pets for dedicated owners able to properly care for them long-term.

Unusual birds

While parrots, finches, and canaries are common pet birds, there are many more exotic species that can be kept by experienced bird owners. Some examples include:

  • Cockatoos
  • Macaws
  • African grey parrots
  • Toucans
  • Mynah birds
  • Pigeons
  • Peacocks

These birds have specialized housing, dietary, socialization and enrichment needs. Their natural vocalizations and behaviors may be challenging in a home environment. Proper training and veterinary care is essential, and they are a multi-decade commitment for most owners.


For the extra adventurous owners, keeping insects or arachnids as pets can be really unusual. Some options include:

  • Tarantulas
  • Scorpions
  • Stick insects
  • Hissing cockroaches
  • Ant farms
  • Beetles

These creatures need well-sealed enclosures tailored to their size and habits. Live feeding, humidity and temperature control, and secure handling are necessities. They are not cuddly pets but can be fascinating to observe!

Aquatic species

Fish tanks are common, but certain aquatic species take more skill to own. Some examples are:

  • Octopuses
  • Jellyfish
  • Electric eels
  • Stingrays
  • Piranhas

The equipment and care for these advanced aquatic pets can be very technical. Most species require large tanks with excellent filtration, specific water chemistry, and some awareness of veterinary care. They are stunning but require expertise to keep humanely long-term.

Considerations for choosing an unusual pet

Here are some key factors to think through before getting an unusual or exotic pet:

Legal issues

  • Research any permit, license or regulation requirements for that type of pet in your area.
  • Some municipalities ban ownership of certain exotic animal species as pets.
  • Make sure to only obtain the pet from ethical, legal sources.


  • Unusual pets often require specialized housing and Accessories that can be very expensive.
  • Specialized veterinary care may also be required.
  • Make sure the costs align with your budget in the long term.

Time commitment

  • Many unusual pets like parrots may live over 50 years with proper care.
  • Be realistic about the next several decades caring for this pet before acquiring one.
  • Do thorough research to understand the animal’s expected lifespan.

Animal welfare

  • Learn the animal’s particular needs for housing, socialization, diet, environment, handling, and enrichment.
  • Work with an exotic animals veterinarian to support the pet’s health.
  • Only choose pets you can properly care for in captivity long-term.


  • Be aware of any venomous or dangerous attributes of the desired unusual pet.
  • Make sure your household can safely manage these risks.
  • Exotic pets may be more likely to carry zoonotic diseases.

Doing thorough research before bringing home any unusual pet is crucial to make sure it will be a good fit.

Examples of popular unusual pets

While individual preferences vary, here are some types of unusual pets that seem to have gained more mainstream popularity in recent years:

Sugar gliders

These tiny marsupials are native to Australia and New Guinea. They are nocturnal, enjoy living in bonded pairs or groups, and need quite large, specialized enclosures. Their dietary needs can be challenging to meet properly. But their inquisitive nature and ability to “glide” from place to place have intrigued many exotic pet lovers.

Fennec foxes

The fennec fox has oversized ears and beguiling looks. However, these wild animals are not domesticated. They need plenty of space to dig and run, enriched diets, and handling only by very experienced owners. Local laws may restrict keeping fennec foxes. But their unique appeal makes them an increasingly visible unusual pet.

Capuchin monkeys

Capuchin monkeys are primate cousins to the apes that can live 45 years or more. Their intelligence means they demand extensive stimulation and supervised time out of their enclosure daily. Many states prohibit keeping them as pets due to public health concerns. But their inquisitive and social nature draws interest from some exotic pet enthusiasts.

Savannah cats

Savannah cats are a hybrid between domestic felines and African servals. They can grow very large, are active and vocal, and retain a bit of their wild African serval heritage. Due to their hybrid vigor, they are increasing in popularity among cat owners seeking an exotic flair.

Unusual pets versus domesticated pets

When considering an unusual pet, it’s important to note that most exotic animals have not undergone the extensive domestication over generations that makes animals like dogs, cats, horses, or rabbits suitable pets for most owners. Animals like Burmese pythons, kinkajous, and wallabies retain most of their wild instincts and behaviors. This makes their needs in captivity very demanding. Exotic pets require much more specialized environments, diets and care. For an owner willing and able to properly provide for their needs, an exotic pet can be a unique and rewarding companion. But these animals are generally not good choices to be given as gifts or impulse purchases.


The range of unusual pets open to the right owners is immense. From ring-tailed lemurs to Nile crocodiles, if a pet lover is determined enough almost any type of animal can become a pet somewhere. But prospective owners need to thoroughly research the needs of any unusual species. Laws must be followed, costs considered, risks assessed, and the animal’s welfare ensured. For exotic pet lovers with the resources and dedication, an unusual pet can be a wonderfully quirky addition to the family. But they require much more practical preparation and long-term care than the average domestic dog or cat. With ample research and planning however, unusual pets can be outstanding companions for owners able to properly provide for them.