A controversial practice to some, a passionate hobby to others – the debate on exotic pet keeping continues. The bottom line is that we know pets make life worthwhile, so get ready to read about the most unusual companions in the list below! (Please remember that animal laws differ by country, state, and city.)
Despite their prickly reputation, porcupines are easy-going and love lounging around all day. For some people, porcupines make excellent pets, and for others, the idea might be worth considering. Owning porcupines can be legal, depending on where you live and the type of porcupine. These aloof animals need spacious enclosures with branches or climbing areas to enhance mental stimulation.
As long as we’re busting myths today — porcupines don’t and can’t shoot quills! The only way a quill enters your body is if you incorrectly handle porcupines. The biggest downside to keeping porcupines? Not their sharp quills, but the awful body odor!
What’s the difference between a raccoon and a puppy? It’s hard to tell. Both are playful, mischievous, and irresistibly cute, with attention spans shorter than peeps on social media. Raccoons make fun, affectionate companions if domesticated at a young age. But they are not easy to train despite their intelligence levels.
You can teach them to use litterboxes and learn basic commands. Raccoons despise cages. It is always better if they run free in a raccoon-proof or child-proof home. While it’s legal keeping raccoons in most places, laws differ across states.
The misunderstood Piranha. Yes, these beautiful fish have razor-sharp teeth that can bite if you’re not careful. But piranhas typically only eat other fish. Schools of piranhas devouring humans in seconds is a Hollywood myth. Keeping them doesn’t make you a twisted villain, either. If anything, it just ups your cred as a serious pet owner!
You need to know what you’re doing to raise piranhas. Most U.S. states don’t have laws banning piranhas as pets. Provide a tank with plenty of hiding spots and house them away from other fish.
It’s exactly as it sounds. Stick insects look like sticks and require delicate handling and care. It might be wise to keep them away from kids, clumsy folks, or anyone with poor eyesight. Typically green or brown, these insects masterfully blend into their surroundings.
Stick insects aren’t the cuddliest pets around. Yet, there are upsides to keeping this unusual pet. They are quiet, low-maintenance, and impeccably behaved. You never have to worry about a chewed-up rug again! Stick insects are easy to come by and legal to own in the U.S.
You had us at baby goats! What’s not to love? We can’t get enough of pygmy goat videos and the sweet, hilarious mischief they get up to! Pygmy goats are usually friendly and happy doing their thing – jumping around, playing, and eating. Make sure you have enough space for them to run around.
They make excellent companions for children but thrive around fellow goats. Without companionship, pygmy goats tend to get easily depressed and lethargic. If you want to bring some goats home, we have good news! Pygmy goats are legal to own in most states.
We can’t train a chipmunk acapella group anytime soon, but can we still keep them as pets? The chipmunk’s adorable face can tempt any animal lover to bring one home. They seem innocent and harmless, but unless you raise them from birth chipmunks will not allow you to touch them. Patience, love, and plenty of space help chipmunks warm up to humans.
Aside from the high costs of buying one (it’s legal), chipmunks are relatively low-maintenance afterward. They sleep and eat when humans do. Chipmunks are odorless and don’t need bathing. What these hyperactive animals need is enough room.
For anyone with the means, energy, and patience, anteaters will make great pets. Not as a form of termite or pest control! Among the four anteater species, the diminutive lesser anteaters are best-suited for human companionship. It’s best to raise lesser anteaters from birth to get them comfortable around humans and other pets.
Anteaters benefit from plenty of climbing opportunities. They also eat tons of protein – almost 10,000 ants and termites daily. You may want to think about how to procure this daily before bringing an anteater home! While it’s legal at a federal level to own anteaters, different states may have varying ordinances.
Leopard geckos are legal to keep and some of the easiest reptiles to look after – especially for owners who are night owls. Mostly quiet otherwise, leopard geckos become active in dimly lit rooms or terrariums. Unlike other lizards, geckos are exclusively carnivorous and feed on live insects.
No plants or vegetables for this one, please! It’s best to raise them as hatchlings – ideally, two geckos in a small tank. The longer leopard geckos are around people, the friendlier they become. Just don’t go expecting overt affection.
Genets aren’t your typical family pet or cuddly by a long shot. But they can be ideal for those who like independent, aloof pets that need no walking or cuddling. Keeping them locked in a cage is outright cruel.
Genets are wild animals that need open spaces. A spacious enclosure, sanctuary, or ethical zoo is ideal for genets. They get along fine with other dogs and cats if they’ve grown up together. Genets can fall under exotic pet laws, so it’s best to check state ordinances if you’re planning to keep one.
Is it a hamster? Is it a rabbit? No, it’s a fluffy baby chinchilla! Gentle and playful – chinchillas make adorable pets. They come in many colors – white, grey, beige, black, or a delightful mix of everything. For them, life begins in earnest at night.
An ideal chinchilla enclosure is spacious with numerous toys, chews, and levels to keep them busy. Chinchillas appreciate structure in their day. Sadly, these furballs don’t enjoy cuddles. But they will show love in other ways! You can own Chinchillas legally in most states as long as they are not from the wild.
Discus are stunning fish to keep. The fish gets its name from its signature disk-like body. Due to captive breeding, they come in several colors, too. An aquarium with discus turns into a party – tiny technicolored disks floating in clear waters.
Due to the care involved, they will do better under the watchful eye of experienced hobbyists. Discus peacefully co-exists with other fish but will do better in a tank just for them. Otherwise, they may have to compete with other bottom dwellers and compete for prey.
Pot Bellied Pigs
Some might consider them livestock but we only see charming pets and supreme rulers of the household! Pot Bellied Pigs are intelligent animals that bond quickly with their humans. So, it’s only fair they expect the same investment from you. These pigs are curious and playful when they feel all the love. Deprive them of attention, and Pot Bellied Pigs can become destructive.
Owners will want to avoid creating hangry pigs at all costs! Keeping Pot Bellied Pigs as pets is an adventure, and it’s legal to do so almost anywhere. Check state or city laws because those can vary.
Although whimsically nicknamed the Honey Bear, Kinkajous are unrelated to bears and belong to the coatis and olingos family. Kinkajous are a curious and playful bunch when raised in captivity. An exceptionally committed owner will bring out the best in these animals.
They need plenty of room for exercise and a diet closest to what they would eat in the wild. But they also startle easily and become aggressive when threatened. These creatures of habit don’t adapt well to change – new owners, environments, or anything else out of the ordinary. A Kinkajou expects owners to be in it for the long haul.
Mini donkeys are adorable, but do they make good pets? Absolutely. Do you think dogs are friendly? Nobody knows affection until they feel the love of a pet donkey! From walks to lots of scratches, all they want is to be by your side. Make sure to bring home a pair or two, not just one. Mini donkeys are the happiest when hanging out in groups.
The more outdoor space, the better since “mini” is misleading! Mini donkeys can weigh 450 pounds and grow to about 3 feet tall. The best part is it’s legal to own them almost anywhere in the U.S.
Enviable upper body strength, wide-eyed, and embracing the slow life – there’s plenty we could learn from the infinitely chilled sloth. The next best thing is bringing one home. Sloths are adorable but can be high-maintenance pets. They prefer hanging out in trees, requiring tropical habitats that might be too challenging to replicate at home.
Despite being super cuddly, sloths do not appreciate humans being touchy-feely. Their stillness can also be a defense mechanism. It can be tough to tell whether they want to nap or feel threatened. Two-toed sloths are legal to own in several U.S. states!
Green iguanas are the most popular among unconventional pets, with good reason. Green iguanas are easy-going and quiet. But even the most docile iguanas will never be completely domesticated, which is why they benefit from regular handling and human contact.
What's the secret to happy, healthy iguanas? Bring home a custom enclosure with branches and ramps for them to climb. Most states allow iguana ownership but check state and local laws to be sure.
This unique, beautiful bird deserves an owner just as rare — committed and knowledgeable, with the financial resources to care for an endangered bird species. The Hyacinth Macaw is the largest among macaws. They make loving, playful pets and are surprisingly gentle despite those menacingly sharp beaks.
For anyone wondering, this bird won’t stare down at you and peck. But they can get loud. Expect a lot of trilling, screeching, and even some guttural purring. But hey! That’s what macaws do. It’s legal to own Hyacinth Macaws in most states as long as you obtain them legally with proper documentation.
So, your local dog fair knows about Cane Corsos and Canaans. But have they met the incredible Xoloitzcuintli? Xoloitzcuintli are hairless dogs whose origins go back to the ancient Aztec Gods. There’s no disputing their calling as formidable, loyal watchdogs. Look at that forehead wrinkled in suspicion!
When not on high alert, Xolos are loving, low-maintenance canines. They come in both hairless and short-coat varieties. Lucky for us, anyone can own a Xolo. Make sure to treat them like the Mexican royalty they are.
You may need to check local laws about this one. Snakehead Fish are effective predators, and many places consider them an invasive species. Snakeheads are a bit of an aquarium oddball – but immensely rewarding to keep. The scales and flattened heads give them a snake-like appearance – which is how they got their name. Interestingly, this fish species needs air to stay alive. They often surface or jump out of the water to breathe.
But the real challenge in keeping them is their size. Snakeheads need over 450 gallons of water. If you have the space and expertise, these fish make excellent pets!
A Patagonian Cavy might look like a deer and rabbit’s love child, but it’s actually a large rodent. A large rodent that loves belly rubs – we think this needs highlighting! Cavies are as affectionate as dogs but not easily trainable.
Over time and with lots of patience, they may learn how to use litter boxes and walk on a leash. If neither is possible, owners must keep them in spacious, secure enclosures. Some state laws require permits or licenses to own one, while others ban Cavy ownership entirely.
The magical Cockatiel is every bird owner’s dream — quiet, intelligent, and won’t bite friends who visit! Anyone can keep them as pets. It’s perfectly legal across the country. The most common cockatiels have yellow faces and crests, bright orange cheek patches, and grey bodies. But you will also find them in other stunning colors.
These little birds love attention. Remember to be generous with the scratches, cheek rubs, and feather strokes! Male cockatiels also mimic speech and can be wildly entertaining.
Most people dismiss opossums as disease-ridden, bad-tempered marsupials. But the few people who keep them as pets know better! Opossums can be cuddly, playful companions but need plenty of exercise.
In the wild, they explore, sleep upside down, and climb all the time. Opossum owners face the impossible task of recreating this environment at home while keeping up with all the energy! They thrive best under the care of trained professionals or wildlife rehabilitators. Check with your local municipality if it is legal to own opossums in your area.
So cute and tiny we could put them in our pockets! They require special housing and food, but as long as owners are conscientious, hedgehogs are quiet and relatively easy to care for. A diet rich in insects, mealworms, and veggies works best. Padded enclosures with soft bedding help their teeny tiny sensitive feet.
They look adorable while curled up into a ball, but this usually means they are scared. Dreaming of hedgehog snuggles? Young hedgehogs are easier to socialize with than older ones. It’s legal to keep one in most U.S. states except in California, Georgia, Hawaii, New York, Omaha, Nebraska, and Washington, D.C.
The United States has several armadillo species in the wild. Yet, only a handful can be domesticated. The three-banded armadillo is the most popular. All armadillos are solitary animals that socialize purely to mate and raise baby armadillos. They enjoy roaming the territory at night, burrowing deep in the soil to forage insects or worms.
Safe to say that armadillos are outdoor animals. Plus, their unmistakable musky odor precludes the need to stay outside! Since armadillos are wild animals, check your local laws to ensure you can own one.
Ball pythons are hardly “unusual” for reptile owners. Long considered puppies of the reptile universe, ball pythons are adorable. Far from long and slender, ball pythons are thick, round, and have large eyes.
These gentle pythons are ideal pets for new reptile owners and even kids. What do they eat? Mostly rats and mice every 1-2 weeks, but you can also feed them frozen rodents. Caring for ball pythons is a breeze — once you nail the humidity and heat inside enclosures. It is legal to own ball pythons in all states except Hawaii.
Snails are wonderfully low-maintenance pets for anyone looking for something different. You can own most kinds of snails except for the Giant African Land Snail, which is considered an invasive species in the U.S. The garden snail is the most popular house companion. Snails are docile, curious creatures that quickly make their way into people’s hearts.
They don’t bite or throw tantrums. They are perfectly content to munch on plants inside cozy aquariums. Snails need delicate handling to prevent inadvertent (sometimes irreversible) bodily damage. Never pick them up by their shells. Allow snails to climb onto your hand or other surfaces instead.
Few things evoke terror the way menacing-looking eels do. Remember Electro’s fate in the Spiderman movie? Thankfully, garden eels aren’t quite as frightening. At least half their bodies remain in the sand at all times. From afar, you might mistake them for grass in the sand – but what you see is the top of their heads! Garden eels are not common pets since caring for them is hard. But for experienced fish owners, the effort is well worth it.
Getting them to eat may prove challenging. Garden eels never leave the sand and only eat zooplankton the ocean currents bring their way.
The gregarious Green Aracari is not for novice bird keepers. These intelligent birds are charming but challenging pets to keep. Ask any experienced keeper. First, you will need ripe, fresh fruit on hand constantly. Over time, the expenses can add up. Green Aracaris also like flinging their fruit around – which means messy walls that need regular cleaning.
It’s common for these birds to fly directly into people’s faces – so investment in protective gear is a must! But for an avian enthusiast, the reward is worth it! Having a pet toucan is legal in some states and completely banned in others.
Owning a skunk doesn’t have to stink. Many owners raise skunks early and have their scent glands surgically removed. But people consider the surgery a cruel practice since spraying is a skunk’s only defense mechanism. Skunks are natural diggers so a secure environment is a must! They’re curious creatures too.
Prepare to run around and play a lot! It’s legal to own domesticated skunks (not wild skunks) in several U.S. states.
One of the first things you should know about Flowerhorn Cichlids? They have a lot of love to give – but only to their owners and fellow Flowerhorns. Other fish species? Not so much. Separate tanks are the way to go.
Flowerhorns are inquisitive fish that love interaction – some will even lift their rumps for you to pet! They are probably best-known for the large “horns” on their forehead. Owners may need to deal with occasional health issues since they are not naturally-occurring fish. Owning Flowerhorns is legal almost everywhere.
Scorpions are atypical pets that owners must not handle. But most pet scorpion species aren’t dangerous. If you’re interested but understandably nervous, start with the Emperor Scorpion. Despite the intimidating name, this is the most docile among scorpions. They don’t get aggressive unless threatened, and their stings feel similar to bee stings.
Emperor Scorpions are low-maintenance and clean, making them ideal for pet owners. Keeping them is legal in most places. Scorpion owners must provide proper care, food, and living conditions.
Pet turtles are perfect, low-maintenance pets — as long as you know what you are getting yourself into. Turtles can live for years, even decades, and require special enclosures with access to water. These shy creatures rarely come out of their shells, which makes them perfect companions for some owners.
When keeping turtles it's important to make sure you wash your hands enough. Note that selling and owning turtles with shells less than 4 inches is illegal in the U.S.
The tiny Degu looks like a cross between a mouse and a squirrel. But this adorable rodent ups the cuteness quotient. Degus are affectionate, gentle companions that love chewing on everything. It’s best to keep them in pairs or groups for optimal happiness. A large enclosure with adequate bedding is imperative so they can dig and burrow away.
These cuties need regular dust baths and make whistling sounds when grooming each other. Before committing to keeping them, check with city regulations where you live. Degus are illegal to own in several states since they are considered invasive species.
Gerbils and rats are closely related but belong to completely different species. They will fight if kept together! Gerbils are burrowing rodents native to Africa and Asia. Most pet gerbils you see are the adorable Mongolian breed. These fuzzy creatures are skittish in the wild. With regular handling, captive-bred gerbils become friendly and trusting of humans.
Even if handling isn’t your thing, watching gerbils frolic and play is fun. Plus, they’re not fussy about food and need minimal housing setup. Never grab gerbils by their tail, which can break and dislocate easily. While federal laws permit gerbil ownership, it is illegal in Hawaii and California.
What’s the first thing you should know about Wallaroos? They’re related to kangaroos. Safe to say that apartment living isn’t for them. Smaller than kangaroos but larger than wallabies, Wallaroos are active, curious animals.
Like its more-famous relative, this one’s also a jumper. Owners must provide large pastures or yards with secure fencing. Wallaroos tend to be shy but will warm up with kindness and positive reinforcement. Like all good things, earning their affection takes time. Anyone considering keeping one should check exotic pet laws in different states since Wallaroos may fall in that category.
Dwarf Puffer Fish
Arguably the cutest fish in the exotic freshwater category, Dwarf Puffer Fish are native to India and make excellent additions to any aquarium. These hardy fish can even survive beginner keepers. They don’t grow any longer than 2.5 inches but don’t let the size fool you. Dwarf puffers have big personalities and can be infinitely charming. We could watch these adorable fish and their independently-moving eyes all day.
Their basic requirements are super clean water and a diet comprising bloodworms, snails, and shrimp. While there are no laws banning their ownership, it’s always good to double-check regulations and exotic pet laws where you live.
Agoutis are indigenous to South America and look like a cross between squirrels and guinea pigs. They are super swimmers that will disappear into the water before predators can blink. Fair warning: Agoutis have a sticky, stinky substance on their coarse hair. You can smell it for miles.
These cute rodents are skittish and a little shy in the wild, but agoutis bred in captivity tend to be more outgoing. Remember to give them a lot of attention to encourage socialization. Many places don’t permit agoutis as pets. It’s best to verify animal laws where you live.
Waking up to a giraffe peering through an open window sounds delightful in theory. But just because you can (many states allow this with permits), doesn’t mean you should. Ordinary Joes don’t have the resources to meet a giraffe’s needs: open spaces, secure fencing, and enough food — especially if you value your trees.
Also, imagine the vertigo from feeding and brushing giraffes every day. Happy giraffes live in groups or “towers,” so you’ll need to keep a few. They’ll also need heated sheds at least two stories tall in the winter. Best to leave them be in the wild or in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.
Capybaras are related to guinea pigs, but the two are remarkably different. Unlike their little cousins, Capybara care is slightly more challenging. That aside, this sweet rodent (the world’s largest) is friendly and incredibly social. A good day for Capybaras involves sunshine, water, and plenty of food (6 to 10 pounds a day). Ideal living conditions must incorporate all three.
Do you have your heart set on bringing one home? Better make that at least two since they do better in groups. Capybaras are legal to own in Pennsylvania and Texas. Other states may need permits or classify Capybaras as exotic pets.
Unlike their name, Hermit Crabs are social creatures and make good pets, as long as you fulfill their needs. Since they are tropical creatures, a closed glass tank that stays moderately warm all the time works best. A bed of soil or sand with rocks to clamber on is ideal. They also need substrate to bury in for molting or growing new skin.
It’s legal to own Hermit Crabs in most places. Remember that Hermit Crabs are the happiest in the wild. If you plan on keeping them, commit to giving them the life they deserve. These beautiful creatures are far from “starter” crabs.
Here’s a fun fact right off the bat! Pacman frogs got their name because their mouths are round and large, like the video game character. Pacman frogs come in beautiful color morphs and make excellent pets for new amphibian owners. Pacman frogs are terrestrial amphibians, preferring to spend most of their time perched on damp leaves.
Don’t place them in water. Pacman frogs cannot swim to save their lives! Avoid handling them, too. We're almost 100% certain they will bite. But with the correct living setup and food, Pacman Frogs are easy to look after and can live for 10 years.
A horse in miniature form. What's not to love? If you have the time, resources, and enough outdoor space — go ahead! Miniature horse ownership is legal in most places. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are slimmer and have long legs like their taller cousins, while others are stockier like ponies. Miniature horses are incredibly friendly and intelligent.
They form close, almost spiritual bonds with their humans and are easy to train. These little ones are super sharp too! If they get away with mischief (say sneaking out through fencing) — miniature horses will try it again.
Aquatic creatures are other-worldly any day. Bring an Elephantnose fish into the mix, and things get doubly mesmerizing. First, they possess trunk-like mouth extensions for feeding, communicating, and fighting off predators. Second, the fish senses murky surroundings using an electrical field. Superpowers, much? Due to their specific water requirements, Elephantnose fish are rare to find in most aquariums.
They need expert care and a relentless commitment to providing top-quality habitats and water. Sounds like you? This unique freshwater fish will up your aquarium game! There are no laws banning their sale and purchase in the U.S.
Victoria Crowned Pigeons
Wait, is that majestic bird a pigeon? It’s not unusual for people to do a double take around the Victoria Crowned Pigeon. These striking birds look like they mean business. But they are actually gentle and relatively easy to tame.
Victoria Crowned Pigeons are ground pigeons that spend most of their time running rather than flying. Bird keepers must have extensive room so these beautiful birds can get enough exercise. They have been bred in captivity for centuries but are hard to come by in the United States.
Antlions may not be everyone’s first choice for a pet, but they are legal to own. Many insect enthusiasts keep them as pets to observe their fascinating hunting techniques. Also called doodlebugs, antlions create circular patterns in the sand, where they dig small pits to trap prey such as ants. The insects transition fully into their winged forms by ages two or three.
Sadly, antlions live only for three weeks after the transition. Owners must create perfect antlion habitats inside a safe, ventilated container. The more sand and substrates, the better!
Pet owls are rare to find and with good reason. They might seem cute, cuddly, and friendly thanks to popular culture and now Instagram, but in reality, owls are not suited to domesticated life. All owls are lone hunters that prefer keeping their distance from humans.
Most people don’t have enough resources or knowledge to care for an owl. These birds require a diet of whole rodents every day. Be careful not to piss one off. They will bite! For these reasons and more, keeping captive owls in the United States is illegal without special permits.
Owning an alligator is surprisingly legal in several U.S. states. But on the off-chance you’re considering keeping one as a pet – we personally would not recommend it. Most enthusiasts fall in love with tiny baby gators – harmless and adorable at less than a foot in length. But they grow into adult alligators over 11 feet that live up to 50 years.
They can also weigh 1000 pounds and eat almost a fourth of their body weight in meat. Any meat (even unsuspecting pet owners) will do. Unless you intend to keep one in a zoo or sanctuary – it’s in their best interest (and yours) to admire alligators from afar.
Rats have gained unfair reputations as unclean rodents that bite. It’s time we reclaim the narrative. Yes, rats will mark their territory while roaming about – but that’s true for almost all animals. Rats are insanely clean animals that groom themselves — several times a day, to boot! Shocking but true.
These intelligent, hardy rodents make excellent pets. Plus, they are good with kids! Rats have distinct personalities, but you’ll find that each one enjoys fun puzzles and toys. They are creatures of the night that can adapt to their owners’ schedules if required.
Black Knife Ghostfish
Native to the deep, dark waters of the Amazon River basin, black knife ghostfish are fittingly named. These fish have no scales but deep-black skin and a flat body shaped like a blade. Electromagnetic fields aid their navigation in low-light conditions. We know they look like terrifying house companions, but appearances (as usual) are deceptive.
Black knife ghostfish are peaceful, nocturnal creatures. They only require clean water, worms to eat, and plenty of hiding places inside their tanks. If you’re an experienced aquarium keeper, get yourself one. Check state and local laws since the fish are considered pretty exotic.
Cat breed enthusiasts will love the Japanese Bobtail – a petite, good-natured companion with stunning blue or gold eyes. You will immediately notice the short tail or “pom” that resembles a bushy bunny’s tail! The hunter gene is strong with this one, toys included. Unlike other feline counterparts, Japanese Bobtails are affectionate and unafraid to show it!
If you’re lucky, your cat may even fetch and carry toys in their mouths, confident in the knowledge that behaving like retrievers doesn’t make them any less of a cat. Japanese Bobtails are ideal house cats and are legal to own everywhere.
Whether you’re a first-time rabbit owner or a seasoned hand, Dwarf Hotots make beautiful additions to the family. Gorgeous black-ringed eyes against snowy-white coats distinguish them from other rabbit breeds. As the name suggests, they’re also tinier than most. Dwarf Hotots are sweet, playful, and highly energetic beings. These beautiful bunnies are content indoors in a spacious enclosure.
But to raise truly happy bunnies, you need to schedule bonding time outside their cages. Good luck (trying) to keep up with the mischievous little tykes! There are no specific laws banning their sale or ownership in the United States.
So, you want to keep a pet monkey? If you’re looking for an insanely cute primate, look no further than squirrel monkeys. They are fun to have around. Are low-maintenance pets your thing? Then steer clear of monkeys generally, especially the deceptively cute squirrel monkey.
Squirrel monkeys need loads of attention and care. For one, they require constant entertainment or a glorious mess (throwing feces included) ensues. Squirrel monkeys are social animals. It might be better not to own one at all if you have no plans on bringing a posse. While most U.S. states ban squirrel monkeys, some states still allow them.
Chimpanzees with their human-like, entertaining ways might seem like great exotic pets. But most people cannot meet their needs. Caretakers must stay several steps ahead of this intelligent animal. Chimpanzees tend to become bored, which leads to destructive behavior. At their best, chimpanzees are endearing animals that form close bonds with humans. They are social and thrive in groups – their own kind and human company.
Chimpanzees also need a varied diet to stay healthy. While it’s illegal to own one in most U.S. states, some states allow pet chimpanzees with permits. Double-check local exotic pet laws, which might ban ownership even if your state allows it.
Are you looking for reasons to get an African Butterflyfish? We’ll give you several. It is one of the world’s oldest surviving freshwater fish species, with little to no changes in morphology over 100 million years! When viewed from above, they look like aquatic butterflies with those long fins enhancing this delightful illusion.
The fish also have upturned mouths which help them stay near the water's surface and catch prey. They may not be the easiest fish to breed in captivity – but never say never! There are no laws banning African Butterflyfish but do verify before buying.
Did you grow up believing that killing a praying mantis is illegal? It’s one of the many urban legends about this fascinating insect. That said, it’s definitely not okay to kill praying mantises. Who in their right mind kills a creature perpetually in prayer? These intelligent beings are fun to keep as pets.
Plus, they’re relatively easy to care for. While some mantises resemble twigs or dried leaves, others stand out in bright, bold colors that look like spring blossoms. Most mantids require only a small tank and eat other insects, spiders, or small amphibians. Owning praying mantises is usually legal everywhere.
Bobcats are legal as pets only with a permit. Wild animals aren’t your average pet – which is why their caretakers need to be a special breed too. A committed owner understands and anticipates issues such as aggression, proper enclosures, spaying, and other enhancements. All necessary prerequisites for happy and content bobcats in captivity. Bobcats are one of the easiest felines to work with, say exotic pet owners.
We’ll take their word for it. Surprising, since wild bobcats aren’t the friendliest. Those raised by humans are calm, curious, and affectionate. Most states understandably issue permits only to animal sanctuaries, educators, zoos, and research.
Llamas are the epitome of zen. The clue is in the name, minus the extra “l.” These impossibly cute and chilled-out animals make great family pets. They love outdoor spaces, so make sure you have enough room. Ideally, they are happier with other llamas since the herd is everything to them.
Give a llama these ideal living conditions, and you have the most affectionate and loyal pet. Fair warning: they are known for spitting, but only when not socialized enough. It’s legal to own a llama almost everywhere in the U.S., but city laws can vary.
Servals are elegant African cats that look like mini cheetahs. What is the first thing you notice? The giant ears and cute face – followed by the urge to bring one home! Although it is legal to own Servals in at least 16 U.S. states, potential owners may want to reconsider.
Serval cats are skilled hunters that roam the vast expanse of Africa. They jump high and dig deep – most enclosures do not stand a chance. Servals cannot (and should not) live indoors. These powerful felines can grow as big as 40 pounds. No matter how tame they become, Servals will always be wild cats in spirit.
Can you keep a pet zebra? Yes, you can with the requisite permits. Still, you’re probably better off with another animal. Why not a zebra? Aren’t zebras like horses, except cooler? Well, unlike horses, zebras aren’t domesticated animals and have strong self-preservation instincts.
A swift zebra kick can kill predators (or unsuspecting owners) if it hits the right spots. To ensure zebras stay happy and healthy, get at least two. A bit much, you think? For added perspective, wild zebras live in families of 5 to 20 members and often congregate in herds of thousands.
Taking hugs to the ultimate level is the Boa Constrictor. These snakes are native to South and Central America but thrive in captivity. Boas look frightening due to their size and strength. No one dares mess with a boa. In reality, these snakes are gentle, docile, and quiet.
Boas will show you affection the same way they do their prey – with a legendary hug, although decidedly less tight. With proper and regular handling, boas learn to be comfortable around humans. These massive snakes are easy to care for with the correct feeding routine and housing. Owning boas is legal in the U.S.
Also known as the Queen of Bavaria, Golden Conures are gorgeous birds with bright green and yellow feathers. One can hardly call them unusual — their popularity is well-established. However, Golden Conures are certainly harder to come by. It’s possible to buy and own them legally. But owners today need to shell out a lot of money and jump through hoops.
Anyone would be lucky to have these affectionate, goofy birds as pets. Wildly entertaining, intelligent birds that mimic human movement and vocalizations. Do ensure the cage is large enough so they can spend their seemingly unlimited energy!
Several mongoose species are banned in America. But the cusimanse is a dwarf species with no special federal status yet. Check local and exotic pet laws, regardless. Since these animals are lesser-known, regulations will be vague, and breeders may be hard to come by.
But previous owners describe cusimanse as social pets that are easily trainable. Cusimanse in the wild forage at night – usually in groups of 20 or more! They are omnivores with a soft spot for eating insects, fruits, reptiles, and even crabs.
Ants don’t fetch or perform tricks, and cuddles are out of the question! But you can still watch them all day. Ant farms offer glimpses into the world of these amazing insects. From queens and soldiers to worker ants – it’s a whole new universe. Setting up an ant colony or a formicarium can be challenging initially, but the effort is worth it. What they eat depends on the species, but most ants aren’t fussy.
Ant-keeping as a hobby has taken off over the years and is legal almost everywhere. Shipping ants across state lines isn’t.
Deer are incredibly adorable. But can you keep one at home? Say hello to the Muntjac Deer — the only deer species you can have indoors. They typically grow to the size of a medium dog. Gentle, mild-mannered, and clean (you’ll barely smell the poop) – Muntjac Deer are perfect house pets.
They tend to be shy initially but will warm up enough to come and give you kisses – straight out of a Disney film! Of course, you will need plenty of room and open spaces for Muntjac Deer to thrive. There are no state laws that ban the ownership of Muntjac Deer.
“Do crocodiles make good pets?” is an absurd question. They don’t, of course. But we need to answer it, regardless. Some places in the U.S. may allow folks to legally own one if they have permits for keeping protected wildlife. The legalities vary from state to state. Keeping crocodiles is never a good idea, but it isn’t uncommon.
Naturally, one needs a large tank or pond and an insane food budget. Crocs need at least ten years of your life, maybe more. While generally reclusive, even the shyest crocodiles can snap pretty quickly.
Sea Apple/Sea Cucumbers
What in the world is this thing? It’s a stunning Sea Apple or Sea Cucumber. An unusual animal – not a fruit or vegetable. These marine animals have no spine or brains but numerous skin-covered shells and mind-boggling internal hydraulics that enable them to get around. Both beautiful and grotesque, sea apples aren’t for beginners.
Neither are they average aquarium fixtures. If they die, Sea Apples secrete toxins that will kill everything in the tank. A dedicated reef aquarium is of the essence! Many types of sea apples are bred in captivity.
Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
Keeping insects isn’t a new concept but a cockroach? This one’s for the unorthodox among us. If it helps, these cockroaches don’t fly or jump. Despite the scary name, their hissing sounds are usually mating or warning calls. Hissing cockroaches are unusual in their affinity to humans. They don’t mind some petting, holding, and gentle examining. Existing owners are big fans, describing their pet cockroaches as pleasant and hardy creatures.
Plus, they have minimal dietary and housing needs – a secure, warm tank with hiding places and wood shavings. It is legal to own Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches if you follow local and state regulations.
Unless you’ve been away from the internet the last few years, you have seen an axolotl. A ‘smiling’ aquatic cutie that looks like a Pokémon character brought to life! Axolotls are low-maintenance companions whose antics you can watch all day.
You can’t take them out of the water, however. Any affection or admiration must be from a distance. These cuties aren’t very social, so house them separately. Since Axolotl is an endangered species, they are illegal to own in several states. Check exotic pet laws in your state to verify you can keep one.
What to expect when you have a munchkin cat? Several things. But what we can guarantee is 24/7 entertainment! The signature short legs and tiny frames (they weigh up to 9 pounds) make these munchkins the most adorable cats to own.
These goofy kitties have minimal needs but expect to be entertained while entertaining you. They will sit upright like rabbits or scurry after toys like ferrets. But make no mistake, these are felines and know it. Potential owners can purchase munchkin cats from licensed breeders in the country or adopt one.
Are you having a bad day? The tiny Fennec Fox and its oversized ears are here to make everything okay! But they do require special care and socialization. These inherent neat freaks are more than happy to use a litterbox indoors. Things to consider? Their energy and noise levels are the highest at night!
Plus, they are prone to being jittery – like maybe they had one too many cups of coffee! Sounds too close to home? You may have found the perfect companion. Keeping Fennec foxes is illegal in Minnesota, Washington, Missouri, and Nevada. Other states might require permits or health certificates.
The revered Silver Arowana is a powerful predatory fish native to the Amazon Rivers. This aggressive fish is, by no means, a pet for beginners. They are the domain of experienced hobbyists looking to add to their exotic fish collection.
Arowana can grow up to 4ft in length. They are best known for jumping out of water in short bursts to prey on unsuspecting animals on low-lying tree branches. Arowanas stay healthy in controlled environments and with high-quality food. Owning them isn’t banned at a federal level, though you might want to check local ordinances.
If it’s unusual pets you seek, we’re here to ensure the list gets progressively weirder. How about a giant millipede as a beginner exotic pet? It’s legal to keep them everywhere in the United States. Millipedes rank high on everyone’s list of terrifying “creepy crawlies.”
Did we mention they can have like 400 legs? Despite that, millipedes are actually slow-moving and generally docile and harmless. But remember to wash your hands after handling them since they can secrete a toxic substance when alarmed. They eat commonly-found vegetables and only need an aquarium tank with regulated humidity and warm light.
Pint-sized squirrels make our hearts melt. Imagine those tiny arms and legs stretching to glide from tree to tree. Flying squirrels are nocturnal creatures, and the forest canopy is their playground. Tiny creatures with huge personalities, keeping flying squirrels as pets is fun. When socialized well, they also form loving bonds with their humans.
But they need hands-on attention and socialization too. Owners will need to supervise these frisky pets. For these reasons, flying squirrels aren’t ideal for homes with kids. There’s only so much supervision you can do! Flying squirrels are legal to own in most U.S. states.
Tarantulas are quiet, low-maintenance pets. All they want is to be left alone. They loathe being handled in any way – so would you give a spider some space, please? By space, we mean dark corners where they can crawl until their next meal. Tarantulas feast on mealworms, crickets, or roaches.
Remember, these escape artists won't miss an opportunity to bolt. So, a ventilated cage with a secure lid is of the utmost importance! It’s legal to keep tarantulas in most states, but always good to check local laws.
Bearded Dragon Lizards
Need some enchantment in your life? The quest ends with a Bearded Dragon Lizard. Look at this distinguished lizard and its beard-like collar! If you have always dreamt of taming dragons, start here, perhaps. "Beardies" are gentle lizards native to Australia and make great pets – even for first-time lizard keepers. They require specific food and living conditions to thrive.
Temperature-controlled tanks, UV lighting, humidity, and insects/worms are essential. It is legal to keep them in most places. We recommend verifying city laws and breeders. Reptile mills are as real and horrid as puppy mills.
We see your Persian cat and raise you a gorgeous Bengal cat! Bengal cats (not the tiger) are hybrid cats similar in size and temperament to domestic cats. These fabulous felines are affectionate and super smart. Happen to disappoint a Bengal Cat? You will know.
They are pretty vocal about things they hate or love. They are happiest in water or while clambering up trees or cat posts. But do remember to raise them indoors only. It is illegal to own Bengals in Hawaii, Delaware, Connecticut, Indiana, New York, Georgia, Iowa, and Alaska.
Just a look into a Bush Baby’s big, round eyes, and you can’t resist bringing one home! Bush Babies are generally mellow and sweet – happiest leaping from tree to tree or swinging on hammocks. They are illegal to own in many states, but some (like Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana) will allow ownership with the requisite permits.
Keeping bush babies is no walk in the park. They are hard to tame and can scratch you with those sharp claws and fangs. And we must mention the urine! No detergent or cleaner in the world can easily remove that pungent smell.
For obvious reasons, tigers do not make good pets. The risks far outweigh any misguided sense of street cred. One might even call owners narcissistic. These majestic cats ideally belong in the wild. In captivity, tigers fare well in large zoos, sanctuaries, or wildlife reserves.
They need acres of wild land for roaming and they eat dozens of pounds of meat. Although most U.S. states have bans on keeping big cats as pets, the royal feline’s allure remains irresistible to some. But why not admire tigers from a distance in a zoo instead?
It’s almost impossible to dislike toads. From hobbyists and first-timers to herpetologists, everyone dotes on toads! Even the most commonly found species make responsive, curious, and bold pets – compared to their more popular but aloof frog cousins. For instance, toads will not hesitate to feed off an owner’s hand. These amphibians require clean, ammonium-free water and a highly-varied diet.
Think crickets, earthworms, bugs, roaches – the works! With proper care, they can live for 30 years and beyond. America has over 21 different species of toads. Whether folks can keep one depends on the toad type and the laws where you live.