The Weirdest Pets People Have Owned
Cats and dogs are the typical pets, but have you ever wondered what other animals people have welcomed into their homes? Read on to find out the weirdest pets people have owned and whether it’s really a good idea to keep them or not.
Meet Stella the kinkajou. She lives with her owners Samantha and Justin Powell. Despite their similar looks, kinkajous aren’t monkeys — they’re more closely related to raccoons and red pandas than primates. Typically, these animals live in the rain forests of Central and South America. However, this one lives in a house in Florida.
Kinkajous are nocturnal, so Stella spends most of the day sleeping (sounds nice, doesn’t it?). However, when she’s awake, she is energetic and rambunctious. Kinkajous are also called honey bears because they love honey, which they slurp with their very long tongues. But for the most part, they eat fruit.
For over 70 years, people have been breeding skunks in captivity, but they’re only legal pets in 17 U.S. states. At a young age, pet skunks are descented so they can’t spray their noxious scent. If you have a pet skunk, you need to feed it a very fresh diet of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains.
Skunks are very playful and require a lot of attention. Plus, they can get into trouble around the house by opening cabinets and things with their claws. Not only that, but they tend to hoard soft household items like towels. And unlike cats or dogs, they can’t find their way home if lost outside.
A group of scientists in Russia have been running an experiment to domesticate foxes: They’ve been breeding the friendly ones together. As a result, they have a lot of cute, legitimately pet foxes who actually want human companionship. They’ll run you quite a pretty penny, though (around $9,000).
And while they share some traits with dogs, they do behave differently (like sometimes peeing in coffee cups) and require some extra work. For instance, pet foxes needs an outdoor enclosure where they can dig. Also, you have to consider the laws in your state and if any veterinarian near you will see a fox.
4. Capuchin monkey
As seen on Friends, people sometimes keep capuchin monkeys as pets or even as substitute children. They’re cute, small, and intelligent, but aren’t the best animals for your home. First off, primates (aka monkeys and apes) can carry diseases that they can transmit to people through bites or scratches.
On top of that, primates need to be around their own species to develop normally. So raising a young capuchin monkey in a human household interferes with its development. And usually, these pets are raised by humans from a young age because that’s when they’re the most docile. Once they grow older, they often become aggressive.
This couple in South Africa decided to keep a male hyena, Odi, as a pet. According to them, his mother abandoned him shortly after giving birth, so they took him in. While he’s very aggressive toward strangers, he seems to have a good time with his owners, according to them.
In Florida, a man purchased a hyena (Jake) and raised him in his apartment for a while. But he had behavioral issues, like allegedly running into walls, so he gave him to a wildlife sanctuary. Jake was taken from his mother at a young age and never grew up with a hyena family.
This couple in England keeps a pair of meerkats, Jack and Mila, in their house. As cute as they are, meerkats may not be the pet for you: The couple advises that pet meerkats can be infuriating and a full-time commitment. Often, pet meerkats are fed the wrong diet and end up overweight.
Like other exotic pets, meerkats normally live in large social groups, and the absence of that group in a human home deeply affects the animals. This could show up in behavioral problems like pacing, over-grooming, head bobbing, or even self-mutilation. Also, since meerkats are natural diggers, they can ruin household carpets and floors.
7. Surfing mice
Mice may commonly be seen as pests, but they’re also pets you can get from a pet store. However, few pet mice are as weird or special as Shane Willmott’s surfing (and skateboarding) mice and rats. He pulls them around on toy skateboards to train them when they’re tiny.
“They love it,” Willmott told Today. “Mice are built to surf and skate because their center of gravity is so low. When they do fall off, they want to get straight back on board.” In 10 years of teaching the rodents extreme sports, Willmott told The Courier-Mail that he had never lost a mouse.
Hundreds of pet sloths are actually taken from the wild and trafficked into the pet trade each year, often illegally. They don’t really make good pets, either. Sloths need to be in warm, humid environments consistently and like to spend time suspended from high branches.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell if a sloth is stressed out. When scared, they usually just hold still, and thus can look perfectly fine when they actually aren’t. On top of that, these slow plant-eaters can actually inflict some nasty bites. Baby sloths may like to be handled, but by adulthood they usually don’t enjoy it.
The Allied Effort to Save Other Primates estimates that there are 15,000 pet primates in the United States. However, laws concerning exotic pets are different from state to state; only nine states ban people from keeping nonhuman primates as pets.
Often, after an owner’s pet primate grows up and becomes aggressive or too much to handle, they try to give the animal to someone else. Some get to live in sanctuaries, but since zoos won’t take pets, a lot end up in someone else’s house and then sold again (and again). These “pets” are wild animals and haven’t been domesticated.
Once upon a time, it was extraordinarily easy to get your hands on a lion cub for a pet. Actress and The Birds star Tippi Hedren lived with a lion, Neil, and his trainer for a while. Neil the lion slept in her daughter Melanie Griffith’s bed, swam in their pool with them, and generally lounged about the house.
After this, Hedren and the family began acquiring all kinds of big cats in anticipation of a movie they were making: Roar. The movie starred over a hundred big cats that all lived with the family. But as you would imagine, with that many untrained big cats, several people on set were injured in the making of the movie.
Who hasn’t wanted to cuddle with a bear? In most cases (if not all), that’s a pretty bad idea, but some people go for it anyway. This bear, Stepan, lives with this couple in Russia. They kiss him on the nose and hug him despite him being 770 pounds of dangerous predator.
In fact, wildly enough, he even sits at the table and eats with them — off plates, out of mugs. His slurping splashes the drink everywhere, but he is a bear. His owners say feeding him gains his trust and they’ve been training him since he was a 3-month-old cub. However, he doesn’t have free reign and does spend time in a cage.
While this chimp looks like a character on Dora the Explorer, he probably doesn’t make a very good pet. When they’re young, chimps need 24-hour attention, which most humans can’t provide. In most cases, a person can’t give a pet chimp the amount of attention and stimulation they require even as adults.
On top of that, most homes don’t offer chimps the space they need and thus they can be insanely messy. It’s like a toddler that’s five times stronger than an adult human. Plus, chimps normally interact with each other by biting, which can be very dangerous for humans. So it’s best to leave chimpanzees in the wild.
13. Stag beetle
Author M.G. Leonard keeps pet rainbow stag beetles and even wrote a children’s novel about a boy and some beetles. Many beetles only live about three months, but rainbow stags tend to live about 18 months. Often, there’s a specific time of year you can buy adult beetles.
When keeping invertebrates like these as pets, you have to be careful about how you set up their home, because they can have specific needs. Rainbow stag beetles, in particular, like something they can dig in and prefer to eat bananas. You also should keep their enclosure moist, spraying it regularly with water.
Sure, we’re all used to pigs on farms, but people sometimes keep them as pets. While they don’t have the best reputation, pigs are some of the smartest animals. However, as cute as little “teacup” and mini pigs are, they do grow out of their mini size.
These pet pigs are much smaller than their 600-pound (or more) farm compatriots, but pet potbellied pigs still grow to 100 pounds or more. Breeders often lie about piglets, saying they will stay teeny-tiny forever, but that isn’t the case. While pigs can be pets, they aren’t suited for apartments and should be outside.
In Australia’s Northern Territories, about 100 people have permits to keep pet crocodiles (freshwater and saltwater). They are kept in enclosures in the backyard, which must follow government regulations to keep both the animal and the people safe and healthy.
“I’m sure that he’d kill me if I went into the enclosure,” Nicola Collins said about her pet crocodile to ABC News, “but other than that he smiles at me a lot and he’s really lovely.” Unfortunately, plenty of people in cities buy baby crocodiles and then return them once they grow too big. Of course, some crocodiles can live to be 100, so theoretically they could outlive their owner.
Another odd pet of Friends fame — the duck. This one is not only someone’s pet, but also best friends with the family dog. In fact, Pam Ishiguro has a flock of seven ducks, but these two have the strongest bond. Often, the dog and duck chase each other around, but they can’t bear to be apart.
Ducks are social and should be with other ducks. Also, they need a pond or some sort of water facility; it keeps them healthy and must be deep enough for them to completely submerge. However, it also has to be easy for the duck to get in and out of, so things like porcelain baths are not ideal.
Tragically, there are more pet tigers in the U.S. than there are wild tigers; they’re endangered, with only around 3,000 left in the wild. Most tiger owners are wealthy and set up an enclosure on their land. Some tigers are kept as roadside attractions in pseudo-zoos.
Some states have laws against keeping tigers, but many do not, and the breeders keep breeding them. Unlike the crocodiles in Australia, there are no standards for tiger enclosures. Also, many people simply don’t register their exotic pets. It does seem like the United States’ captive tiger population is decreasing, though (just like their endangered wild counterparts).
18. Polar bear
Polar bears are the largest land predators currently alive on Earth, and yet, this guy keeps one as a pet. He trains animals for movies and purchased the bear as a cub to train for a movie. She now lives in a large fenced-in area with a pool on his land.
She licks his face and wrestles with him, but he has to keep in mind that she is still a wild, dangerous animal. To train her, he gives her snacks of salmon, making sure to keep an eye on her behavior for signs of displeasure. But he says it takes years of being around a polar bear to really develop an understanding of when things could turn sour.
Opera singer Charlene Chapman had a private zoo, which included a kinkajou, monkey, and a cheetah named Flossie. Chapman and Flossie even slept in the same bed together. However, the pet cheetah trade (which is growing in popularity in the Middle East) is hurting wild cheetahs.
Cheetahs are already vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss, but the pet trade is making it worse, as cheetahs are trafficked out of their home territory. This is different from tigers, since most captive tigers in the U.S. are born to breeders in the U.S. So, as cute as cheetahs may be, keeping them as pets simply hurts their wild populations.
While hedgehogs are incredibly cute, African pygmy hedgehogs have certain needs that pet owners should pay attention to. Their natural diet is made up of bugs, roots, and plants, so you’ll probably want to buy hedgehog food and then give them bugs, fruits, and veggies as supplemental treats.
Plus, since they are normally very active, they need an exercise wheel and enough room for foraging. On top of that, they should have a heater since they come from tropical environments. But don’t expect a hedgehog to be active during the day; they’re nocturnal and will be waking up around dinnertime.
Capybaras are very cute, but very large rodents. As with most exotic pets, different states have different laws concerning capybara ownership. So while they may be legal in some places, like Texas, they may be illegal elsewhere. Also, capybaras are, by nature, very social animals, so it’s unwise to only adopt one capybara.
As the largest rodent on Earth, capybaras are pretty big (reaching 140 pounds!). They’re semiaquatic and need their own pool in addition to outdoor roaming space. They may ruin your furniture and carpet if kept inside. Also, they can run away really fast, so keep that in mind.
Goats are usually kept on farms for their milk, but they can be kept as pets, too. However, some cities restrict goat ownership. For instance, some places only allow you to keep a mini goat, which is generally under 100 pounds (as opposed to the 100 to 200 pounds for a standard goat).
As much fun as having a pet goat can be, they still need outdoor space and aren’t really indoor pets. You’ll have to have a strong fence that they can’t stick their heads through to keep them safely in the backyard. Also, goats will eat most plants in your yard, so keep them separate from the ones that may be toxic to them.
Koalas are totally adorable, but they are facing a lot of threats in their home range. They only eat eucalyptus plants, and yet their habitat is disappearing and fragmented. This makes them have to move around more, exposing them to the sometimes-deadly threats of dogs and vehicles.
On top of that, koalas are having a chlamydia epidemic in which about half of all koalas have the disease. It can blind them and make them infertile. And now they’re facing climate change. Some research suggests interacting with people makes koalas stressed out, so they probably have enough problems without becoming pets.
Alpacas are basically the smaller, cuter versions of llamas, with incredibly soft coats that people shear for textile use. Additionally, their fleece is hypoallergenic, flame resistant, and water resistant. Similarly to cats, alpacas require a bit of time to get used to people, but will usually warm up to being touched and even hugged.
However, alpacas are herd animals and need to be very social. Usually, this means you’ll need more than one. Sometimes, you can own a pet alpaca that’s housed at an alpaca farm; you just pay for it, visit it as much as possible, and care for it.
25. Sugar glider
Sugar gliders are cute little marsupials from Australia. They can glide between trees like paper airplanes using the thin skin between their arms and torso. They’re nocturnal and often live with other sugar gliders in trees. They eat mostly eucalyptus sap, nectar, pollen, and acacia plants, but sometimes snack on spiders and beetles.
If you’re thinking of getting a sugar glider or any of these exotic pets, you need to read up on them. For example, parts of Australia and the United States have made it illegal to keep sugar gliders as pets, and many people think it’s unethical to keep them. Additionally, before getting an exotic pet, you must make sure you have a nearby vet who can take care of the animal.