Playing a sport is often an enjoyable and relaxing leisure activity, but being a professional athlete can turn it into a tiring and stressful endeavor. For this reason, it’s not surprising that most professional sportsmen seek relief and comfort at the end of a hard day’s work. And for a couple of these athletes, it’s pets that provide just the right amount of solace and relaxation.
Not surprisingly, the strong personalities that a lot of athletes possess have resulted in some very extreme choices for the kinds of pets they keep. Of course, many times, these animals don’t come cheap. Exotic pets can be among the most expensive to buy, and not to mention maintain. Fortunately, the world’s best athletes often make so much money that they can afford (or, in some cases, mistakenly think they can afford) to burn their cash on their pets.
The list that follows contains ten athletes who chose to call some of the most interesting and unusual animals their pets. For the cash values listed, only the costs for purchasing the animals are listed, not the amounts needed to maintain them, which would certainly drive up their total cost of ownership.
10. Jose Canseco / 2 Miniature Fainting Goats / Total Cost: $350
It’s not entirely surprising (or maybe not at all surprising) that retired MLB outfielder Jose Canseco would appear in a list of athletes with unusual pets. After all, the 1998 AL MVP and two-time World Series champion (1989, 2000) has done some pretty strange things since his retirement in 2001. These include campaigning to become Mayor of Toronto, Canada even when he wasn’t a Canadian citizen.
True to Canseco’s bizarre nature, in November of 2013, he and his model girlfriend, Leila Knight, were pulled over by police while transporting two fainting goats wearing diapers. It was, in fact, Jose himself who broke the news by posting the following tweet with the picture featured above:
Canseco later explained that he and Knight had bought the fainting goats from rural Nevada because they both loved animals (they already owned dogs and tortoises), and Canseco really wanted to get the breed of goats that when startled, would get muscle contractions and fall over. Leila further explained that she had pet dye and planned to color the goats’ ears pink.
9. Mike Miller / Java Macaque / Cost: $5,000
Now that 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year Mike Miller is playing with the Memphis Grizzlies, some fans might guess that his unusual pet is a grizzly bear. But he’s not that literal. Instead, his beloved pet is a Java Macaque, a small species of monkey found mostly in Asia.
Asked about his unconventional pet, Miller shared that he and his Macaque, Sonny, were practically inseparable. He would take Sonny everywhere he went, including the mall, where the monkey would elicit stares as it rode on Mike’s shoulder. In fact, Mike treated the adorable fellow like a little human being. Sonny had his own bedroom, and when he was hungry, he knew how to open the fridge and get food, grapes being his favorite. Unfortunately, when Miller’s first son was born, Mike decided to give Sonny away to a sanctuary, a process the 6-foot, 8-inch baller described as “emotional” and “terrible”.
Today, Miller’s family owns three German Shepherds and a Bulldog, but no exotic animals.
8. Carmelo Anthony / Camel / Cost: $12,000
Does 2013 NBA scoring champion Carmelo Anthony really have a camel as a pet? Well, if his tweet in May of 2011 is to be believed, yes, he does.
The tweet, which came with the picture featured above, caused NBA fans everywhere to speculate what Carmelo had named his new pet. The most common guess? “Camelo”.
7. Mikki Moore / 7 Caimans and Several Exotic Snakes / Cost: $14,000
Having played for thirteen different organizations throughout his basketball career, Mikki Moore is used to slithering his way from team to team. Fittingly, his choice of pets includes six caimans (a type of small alligator), a black and white snake named “Referee”, an orange and yellow corn snake that sleeps in the main bedroom with Moore and his girlfriend, and an eight-foot Columbia red-tailed boa constrictor that lives in a large glass tank.
What Mikki enjoys most about his pets is feeding time. The caimans eat live goldfish, while the snakes eat live or frozen mice. Moore once told former Sonics teammate Nick Collison, “It’s not vicious, dude; it’s just entertainment. You’ve got to see it in person, man.”
Ironically, Moore is terrified by insects.
6. Gilbert Arenas / Sharks / Cost: $15,000
The photos above show only two of the several shark-filled tanks in the $3.5 million Virgina home of professional basketball player Gilbert Arenas. Unfortunately, because of his woes in the NBA, including being indefinitely suspended for unloading guns in the Washington Wizards’ locker room, Arenas has had to put the house up for sale in 2013. Reportedly, Gilbert was carrying guns in relation to gambling debts he had difficulty settling. If only his finned pets doubled as loan sharks…
5. Tony Stallings / Alligator, Monitor Lizard, Reticulated Python, Burmese Python / Total Cost: $20,000
Tony Stallings was the running back for the University of Louisville Cardinals from 1998 to 2001. He later played in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League, and also starred in the film “Courageous”. Today, he’s a football color commentator for the University of Louisville, but in his spare time, he likes to take care of his pets. And there are many of them — quite unusual ones, in fact. Among Tony’s pets are an alligator named “Baraka”, a monitor lizard, a reticulated python, and an albino Burmese python.
Stallings, who is also a gospel preacher, has been fascinated by animals since he got his first pet, a green iguana, at the age of fifteen. At sixteen, he also took a part-time job at a pet store.
And T.C. doesn’t yet seem satisfied with his collection of pets. He shares, “Let’s not forget the dolphin I’m going to have swimming in my pool in the backyard. I haven’t figured out how I’m going to get one yet.”
4. Chad Johnson / Eels, Lemur, Bengal Tiger / Total Cost: $75,000
Formerly known as Chad Ochocinco, Johnson used to be a superstar in the NFL, where he appeared in six Pro Bowls (2003-2007, 2009). Unfortunately, in 2012, he was arrested on a charge of domestic battery, causing him to be released by the Miami Dolphins. Prior to that arrest, however, Chad caught the attention of the media not only for his football play, but also for his extreme taste in pets. A tweet posted by Johnson in April of 2011 exemplifies just how unconventional his pets are.
It seems the lemur and the Bengal tiger weren’t enough for the 2006 NFL Receiving Yards leader. In August of 2013, Chad posted the following tweet:
Maybe someone ought to tell Johnson that not many chicks love eels.
3. Patrick Deneen / 2 Miniature Donkeys, 1 Regular Donkey, 25 Horses / Total Cost: $124,000
It’s easy to assume that Patrick Deneen is an adrenaline junky. He was, after all, the gold medalist at the 2009 International Ski Federation Freestyle World Ski Championships. True to form, even his pets provide him with a good dose of excitement.
Asked what he would like to fill his time with if he could have one day when he didn’t have to train or do anything sports-related, Patrick says he would like to ride his horses (of which there are twenty-five). Horseback riding naturally became one of Deneen’s other passions since his mother bought him a horse when he was younger than eleven months old.
In addition to the horses, Deneen also owns two miniature donkeys, a regular donkey, and four border collies, all of which he describes as being very energetic. Fortunately, Patrick’s family owns a huge expanse of land in which his pets can roam and “just hang out outside all day”.
2. Mike Tyson / 3 White Bengal Tigers and 350 Pigeons / Total Cost: $212,000
Famed former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson got into his first fight when he was a child after a bigger boy pulled the head off of one of Tyson’s beloved pigeons. Fortunately for the bully, Mike wasn’t as big then as he is now. Otherwise, the boy could have very well found himself in the same predicament as the pigeon he victimized. After all, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world really loves his pets.
Tyson’s pet tigers have become famous after being immortalized in “The Hangover” franchise movies. And while Mike was forced to sell the beasts after his financial woes, the boxer still dreams of owning yet another one someday. “One day, when I ever make any money, I’ll have to own my own little private compound since the tigers have to live apart from the kids,” Tyson imagines.
As for his pigeons, he still keeps several of them. Mike even recalls an ex-girlfriend who cooked and ate one of his winged pets in front of him. Of the incident, Tyson explains, “That’s why she’s not my woman anymore.”
1. Ernie Sims / Various Exotic Pets / Total Cost: $400,000
Cowboys linebacker Ernie Sims loves all types of exotic animals. And it seems like his means of showing his love for the creatures is sharing his home with them. The basement of his suburban Detroit condo was transformed into a mini zoo featuring black-tip sharks and exotic fish in a 1,800-gallon saltwater aquarium, two alligators, several lizards including an iguana, a couple of specially-bred snakes including a 14-foot albino Burmese python, exotic birds, and dart frogs. These animals bring his weekly bill for pet food to around $1,000.
Unfortunately, when Sims left Detroit, he decided to give back all the animals to the shop owner he bought them from. However, he still has a couple of “more traditional” pets at his rural Georgia home. These include dogs, goats, cows, and a donkey.