Move aside dogs, cats, and fish! Now a days zoos aren’t the only place you will find wild and exotic animals. Now you can legally purchase one for your own home! It’s estimated that over 20 million Americans own some sort of exotic animal. Some animals will make you question why anyone would want to keep one in their house, while other’s will make you want to look up where to find one due to an overwhelming amount of cuteness!
Pet owners now want something more, something unique to help them stand out from others. When some hear “exotic” they think wild and dangerous. Exotic actually refers to a species that is not native or indigenous to the owner’s location. There are many sites available to check your state laws regarding private ownership of exotic animals.
Almost all animals are legal in the United States, however due to injuries, danger of extinction, escapes, and health concerns, each state has its own laws in regards to which exotic animals you can own. For example, close to two dozen states including Vermont, California, and New Hampshire ban exotic animals so make sure to do plenty of research and double check with your state government. Also, certain animals may be legal, but require a license to own.
Below are a list of 15 exotic animals that you can legally (depending on your state) have as pets. Prices range from $.25 to an upward of $60,000.
Some may turn their head at the site of one or get grossed out, but many consider this pet to be one of their favorites. The Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are native to the island of Madagascar and have a lifespan of 1-3 years. Their name comes from the hissing sound they make, which is made by forcing air through small holes in their bodies.
Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are becoming widely popular as exotic pets, mainly because of their popular “hissing” sound, and their “taboo” factor. They also require minimal care, a small living area, and they do not fly or bite. However, be careful if you get a pair because these insects reproduce quickly and as a result you could have more than you bargained for. In fact they are known to have as many as 60 nymph roaches.
While some people will run screaming out of the room when they see a tarantula, others walk towards them with glee. Tarantula’s are found everywhere except Antarctica and have a lifespan of 10-25 years. Their sizes range from as small as a fingernail to as large as a dinner plate. Having 8 legs and 2 fangs can be quite intimidating, but there is good news- Tarantula’s rarely bite people. There are many to choose from, but the “Chilean Rose-Haired Tarantulas” are the most popular to be kept as pets. Mainly because they are large and easy to tend to.
Native of the West African rainforests, Emperor Scorpions are shiny, black, and have big scary looking front claws. These unique characteristics are a few reasons why people like keeping them as exotic pets. In fact, Emperor Scorpions are one of the most common types of scorpions kept as pets. They are one of the largest species of scorpion in the world, as they can grow up to 8 inches in length. Despite having a rough and tough exterior, they are known to be docile, and the venom they carry is rather mild. However, even though their venom is mild, it is still going to hurt if you are stung or pinched by their huge claws.
Bearded Dragons originated from Australia and have a lifespan of 5-8 years. They are called “Bearded” Dragons because the spikes and scales around their head resemble a beard. They are popular to keep as exotic pets due to their easy care and calm nature. They grow 12-24 inches in length and many agree they make great pets because they are generally mellow creatures. Surprisingly Bearded Dragons were not introduced to the United States until the 1990’s. Now a days they are considered a popular exotic pet, and can be found in almost every pet store.
These cute little marsupials come from the same general family as a Kangaroo. The Sugar Glider’s origin is Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. They live 10-15 years, reach about 7 inches in length and weigh only about 6 ounces. They get their name for their love of sweet foods and the ability to glide through the air.
Sugar Gliders have become popular as exotic pets because they are incredibly social, and bond easily with humans. It’s best to get two or more sugar gliders if you cannot be home a lot to keep them company. Reason being- they love interaction, and if they are deprived of social interaction they will become sad to the point where they will die. While these cute flying marsupials may sound like a perfect pet be advised… they can be stinky, talkative and since they are nocturnal they will be up all night, making noise. But at least they will be interesting company as they glide throughout your house!
These spiky little cuties hail from Europe, Asia and Africa, and have a lifespan 3-8 years. Hedgehogs can weigh up to 1.5 pounds and their spines can be up to an inch in length. Their high adorable factor makes them popular as exotic pets, but be prepared as they require a lot of care.
Each hedgehog has between 5000 and 7000 quills (spikes). They are incredibly quiet, curious, and super active at night. Hedgehogs have very poor eyesight, and as a result they rely heavily on smell and hearing. One unique thing about hedgehogs is that they do not trigger allergies, and they can be very cuddly!
Originally kept by farmers to scare rodents away from crops, skunks are now known as playful and lovable pets, but only after they get their scent glands removed of course. Skunks, also known as “polecats” have a lifespan of about 12 years and weigh an average of 8-12 pounds. They are notorious for using their anal scent glands as a defense mechanism. And you definitely do not want to get sprayed… they can spray up to 10 feet and it’s very burdensome to get rid of the smell.
Despite their smelly reputation skunks are incredibly sensitive, clever, curious, and love being held. Many keep skunks as exotic pets because they can be litter box trained, but beware… they love to steal things from around the house, which stems from their inquisitive nature.
Known as the World's largest rodent, the Capybaras, native to South Africa, has a lifespan of 8-10 years and can weigh up to 150 pounds. Not only are they heavy, they also grow to be an average of 4 feet long. Many like owning a Capybaras as an exotic pet because they are smart, playful, and social.
Surprising to many, Capybaras are quite the water lovers. In fact, their name literally translates to “water pig”. These aquatic rodents love water and will need an area to swim, exercise, and keep themselves happy. They even sleep and eat in the water! If you are considering getting a Capybaras, keep in mind that they are incredibly social so it’s best to have two together if you cannot be home a lot.
These perky large-eared animals are originally from Northern Africa, and have a lifespan of 10-16 years. Fennec Foxes are one of the most popular exotic animals due to their unique characteristics, and they are currently being bred commercially as an exotic house pet. Fennec Foxes are frequently described as a mix between a dog and a cat. For example, they are technically related to dogs, but they have the temperament of a cat, as they sleep most of the day and can be litter boxed trained. Fennec Foxes are huge hunters, mainly at night, and use their large ears to listen for prey. They are the most social of all foxes, and have a very fast high-pitched yelp.
Part of the raccoon family, these fascinating mammals come from the rainforests of Central and South Africa. The Kinkajou has a lifespan of 20-25 years, with a maximum recorded lifespan of 41 years. Also known as “honeybears”, they are incredibly affectionate and get along marvelously with humans. Kinkajous are becoming more popular as an exotic pet due to their playful and docile demeanor. Many describe a Kinkajou as having a baby bear cub face with an otter body.
This is not your typical housecat. Servals come from Central and Southern Africa and have a lifespan of up to 19 years. They weigh up to 40 pounds and stand close to 2 feet tall. Servals are the most successful hunters of all wild cats, and are the fastest running cat aside from the cheetah. Like other cats, the Serval can purr, as well as chirp, hiss, growl, grunt, and meow.
Servals are gaining in popularity in the exotic pet world. Despite their wild, predator demeanor, they are many out there who have been raising Servals since they were a baby.
Not quite as big as a Kangaroo, a Wallaby can grow up to 41 inches and weigh close to 53 pounds. They love the outdoors and are extremely social. Many feel that Wallabies make excellent exotic pets because they are kept outdoors, and are considered cute and fuzzy. They aren’t your typical outside pet… basically a normal backyard isn’t going to cut it for a Wallaby. They need lots of outdoor room, as they move around at high speeds, and should be kept in a pen with shelter. Another thing to consider- you will need fencing at least 5 feet high, because Wallabies are cousins to the Kangaroo, which brings fast and high jumping.
From the tropical forests of Central and South America, the Squirrel Monkey may be the most adorable exotic pet of them all. They usually weigh only about 2 pounds, and are lots of fun, playful and energetic. The Squirrel Monkey is highly intelligent, social and super affectionate, making them popular with exotic animal owners. They have the largest brain out of all primates, so house-training should come easy to these little cuties.
Be careful though, Squirrel Monkeys spread their urine on their feet, hands, and sometimes all over their body to help mark their path. The Squirrel Monkey can cost you upwards of $8,000 for a baby, and be prepared to spend lots of time and attention as they demand it almost constantly.
The Hyacinth Macaw is the largest macaw and flying parrot in existence. Their origin is South America and they grow to be 3-4 pounds. This gorgeous parrot has a wingspan of 4 feet. Their beaks are so strong they have been known to break apart cages. They are listed as endangered because many of them are being captured and traded, and their habitats are dwindling. Many love owning the Hyacinth Macaw as an exotic pet due to their beauty, their rarity, and the long lifespan.
Many exotic pet owners love having chimpanzees because they are remarkably similar to humans. Even though they are considered an endangered species, they are still legal to own in the US. Their origin is West and Central Africa and if you are interested in owning one you may have to take out a second mortgage on your home! These cute, furry companions can cost you up to $60,000 and that’s just for the initial purchase.
There are many things to consider if you are interested in owning a chimpanzees. They are highly intelligent, extremely territorial, and will strike without warning. They grow to be over 100 pounds and can live up to 60 years in captivity. Their average upper-body strength is five times that of a human. Having a chimpanzee can be considered a “status symbol” to some, just make sure you are prepared and know what comes along with these well-liked creatures.