The world we live in is filled with both weird and wonderful creatures – some that we fear, and some that we choose to be our pets. These pets make for very comforting companions - they make us happy, relieve our stress and even boost your mental and physical health. At present more than 85 million American families own a pet, an astonishing figure that is just a drop in the bucket in terms of global pet ownership. While dogs always have, and probably always will be man's best friend, there is a myriad of other animals including some exotic species that make superb pets.
While some of our greatest pet-related inspirations come from the silver screen courtesy of movies like Madagascar, Babe, and The Jungle Book, we sometimes simply yearn for the close proximity of an animal we might have seen in a zoo or even a magazine. Regardless of our reasoning, the desire to own an exotic animal is fast becoming a trend that is not bound to change any time soon. With that said, let us take a closer look at 10 exotic animals that you can own as a pet, and 10 that are illegal to own.
20 You Can Own a Fennec Fox
Fennec foxes are not only extremely cute but they can also make for pretty awesome pets. The tiny nocturnal animals are also the smallest fox species in the world and live on a diet of plants, insects, reptiles, and eggs. These curious little animals are known for their digging and, like with rabbits, their outdoor enclosures have to be designed in such a way that they can’t dig out from under it.
In the USA, Fennec ownership is subject to various State laws. While ownership of all foxes is, for example, outlawed in Nevada, Fennecs are considered companion pets in the state of New York. These little guys are so cute they may just be worth moving to another State for if the one you currently reside in doesn't allow you to keep one as a pet.
19 You Can't Own a Red Panda
Thanks to the Kung Fu Panda movie franchise, red pandas are soaring in popularity. With their striking coloration and almost cartoon-like features, these mischievous animals are sadly a sought-after commodity in the illegal animal trade.
Red pandas, like the Giant Panda, feed on a diet that consists primarily of bamboo but will supplement with other food sources when they are available. Regardless of how much you would like to have a red panda as a pet, you can’t as it is against both U.S and international law. The best you can do is view them in Zoos, in magazines, and on television.
18 You Can Own a Kinkajou
If you have always wanted a pet that looks perpetually bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, a Kinkajou may be the ideal companion for you. These adorable and playful animals are native to Central and South America and make for wonderful little pets.
They are nocturnal and are prone to grumpiness if woken from a nap but apart from that, they are very docile. Your pet Kinkajou will need a large cage, such as a big aviary, and plenty of affection and interaction to prevent it from becoming bored and destructive.
17 You Can't Own a Penguin
Thanks to movies such as Happy Feet and Surf’s Up, penguins have skyrocketed in popularity with an alarming number of individuals actually wanting to keep them as pets. Unfortunately for any aspiring penguin owners, all 18 species are protected, making it virtually impossible to own one of these fetching creatures in the USA (and the rest of the world).
An international treaty known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also regulates the trade of penguins making it illegal to even get your hands on a penguin egg.
16 You Can Own a Mexican Redknee Tarantula
If you aren’t an Arachnophobe, this colorful critter may prove to be the perfect addition to your family. Native to the mountains of Western Mexico, the Mexican Redknee is fast becoming one of the most sought-after pets in the USA.
Before adopting a Redknee into your family you need to make 100% sure it is the right pet for you. Not only do these beauties require quite a large terrarium to live in but they have an impressive lifespan as well. The females can live up to 30 years while the males generally make it to around ten years of age.
15 You Can't Own a Slow Loris
These adorable big-eyed creatures are native to Southeast Asia and Northeast India and have a similar appeal to sloths with their languid, almost-human ways and quirky mannerisms. Thanks to videos surfacing on social media of a pet loris being tickled under its arms, many individuals have tried to acquire one as a pet – to no avail.
While they can be purchased in countries such as Japan and Russia, it is against the law to export them – and unethical to rip them from their natural habitat. You probably won’t even see a live loris in a zoo in the USA unfortunately. The best you can do is find a suitable replacement such as a sugar glider or kinkajou.
14 You Can Own a Wallaroo
These fetching animals are Wallaroos and as you might have guessed, they are native to Australia and look like a small kangaroo, complete with long tail and pouch. Wallaroos are very social animals and if raised correctly and socialized from birth, can fit in very well with a human family.
If you have a large, fenced property and see yourself sharing your living space with an energetic, nocturnal animal, you could, like Vanilla Ice, get your our marsupial to keep as a pet.
13 You Can't Own a Cheetah
Cheetahs are indisputably one of the most striking of all creatures and contrary to popular belief, not of great danger to humans. Their sheer grace is of great appeal to many people - so much so that they try to obtain cheetahs for personal ownership.
Unfortunately for any fans of these beauties, cheetahs are extremely rare in the USA and are mainly found in zoos and national parks. Due to them being so hard to breed, cheetahs haven’t made it to the private sector and are protected by several international laws.
12 You Can Own an Axolotl
Axolotls are delightful little salamander-like creatures that are native to Mexico and can be legally owned as pets just about anywhere in the USA. Don’t be deceived by their orderly appearance though, these creatures are extremely messy and can completely soil their tanks within a day or two.
Your Axolotl will need a large tank of at least twenty gallons of water and you will have to be prepared to clear it at regular intervals but, apart from that, you are bound to be very pleased with your choice in pet.
11 You Can't Own a Snow Owl
After watching the Harry Potter movies, everyone wanted a Hedwig of their own. In India, snow owls are purchased illegally as pets by ‘muggles’ because of this very same Harry Potter craze.
These owls are native to Alaska, Canada and parts of Asia and are also responsible for the highly-popular Orly meme. Unfortunately for all US-based fans, predatory birds are heavily regulated in the USA which means it is virtually impossible to get your hands on one of your own.
10 You Can Own a Hedgehog
Aren’t hedgehogs just darling? These divine little bundles of prickly joy can be owned legally in most states across the USA and are pretty easy to care for. All they require is a cage with food, water and a place to hide and they are bound to be as happy as can be.
There are a variety of hedgehogs that live in the wild but most of the ones being kept as pets in the US are African hedgehogs that can live anywhere between 6 and 10 years.
9 You Can't Own a Koala
Australia seems to be bursting with delightful creatures and the cuddly koala is no exception. Regardless of how much you may want to own your own little Blinky Bill, you simply will not be able to as koalas are highly endangered and Australia has severe restrictions on which animals can be transported out of the country.
Apart from bordering on extinction, koalas are also rather fussy eaters and require eucalyptus to be grown on-site to keep them alive. As endearing as they may be, they definitely won’t make good pets.
8 You Can Own a Sugar Glider
Although Sugar Gliders are native to Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, they have been domestically bred as household pets in the USA for nearly 20 years. These tiny marsupials are extremely popular as pets and when cared for properly can live up to 15 years, making them a much more popular choice than a conventional pet rat or hamster.
Sugar gliders are extremely affectionate which, coupled with their cute appearance, make them a very welcome addition to any animal-loving family.
7 You Can't Own a Meerkat
Like many other popular exotic pet choices, meerkats also owe their popularity to movies and television and in particular, the Lion King franchise and Animal Planet hit show, Meerkat Manor.
Despite their seemingly comical personas, meerkats are not cut out to be domestic pets and have often been found to be rather malicious in intent. They are also known to carry a number of diseases that may be harmful to man and are luckily illegal to own as pets in most parts of the USA.
6 You Can Own a Blue Crayfish
This almost-surreal bright blue crustacean is native to Florida and is one of the most sought-after freshwater crayfish species legally sold in the aquarium market. Although not a pet that you can cuddle with or talk for walks around the neighborhood, a blue crayfish will be a striking addition to any home or business premises.
They are fairly low-maintenance, requiring only clean, shallow water, a large tank and plenty of hiding space. You also don’t have to worry about replacing your cray every couple of months as they are known to live for as long as 20 years in captivity.
5 You Can't Own a Bat
Bats are without a doubt one of the most polarizing animals on the planet – you are either going to hate them or love them. Some bat species are protected by federal law which means that you are not allowed to kill them, even if they land up in your house.
Unfortunately, regardless of how much you love them, you are going to have a very hard time trying to legally own a bat as only individuals associated with scientific organizations, registered establishments, and legit sanctuaries are allowed to transport a bat within the USA.
4 You Can Own a Pot-Bellied Pig
While not everyone can see themselves sharing their homes with an actual pig, many more people, including George Clooney, have nothing but adoration for the pot-bellied pets.
Pot-bellies are both intelligent and charming and can be trained to walk on leashes just like dogs which is a good thing as these delightful creatures tend to overeat and become obese. Most states in the USA don’t oppose owning pigs as pets which is great news for the countless Americans wanting to own their very own Babe.
3 You Can't Own a Jerboa
Jerboas are super cool little rodents from Africa that closely resemble a kangaroo rat but have a far more outlandish appearance. Running and jumping around on their strange little legs, they look like pint-size T-Rex’s – an oddity that just ads to their appeal even more.
Unfortunately, you can’t own one of these little guys unless you live in Africa as the USA has banned the entry of African rodents into the country because of a monkeypox score. Unless you are willing to relocate, you are going to have to settle for more conventional pet rodents such as rats, mice, and hamsters.
2 You Can Own a Capybara
The Capybara is native to South America and is also the world’s largest rodent. Capybaras are generally placid and sweet by nature but can also be challenging, tending to be happier in groups due to their social personas.
These odd-looking animals are legal to own as pets across most parts of the USA but require special care which includes a sizeable pool to swim in as they are deemed to be semi-aquatic animals. You will also have to make sure you have a lot of fresh, non-toxic grass available for your capybara to eat as they are known to have quite the appetite.
1 You Can't Own a Sand Cat
If you are a cat lover, chances are you will be obsessed with the small, striking felines known as sand cats. Native to the deserts of Central Asia and Africa, the humble sand cat was voted as the cutest in the world in a contest held by Big Cat Rescue.
These glorious animals are often kept illegally as pets with only about 200 being kept legally in 45 facilities such as game reserves and zoos across the globe. At the beginning of the year, a private seller advertised sand cats for $20,000 a pair despite the species being under threat from habitat loss.