Keeping exotic pets continues to rise in popularity as people look for new and different types of pets. Many of these pets may not be legal to own where you live and have very specific care and behavior needs that makes owning them quite difficult. The following list of exotic pets has some of the best exotic small pets that may be easier to own than others.
If you're looking for an unusual and exotic pet that is incredibly cute, you can't go wrong with the fennec fox. These foxes are tiny and when fully grown are about the size of a Chihuahua dog. Fennec foxes are not easy to obtain and they can be very expensive, though they may become more readily available and less pricey as their popularity grows.
They do need a lot of socialization to make them comfortable around people and while they are "dog-like" this is not a pet you'll ever be able to take off leash to the park. They are social animals who need a lot of attention and do well if you have more than one, so they have regular company. They can be house trained like a cat, although most owners keep them in a large caged enclosure rather than giving them free run of the house. They do need regular time out of their kennel, however.
This salamander has been rising in popularity. They hail from Mexico and are oddly cute. They can be found at most pet stores that specialize in fish as they are an aquatic species.
Axolotls are a good beginner pet as they're not very hard to care for and they can also do well in a smaller tank, such as a 10 gallon although larger is better. They live in freshwater and need a good, strong filter as they can be messy. Axolotls can eat frozen, freeze dried or fresh bloodworms, shrimp and even ground beef. Other than frequent water changes and cleaning their tank and providing them with the correct diet, they're a low maintenance and interesting pet.
Degus looks a bit like a cross between a Guinea pig and a hamster. They are very social animals and they need to be kept with at least one other degu to be happy. Males however will fight so it's best to have degus of the opposite sex together. They can live in the same type of cage as you would get for a ferret or rats and use many of the same accessories and toys. They are similar to chinchillas in that they need to take dust baths.
One benefit of owning a degu compared to other pocket pets is that they are not nocturnal and are active during the day when you are more likely to want to interact with them. Degus can nip if they're scared or if they're not acclimated to handling early and often. They also are illegal in certain states such as Alaska, California, Connecticut, Georgia and Utah.
You might be surprised to find out that cockroaches are considered a good exotic pet. The species that are commonly kept as pets are the Madagascar hissing cockroach, the death's head cockroach, the Indian domino cockroach and the Cuban cockroach. While they're not a pet you want to be affectionate with, you can handle them fairly easily. Depending on the species, you may need a permit from your state's department of agriculture. They can be considered an invasive species, and transporting them between states is regulated.
These cockroaches grow between one and three inches long and live for about a year, though some can live as long as five years. They should be kept in groups because they are social, but they don't require a large aquarium. It's important to find one with a locking lid as they are prodigious climbers. They also will need a heat lamp or pad to maintain a tropical temperature. As far as diet, they're very easy to deal with as they can eat anything, including fruits, vegetables, leaves, wood and even cat kibble and fish pellets and flakes.
Sugar gliders are adorable little tree-dwelling marsupials. Like a flying squirrel, they have thin membranes of skin on both sides of their bodies that allow them to take off from a higher point, and glide to another location. Sugar gliders are also illegal in many states including Alaska, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Mexico.
Sugar gliders can be easy to keep in that they're small and thrive on companionship so they can be very affectionate. However, they're also messy and can't be house trained and they have four scent glands for marking territory. They also can bite if they feel scared. Since they're very social animals, you may need to keep two sugar gliders so they both have company when you're not home.
Millipedes are an unusual choice of exotic pet but definitely one that's easy to care for and requires minimal space. The type of millipede commonly sold as pets is the African giant millipede. They can reach up to 10 inches and don't require an overly large aquarium to live in. They will need specific substrates and lighting and heating elements to keep the temperature and humidity at an appropriate level, but these are all easily acquired at most pet supply stores.
The millipede is herbivorous and you can feed them fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a calcium supplement. While they're not cuddly, they can be handled and do not bite. They can produce a substance that may irritate your skin however and it's best to handle them wearing gloves.
Hedgies, as they are affectionately known, are cute little animals that are covered in quills on top and have fur on their underside. They roll up into a spiny ball when they feel threatened, but with gentle persistence, you can teach them to accept handling. An adult hedgie only reaches about eight inches long on average. Hedgehogs are illegal to keep as pets in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Hedgehogs can make nice pets because they're quiet and don't require a ton of interaction to be happy. They also don't need a lot of grooming. However, they are nocturnal, which means they may be more active at night when you're winding down from your day. They also need to be single pets in their enclosures so if you want more than one, you'll need separate cages. They also can transmit diseases to humans such as ringworm and salmonella.
Tarantulas may not be everyone's cup of tea, but some people owners find them fascinating. The benefits of owning a tarantula is that they are very low-maintenance pets that don't require much other than feeding and cleaning their cages.
These cute crustaceans have been popular for decades. They actually live on dry land, so recreating a habitat for them isn't very difficult. They do not require a huge tank and are a great pet for a small apartment. They are an easy exotic pet to own as they're docile and will rarely pinch and don't require much as far as daily care. They are also social so you can have more than one in an aquarium. The downside to a hermit crab is that this isn't a pet that will do much to interact with you and since they're nocturnal, you won't see much happening in their tanks during the day.
Some pet owners may not consider a snake "exotic" but to many everyday pet owners, keeping a reptile is definitely unusual. For one thing, you'll need to feed your ball python frozen or live mice and rats, which can make owning them most definitely different from keeping your average cat or dog. Of all the pet snakes available, ball pythons are one of the easiest and make a good choice for a beginner.
They are generally docile and easy to handle, and the most difficult part of owning them tends to be getting them to eat. They can be picky and refuse to eat from time to time. They also have strict requirements for their cage, such as a heating and basking area and proper humidity. Ball pythons are easy to find and not very expensive, unless you covet one of the many morphs available, some of which can be thousands of dollars.
The hyacinth macaw is a gorgeous parrot that can make an amazing pet in the right home. These birds need a large enclosure and also daily engagement with their owners. They are very intelligent and can be loud if they are stressed or lonely. They also live up to 60 years so you'll need to have a plan for them in case there's a chance they'll outlive you. They are legal to own in most states although they are covered by the Endangered Species Act which regulates their transport and trade in the U.S.
While they are definitely large, intimidating birds, they are known for having affectionate personalities. They are not a good choice for a beginner, but if you have bird experience and the time and room to keep one, a hyacinth macaw can be an amazing pet.
Chinchillas are a type of rodent that are not as widespread as other pocket pets, though they are not hard to get in general. They are easy to care for as long as you provide them with a proper diet, an adequate size cage and a warm, draft-free area of your home to live in. They also don't require much grooming and take unusual "dust baths" which are quite adorable to see. While chinchillas can be affectionate, they can also be shy and may not enjoy being handled a lot. They also tend to be nocturnal and will be more active in the evenings.
Scorpions are definitely not a pet for the faint of heart or person who does not care for insects. Despite their fearsome reputation and appearance, they're an easy exotic pet to own and can do well in a very small space. They will need a tank with an appropriate amount of humidity and temperature. The downside to owning a scorpion is, it's not a pet you'll ever be able to cuddle with or even hold as scorpions sting and even ones with the mildest venom are still very painful. If you want a pet that's easy to care for and unique and doesn't need much room, grooming or exercise, you might enjoy having a scorpion.
Although parakeets are a very common pet bird, the quaker parakeet, or monk parakeet, is not. It's actually illegal to own a quaker parakeet in many states and they can be kept only with a permit in others. These parrots are considered an invasive species but can be an excellent pet if you're able to obtain and own one where you live. They get their name from a head-bobbing and body-shaking behavior that is natural and does not mean the bird is in distress. Aside from the legalities of ownership, quaker parakeets can be difficult to obtain and are pricey, but if you are able to own one you will enjoy keeping this smart, active and social bird.
Quaker parakeets are intelligent, engaging birds that enjoy human company, and need another bird companion if you will not be able to provide them with constant companionship. They learn to talk from an early age and can be great parrots for clicker training all sorts of behaviors.
Geckos are a popular exotic lizard that comes in many colors and types. The leopard gecko is one of the most popular due to their striking spotted pattern and their friendly disposition. Geckos can be a great pet for a small space as they can do well in a smaller tank, such as 10 gallons at least though larger 15 to 20 is better. Geckos need their tanks to be a certain temperature but don't require a UVB lamp like other reptiles. They also are easily fed with readily available insects available at pet stores. They appear to enjoy handling and interacting with people compared to other lizards. One caution about leopard geckos is the possibility they can transmit salmonella to you and washing your hands after handling them is very important.
Ferrets are another small pet that has been gaining in popularity and are easier to find. However, they are illegal in California and Hawaii as well as in some cities and counties in states where they're legal. Ferrets are not hard to care for and you can purchase commercially prepared ferret diets. They do need a large sized cage that gives them ample room to roam and stretch out, and they also require time out of the cage to play and explore. They are highly intelligent and definitely cuddly little creatures.
They can be nippy though and may be intolerant of handling if they get tired or over excited. They also need minimal grooming, though some owners bathe them often because they do have a musky odor. Another possible drawback to owning a ferret is that they need to live with at least one other ferret to be happy so you'll need to have room and the time for at least two.
Halloween Moon Crabs
If you like crustaceans but find the hermit crab a bit boring, you'll love the Halloween moon crab. These crabs look like they were painted by numbers and come in bright colors like purples, reds, oranges and yellows. They actually are related to the hermit crab and sometimes called the Halloween hermit crab. They can be easy to handle depending on the individual crab. Halloween moon crabs are also relatively inexpensive and can be found at pet stores for between $10 to $20.
If you keep a Halloween moon crab you should have at least two as they are social although you need to keep them in separate tanks in case they fight. They don't need a large tank and can do fine with a 15 or 20-gallon tank with a sand substrate and lots of rocks and driftwood to climb on and around. They also will need fresh and saltwater pools that should be changed and cleaned daily. They can eat fruit, vegetables and even cooked meat.
Bearded dragons are one of the easiest lizards to keep and are known for being docile and friendly. They're an excellent "beginner" lizard and can do well with children who have been taught to handle them responsibly. They also don't grow to a huge size like some lizards and while they need an adequately sized habitat, can still be kept comfortably in a small space like an apartment. Bearded dragons are one of the most popular pet lizards and are legal to own in most states except for Hawaii.
Like other lizards, there is a risk of contracting salmonella from a bearded dragon if you don't practice good hand washing habits after handling them. They also do require some work to feed, including regular preparation of fresh vegetables and live insects.
Think Carefully About Getting the Easiest Exotic Pets
There's definitely a certain allure to owning an exotic pet, and some pet owners like the idea of owning something unusual most other people don't have. However, if you're thinking about bringing home an exotic pet, do your research carefully. While some of these animals can be easy to care for compared to other "regular" pets, many of them have very specific diet, habitat and grooming needs that you should know about before bringing them home. There also may be permits required to own one where you live, or they may not be legal at all. Check as well with your landlord or homeowner's association, as even if they are legal your residence may still block or restrict their ownership.