The definition of "exotic pet" is a loose one. Originally, it referred to species that were considered wild animals and not typically kept as a pet. Now, it is basically any animal kept as a pet that is not a cat or dog. That can mean a rodent, rabbit, amphibian, bird, reptile, and a wide variety of other animals. Some may even be eligible for pet insurance. When these pets need medical care, you will need to seek care from an exotics veterinarian.
Each state has their own definition of what is considered an exotic pet. The following is an index of exotic pets with information and more resources.
Watch Now: 11 Wildly Exotic Animals That You Can Have as a Pet
Ferrets are smart, curious and social animals. They are mammals from the same family (Mustelidae) as badgers, wolverines, otters, mink, and weasels. They need training and plenty of interaction with people to bond properly, but they make great companions for adults and children alike. A ferret's average lifespan is about seven to 10 years.
Rabbits are social animals that have a ton of personality. They require social interaction, lots of exercise, and activities to keep them engaged. Despite popular belief, they are not really suitable as caged pets. They need to roam. They get bored easily and will chew your belongings if they are not provided with appropriate toys and a large, bunny-proofed area to play.
There are a lot of animals that are considered rodent pets from chinchillas to mice and gerbils to rats. The most popular rodent pets are hamsters and guinea pigs. Some things to consider when you are thinking about getting a rodent pet are whether they are nocturnal creatures that sleep during the day or if they keep a schedule more like you and are awake when the sun is up. Take a look at a few other rodents that are popular as pets:
In general, amphibians like frogs, salamanders, and newts are typically harder to care for than most reptiles, so most amphibians are not ideal for families with children. However, Pacman frogs can make great pets when maintained properly. Amphibians have thin, fragile skin that can dry out quickly and damage easily if handled roughly. They also absorb toxins and germs through their skin, so they should be handled as little as possible, and when they are handled, they should be touched only with moistened gloves and not bare skin. Other amphibian creatures that are kept as pets include:
Reptiles such as lizards, snakes, aquatic and box turtles include some of the most ancient species on Earth. In general, reptiles require less daily care and exercise than other pets, however, they require special skills to care for properly and can suffer serious health consequences from improper diets, handling, or habitats. And, regardless of species, all reptiles (and amphibians, too) can potentially carry Salmonella bacteria, so these pets are not meant for very young children who might handle them and then put their hands in their mouths.
- Anoles (Green)
- Argentine Black and White Tegus
- Colombian Tegus
- Bearded Dragons
- Blue-Tongued Skinks
- Jackson's Chameleons
- Panther Chameleons
- Veiled Chameleons
- Chinese Water Dragons
- Frill Necked Lizards
- Crested Geckos
- Day Geckos
- Golden Geckos
- House Geckos
- Leopard Geckos
- Madagascar Ground Geckos
- Skunk Geckos (White Lined Geckos)
- Tokay Geckos
- Iguanas (Green)
- Savannah Monitors
- Monitors (Black Throat)
- Monitors (Nile)
- Monitors (Dumeril's)
- Ball Pythons
- Boa Constrictor (Red Tailed Boa)
- Burmese Pythons
- Corn Snakes
- King Snakes
- Milk Snakes
- Hognose Snakes
- Red Eared Sliders
- Mississippi Map Turtles
- African Side-Neck Turtles
- Painted Turtles
- Softshell Turtles
- Yellow Bellied Slider Turtles
- Diamondback Terrapin Turtles
- Eastern Box Turtles
- Gulf Coast Box Turtles
- Ornate Box Turtles
- Three Toed Box Turtles
- Mud Turtles
- Tortoises (Hermann's)
- Tortoises (Horsfield's/Russians)
- Tortoises (Leopard)
- Tortoises (Red Footed)
- Tortoises (Red Footed-Cherry Head)
- Tortoises (Sulcata)
- Tortoises (Greek/Spur-Thighed)
Hermit crabs and fiddler crabs are the most commonly kept types of crabs as pets. Hermit crabs and fiddler crabs can live a long time—hermits can live up to 10 years and fiddlers up to 20. Hermit crabs are little bigger than fiddlers—getting up to six inches long, while fiddlers get up to two inches long. Hermit crabs are land dwellers that prefer freshwater, meanwhile, fiddlers require brackish water.
Insects and Millipedes
Ants are perhaps the most popular insects that are kept as pets in ant farms. Although, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, praying mantis, and stick insects tend to be more exciting. The latter two are very interesting to look at—one for its prayerful stance and the other for its ability to camouflage with its woodland surroundings. Giant African millipedes do not classify as insects at all, but rather fall in the Arthropod family of invertebrates. Centipedes are rarely kept as pets as they are venomous, unlike millipedes.
Scorpions are docile but they are not cuddly and do not like to be handled. They do sting. Though the venom of some scorpions can be deadly, the most common scorpion kept as a pet is an emperor scorpion, which has the venom potency of a bee sting. If you are in search of a pet that will interact with you, look for something other than a scorpion.
Keeping a tarantula is a big responsibility as they have a lifespan of three to 10 years. But they are also easy to care for, need little attention, and you only have to feed them once or twice per week. There are many varieties of tarantulas, and not everyone agrees which type is more docile and less likely to strike, but the following list mentions the most common varieties kept by pet hobbyists:
Cat hybrids are domestic cats that have been crossbred with a wild cat species. The most common of them is the Bengal cat, which is about the same size as a house cat but has more of a wild look. Some wild cats are kept as exotic pets, too, like servals and ocelots. Ocelots are one of the smallest of the wild "big cats," but it is now illegal to sell them in the U.S. as pets. Servals are barred from ownership in most states, and their care is tricky. Servals require a lot of space to hunt, have a particular diet, and as wild animals have unpredictable temperaments.
Dogs are the most popular pet kept by Americans, closely followed by cats, and then fish. Some exotics in the canine family are foxes and wolf crossbreeds. Big-eared Fennec foxes may be adorable, but they require a lot of space to investigate, dig, and climb. They are famous escape artists. Wolfdogs may look a lot like huskies or malamutes, but they have a wild side that needs much training to keep in line.
Goats can be great pets. If hand-raised around humans, they can be social, affectionate, smart, and independent. They take a lot of work, but they can enjoy petting and will eat from human hands. Llamas, much like goats, if raised right, can be friendly, social, calm, and easily trained. Llamas may have a reputation for spitting, but that is usually a behavior meant for another nearby llama. Potbellied pigs are very intelligent and quite trainable, much the same as a dog (they can be house trained, leash trained, and will learn a few tricks). Their intelligence can make them a bit of a handful, too.
Other Exotic Pets
Regardless of which kind of animal you decide to keep as an exotic pet, do your research prior to acquiring one so that you can care for it properly. The following pets don't fit in a particular category but are sometimes kept as pets as well.