The pet wallaby is truly an exotic pet to anyone you encounter. Wallabies probably aren't from where you live and aren't seen as commonly as a pet ferret, rabbit, or even another pet marsupial, the sugar glider. But Bennetts wallabies, Damas wallabies, and the Red-necked Pademelon are growing in popularity and can make great pets for the right household.
There are eleven species of wallabies (Macropus Protemnodon) in the wild.
Lifespan: They can live for about 12 years and some in captivity have been known to live for 16 to 17 years.
Size: Depending on the species they can range slighly in size. The common Bennetts wallaby female will grow to about two and a half feet tall and weigh between 30 and 40 pounds. A male can grow to three feet high and up to 60 pounds for a larger male. They have extremely powerful hind legs that are used for jumping great heights and distances and administering swift and harsh kicks to predators.
Care: Wallabies require a high level of care and are a serious commitment. The housing they need is quite specific, with plenty of room to roam. They are not domesticated (cannot be housetrained), are often nocturnal, and can be quite costly to keep.
Wallaby Behavior and Temperament
Some wallabies are docile and friendly while others are jumpy, anxious, and do not have a mild temperament. The Bennetts wallaby are known to be the most docile, while the Damal and Tammar are known to be more anxious. They are generally social animals and can be quite affectionate with their owners and each other. They do well within groups.
Wallabies are unique little macropods. They exhibit some behaviors that most people would confuse with an illness but should be recognized as normal. Licking and salivating on their paws and arms is a normal thing that wallabies do to cool themselves down in a hot environment. Bennett's wallabies also may normally regurgitate their food before laying down and then re-consume it. Be sure to read up on the specific kind of wallaby you have and know what normal behaviors look like before calling your vet.
Wallabies that have been hand-reared on a bottle will bond with the person who reared them. They can be very cuddly and are known to follow you around the house and even get along with other house pets that aren't aggressive.
Housing the Wallaby
Bennett's wallabies require the most space due to their size in comparison to the other two kinds of wallabies that are commonly seen as pets. A minimum of a six foot by six-foot outdoor enclosure is needed to allow them space to run and graze outside. An often used formula to determine a nicely sized outdoor enclosure is to make the height and width four times the length of your wallaby and the length of your enclosure eight times the length of your wallaby. This size will need to increase exponentially if you have more than one wallaby. They do well in both warm and cool weather but will need supplemental heat or to be housed indoors when temperatures drop below 50 degrees.
Since wallabies are small they can be kept indoors and allowed to run around in a wallaby-safe environment and then kept in a secure, large enclosure or small bedroom when unsupervised. They can live outside in warm months or year round if they have a dog house with supplemental heat to retreat to.
Food and Water
There are a variety of food options for pet wallabies but it is important to remember that all wallabies are herbivores. They spend the majority of their day grazing on grasses and sleeping and if not allowed to be a "normal" wallaby their digestive system can be upset and have serious consequences, much like the deadly ileus in pet rabbits.
Fresh, chemical-free grass, sweet grass, orchard grass, or timothy hay should be offered at all times on an unlimited basis to your pet wallaby. This mainly grass-based diet should then be supplemented with wallaby pellets and a few fresh green vegetables and fruits like apples and grapes (avoid the really sweet fruits). Some breeders recommend a small amount of monkey chow in addition to the wallaby pellets. If wallaby pellets are out of the question where you live (don't forget to look online) then rabbit or horse pellets may be used but they are not the best choice. A mineral block in their enclosure and Vitamin E and Selenium supplements should also be added to your wallaby's food to provide a complete and balanced diet. Feed your wallaby to an ideal body condition score. If your wallaby spends time outside, it will likely graze and eat the grass or plants in its enclosure. Make sure there are no toxic plants and nothing that is treated with pesticides or chemicals.
Common Health Problems
There are a variety of diseases that wallabies can get. It is common for them to get intestinal parasites like roundworms as well as Vitamin E and Selenium deficiencies. They can also get ringworm, salmonellosis, and a disease caused by a bacteria in the mouth referred to as lumpy jaw. Annual check-ups with your exotics vet and a fecal parasite exam are recommended to keep your wallaby healthy.
Is It Legal to Own a Pet Wallaby
Check with your state and local laws about the legality of owning a pet wallaby. You may need a special license, which will not only incur costs, but also requires a high level of precise record keeping and habitat requirements. You'll also need an exotics vet that is willing and able to treat a wallaby.
Purchasing a Pet Wallaby
Speak to an exotics vet or a reputable breeder if you are interested in purchasing a pet wallaby. You will likely take home a baby wallaby, but it needs to be taken humanly and safely from its mother.
Similar Pets to a Wallaby
If you are looking for a cute pet, but don't want such a high level of commitment, think about a rabbit, guinea pig, or a more exotic breed of hamster. They will be easier to house and require less care than a wallaby.