Should You Keep Wallaby as a Pet?

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

Wallaby in a field

Dave Watts / Getty Images

Wallabies may be cute and fascinating animals, but it's illegal to own them in most states, and they don't make the best pets. These smaller relatives of kangaroos are not easily domesticated and cannot be house-trained. If allowed to roam around inside your house, a wallaby will not only urinate and defecate, it may also jump erratically, endangering itself (and your furniture). Like their cousins, the wallaroos, wallabies must be kept away from cats to prevent transmission of deadly toxoplasmosis, a parasite that even healthy cats can carry. Wallabies require daily access to fresh grass, a spacious enclosure, and a lot more attentive care than the average domestic pet.

Species Overview

Common Names: Wallaby, brush wallaby, rock wallaby, hare wallaby, nail-tail wallaby, scrub wallaby, short-tailed scrub, swamp wallaby, forest wallaby

Scientific Names: Dorcopsis spp., Dorcopsulus spp.,  Lagorchestes spp., Notamacropus spp., and Thylogale spp.

Adult Size: About 18 to 40 inches (head to tail), 4 to 55 pounds

Lifespan: 12 to 17 years

Can You Own a Pet Wallaby?

Legality 

Check your state and local laws to confirm the current legality of owning a pet wallaby. Colorado is one of the few states that may allow ownership of this wild marsupial with the proper permits, but cities may have additional regulations that must be followed.

Ethics

It is, of course, unethical to illegally own any pet. Beyond the legality issue, few people have the space, time, or resources to properly house and care for a wallaby. This animal needs a lot of space that not only allows it to jump and exercise but also keeps it from escaping or being attacked by predators. Without a suitable enclosure, a wallaby would need constant supervision to prevent it from destroying property or harming itself among its unfamiliar human surroundings. If this commitment is unfeasible, then it's unethical to try to keep a wallaby in captivity.

Things to Consider

Keeping a wallaby is simply too great a responsibility for the average pet owner. This animal is poorly suited to live in a house or a suburban backyard, and trying to confine a wallaby to this lifestyle will compromise its health and happiness. Despite their cuteness and animated behavior, wallabies are better left in the wild or in zoos that specialize in caring for them.

Wallaby Behavior and Temperament

Some wallabies are docile and friendly while others are jumpy and anxious; many do not have a mild temperament at all. They fare best in same-species groups because they live communally in the wild. Wallabies are macropods (the term for the family that includes kangaroos), and these animals exhibit some behaviors that are unfamiliar to pet owners in the U.S. Licking and salivating on their paws and arms is a normal behavior of wallabies; it cools them down in a hot environment. Also, some wallabies normally regurgitate their food before lying down and then re-consume it. Young wallabies may bond to their keepers, but older wallabies tend to be more shy and wary of human interaction.

Housing

A common way to determine an adequately sized outdoor wallaby enclosure is to make the minimum height and width four times the length of your wallaby; make 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.

These animals can survive both warm and cool weather, but they need supplemental heat or to be housed indoors when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They can live outside in warm months or year-round if they have a dog house with supplemental heat to use as a retreat.

Specific Substrate

The ideal wallaby enclosure is a spacious outdoor area with a natural ground substrate that includes a renewable supply of freshly growing grass year-round or from spring through fall in temperate zones.

What Does a Wallaby Eat and Drink?

There are a variety of food options for pet wallabies, but natural grass (untreated with chemicals) should be a staple. As herbivores, they spend their days grazing on grasses in the wild. Without access to grass, a wallaby's digestive system can be upset.

Try to provide daily access to sweetgrass, orchard grass, or timothy hay. This mainly grass-based diet should be supplemented with wallaby pellets, a few fresh green vegetables, and apples as occasional treats. If wallaby pellets are not available, then rabbit or horse pellets may be used. To top off a complete and balanced diet, place a mineral block in the enclosure.

Common Health Problems

It is common for wallabies to get intestinal parasites like roundworms. They can also develop vitamin E and selenium deficiencies if eating an unbalanced diet. Other ailments wallabies may suffer are ringworm (a fungal skin infection) and salmonellosis (a disease caused by a bacteria in the mouth referred to as "lumpy jaw"). Annual check-ups with an ​exotic animal veterinarian and routine fecal parasite exams are recommended to maintain a wallaby's health.

Exercise

You can't take a wallaby for a walk on a leash like a domestic dog. They don't enjoy it and may aggressively try to escape. Wallabies are naturally adapted to a life of freely roaming the wide, open plains of Australia. This means that they need a lot of exercise in captivity to mimic the crawling, jumping, and active grazing these animals' bodies require. The best way to make sure your wallaby gets enough exercise is by providing a large enough enclosure to allow unrestricted movement.

Grooming 

Wallabies are good at grooming themselves and their family members. They keep their fur clean by licking every inch of it with their tongues. There is no need to bathe or brush wallabies since they stay tidy all by themselves.

wallabies as pets

The Spruce / Marina Li

Size Information

Wallabies are commonly mistaken for miniature kangaroos. Although they belong to the same taxonomic family, these mid-sized macropods are different animals. There are eight species of wallaby, and their sizes range widely from 4 pounds up to 53 pounds. The smallest wallaby species is about 18 inches from head to tail, while the largest species are closer to 40 inches.

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Wallaby as a Pet

The advantage of owning a wallaby is the joy of sharing the company of an animated, cute, and curious wild animal. On the downside, it is illegal in most places and the unfeasibility of providing proper housing and care makes owning a wallaby a generally bad idea.

Purchasing Your Wallaby

Purchasing a wallaby is a tricky business since most states ban their sale and ownership. Most sellers of wallabies are likely to be operating illegally and may even work with poachers or other illegal outfits to obtain wallabies, which is not only unethical but potentially cruel to the animals. Instead of trying to purchase a wallaby, consider donating to support their habitat in the wild and visiting wallabies to watch their amusing natural behavior in a zoo.

Similar Animals to the Wallaby

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FAQ
  • Are wallabys hard to take care of?

    Keeping a wallaby is hard work. It requires the construction of a large outdoor enclosure with plentiful grasses for food. Wallabies can not easily be kept inside a house because they can't be potty trained and may damage property or hurt themselves when hopping.

  • How long do wallabys live as pets?

    Wallabies can live up to 20 years in captivity, making them a long-term commitment for their keepers or owners.

  • Do wallabies get along with other pets?

    Wallabies and dogs can get along if introduced under strict supervision. Wallabies can not interact with cats, though, because they are vulnerable to fatal infections of toxoplasmosis parasites that cats carry and shed in their feces.