Wallaby: Species Profile

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

Wallaby in a field

Dave Watts / Getty Images

The pet wallaby is truly an exotic pet. Wallabies are native to Australia so they are definitely not as common a pet as the ferret, rabbit, or even other smaller marsupials like the sugar glider. There are 11 species of wallabies in the wild, and they all have extremely powerful hind legs that are used for jumping to great heights and far distances. Wallabies also use their strong legs in self-defense, administering swift and harsh kicks to any potential predators.

Bennetts wallabies, dama wallabies, and the red-necked pademelon are all smaller cousins to the larger kangaroo, and they are growing in popularity as pets. Because these nocturnal animals are not domesticated and also cannot be house-trained, they require an advanced level of care. They can be quite costly to keep, but the wallaby can make a great pet in the right household.

Species Overview

Common Name: Wallaby

Scientific Name: Macropus protemnodon

Adult Size: The common Bennetts wallaby male grows to 3 feet tall, weighing up to 60 pounds; females grow to about 2 1/2 feet tall, weighing 30 to 40 pounds.

Life Expectancy: 12 to 17 years

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. Usually affectionate toward each other, they do best in groups. Bennett's wallabies are known to be the most docile, while the dama and tammar are known to be more jittery and suspicious of humans. Wallabies are generally social animals that can be quite friendly with their owners. 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 they can even get along with other non-aggressive house pets.

Wallabies are unique macropods (the term for the family that includes kangaroos and their cousins). They exhibit some behaviors that many people would confuse with sickness, but it is important to recognize them as normal. Licking and salivating on their paws and arms is a normal behavior of wallabies; it cools them down in a hot environment. Also, Bennett's wallabies 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 their normal behaviors look like before calling your vet.

Housing the Wallaby

A common formula to determine a nicely-sized outdoor 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. In comparison to the size of the dama wallabies and the red-necked pademelo, Bennett's wallabies require the most space. A minimum of a 50-foot by 50-foot by 6-foot-high fenced outdoor enclosure is needed to allow them space to move and graze outside.

These animals do well in both warm and cool weather, but they will 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. Since wallabies are small, they can be kept indoors and allowed to run around in a safe environment. When unsupervised, they can even be kept in a secure, large enclosure or small bedroom.

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 the day grazing on grasses and sleeping. If not allowed the natural diet, your pet's digestive system can be upset with very serious consequences, much like the deadly condition of ileus in pet rabbits.

Unlimited fresh, chemical-free grass, sweetgrass, orchard grass, or timothy hay should be available at all times. 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 very sweet fruits. Some breeders recommend a small amount of monkey chow in addition to wallaby pellets. If wallaby pellets are not available then rabbit or horse pellets may be used, but they are not the best choice.

Feed your wallaby to achieve an ideal body condition score. To provide a complete and balanced diet, place a mineral block in the enclosure; vitamin E and selenium supplements should also be added to your wallaby's food. 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 in the area and that nothing in the yard has been treated with pesticides or chemicals.

Common Health Problems

It is common for wallabies 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 ​exotic animal veterinarian and routine fecal parasite exams are recommended to maintain your wallaby in good health.

wallabies as pets
The Spruce / Marina Li

Purchasing Your Wallaby

If you are interested in purchasing a pet wallaby, first speak to your exotics veterinarian or to a reputable breeder. Baby wallabies need to be weaned humanely and safely from their mother. At the stage of bottle-raising wallabies, weaning is at least a seven-month process.

If a healthy youngster is eating solid food, lapping up plenty of water on its own, and dropping consistent, dark, and firm pellets, that's when their dependence on the baby formula eases and they advance to digesting solids. Under these circumstances, the baby is successfully weaning.

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 both a high level of adherence to precise habitat requirements, record-keeping, and submission.

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