The pet wallaby is truly an exotic pet to just about everyone. Wallabies probably aren't from where you live and aren't as common a pet as the ferret, rabbit, or even another marsupial, the sugar glider. There are 11 species of wallabies in the wild, and they have extremely powerful hind legs that are used for jumping great heights and distances and administering swift and harsh kicks to predators.
Bennetts wallabies, Damas wallabies, and the Red-necked Pademelon, in particular, are growing in popularity as pets. They are not domesticated and cannot be housetrained, are often nocturnal, and can be quite costly to keep, but the wallaby can make a great pet in the right household.
Common Name: Wallaby
Scientific Name: Macropus Protemnodon
Adult Size: Size varies among species and gender, but the common Bennetts wallaby female will grow to about 2 1/2 feet tall and weigh between 30 and 40 pounds, while a male can grow to 3 feet high and up to 60 pounds.
Life Expectancy: About 12 years and some have been known to live for up to 17 years
Difficulty of Care: Advanced
Behavior and Temperament
Some wallabies are docile and friendly while others are jumpy, anxious, and do not have a mild temperament. The Bennetts wallaby is 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.
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 6-foot by 6-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 Fahrenheit.
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, your pet's 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 the 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 that nothing is 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 and referred to as lumpy jaw. Annual check-ups with your exotics vet and a fecal parasite exam are recommended to keep your wallaby healthy.
Where to Purchase
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 humanely and safely from its mother.
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.