Unique Animals You Can Actually Keep As Pets

If dogs or cats aren't good pets for you, consider owning one of these interesting animals.

Within the last few weeks, my boyfriend's parents have adopted five different kinds of lizards. They've been sending him pictures of the lizards crawling on their hands and wandering around their glass terrariums. Now, my boyfriend has been watching a bunch of YouTube videos all about reptiles and taking care of them. He wants to adopt one in the future.

I don't often hear of people owning pets other than dogs, cats, and the occasional fish or guinea pigs. This idea inspired me to research what types of animals people could own in the United States. The potential pets I discovered were shocking and intriguing.

Unique Animals to Own as Pets

Here are 9 pets you can legally own that you probably didn't consider before:

unique pets to own
Image Source: CGTN

1. Chimpanzee

Primates are some of the most intelligent creatures in the world. They're very similar to humans, which is why I believe people would want to add a chimpanzee to their household family. Moreover, no state permits are required to own one.

Although chimpanzees are a brilliant, loving breed, they grow five times stronger than humans and require a lot of hands-on care. According to Chimp Haven, the world's largest chimpanzee sanctuary, chimps are very expensive to properly feed, house, and receive veterinarian care.

Care Information for Pet Chimpanzee

  • Diet: fruits, nuts/seeds, insects, proteins, tree bark, honey, flowers
  • Housing: a strong enclosure bigger than 250 square feet, climbing structures, sleeping and eating spots, in a quiet location  
  • Normal Behaviors: territorial, loyal, affectionate, though sometimes manipulative, aggressive, and violent. Similar to human behaviors.

Chimps can also live up to 60 years old, so owners must either find someone else to take care of the chimp after they die or bring it to a sanctuary for professional care.   

an interesting animal you can own as a pet
Image Source: Elmwood Park Zoo

2. Chinchilla

Chinchillas are adorable little mammals with gentle personalities. According to the San Diego Zoo, chinchillas are highly social animals, often forming large herds. These furry creatures are speedy and can jump across a 6-foot crevice! Chinchillas are also nocturnal, meaning they sleep most of the day and become more active during the night.

Although chinchillas mean no harm, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared this species to be endangered because of mass hunting over the years.

Care Information for Pet Chinchilla

  • Diet: 75-80% high-fiber grass hay, fortified food pellets, fresh produce
  • Housing: a tall, large, multi-tiered wire-mesh enclosure filled with toys, bedding, and other accessories
  • Normal Behaviors: quiet for most of the day, vocal at night (barks or squeaks), high energy, explore and chew items nearby

One of my old friends has a pet chinchilla and she loves owning one. She has a large enclosure so he can run and jump around. I believe she also has a giant ball (similar to a hamster ball), so he can wander the house under her supervision. Chinchillas are very sweet creatures and they mean well.

a wild lizard for a pet
Image Source: Discover Magazine

3. Tegu

A Tegu lizard, also known as the Argentine black and white Tegu, is the largest of its breed (it's pretty much a medium-sized dog!). Tegus are a highly intelligent species, which indicates that they can be housebroken. These lizards can live up to 12 years old and grow between 3-5 feet long. They are relatively docile creatures and can connect well to their owners.

Care Information for Pet Tegu

  • Diet: crickets, worms, fruits (strawberries, blueberries, mango) and vegetables, romaine lettuce or kale
  • Housing: A large tank (6' x 3' x 2.5') with a screen top and good ventilation, added moss, branches, and plants
  • Normal Behaviors: "dog-like," enjoys the companionship
a wild animal, but you can own it as a pet
Image Source: San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants

4. Caracal Cat

This intense yet magnificent wild cat can be a pet, though taking good care of one may be tricky. A caracal cat is a vicious predator, so you should probably be a trained professional or have lots of experience with this type of animal. Caracals are also an endangered species.

Care Information for Pet Caracal

  • Diet: meat (such as poultry, beef, rabbit, etc.), occasionally raw eggs
  • Housing: a large outdoor space with trees to climb, a place for water, hiding spots 
  • Normal Behaviors: clever, strong, playful, fast, hunter behavior, sleepy

This a person on TikTok that frequently posts videos of his pet caracal. It's so cute to watch this wild cat interact with a human family. 

a cute and unique pet
Image Source: Pinterest

5. Teacup Pig

These adorable piggies are another unique potential addition to your home. Teacup pigs are known to have great intelligence and superb memory. You can even teach this animal to use a litter box if you wanted to.

Care Information for Pet Teacup Pig

  • Diet: potatoes, grass, fruits, grains, a little bit of protein
  • Housing: an outdoor area, maybe a small barn
  • Normal Behaviors: friendly, playful, social, loves cuddles, lies in the mud

Although these pigs are named after a teacup, they can't actually fit in one. Don't try it.

a big and interesting pet
Image Source: Zoo Med

6. Sulcata Tortoise

The Sulcata Tortoise, or African Spurred Tortoise, is one of the largest of its kind in the world. This is a good pet because it can adapt to various living conditions, according to The Spruce Pets website. Also, a Sulcata Tortoise will probably outlive its owner as they can live as long as 70 years!

Care Information for Pet Sulcata

  • Diet: grasses, weeds and flowers, hays
  • Housing: a fenced area with a small shelter and a muddy area
  • Normal Behaviors: big and slow, eating grass throughout the day, chilling in the shade

My roommate Sydney has been joking about how she wants an "heirloom tortoise" that she can pass down to her kids after she dies since the tortoise will still be alive for many years after her. What a unique idea!

a wild bird to own as a pet
Image Source: Dummies

7. Parrot

We see this beautiful exotic bird in movies, and now you can have one for yourself. As you may already know, parrots are social animals. Like the Sulcata Tortoise, parrots can also live up to 70 years old if taken care of properly.

Care Information for Pet Parrot

  • Diet: fruits and vegetables, fortified parrot food pellets
  • Housing: a tall, wide enough enclosure depending on the bird's wingspan, areas to perch, feeding and drinking spots, some bird toys
  • Normal Behaviors: sweet, playful, needs constant stimulation, curious, sometimes squawks loud, mimics humans
trash baby
Image Source: University of Maryland Extension

8. Raccoon

These precious trash babies surprisingly can be domestic house pets. However, it's only legal in 16 states to own one as a pet as per the studies at FETCH by WebMD. You can adopt a baby raccoon from a specific domesticated raccoon breeder.

Care Information for Pet Raccoon

  • Diet: poultry, insects, fish, fruits, and vegetables
  • Housing: an outdoor enclosure with a top so they can't climb out, specific climbing spots
  • Normal Behaviors: playful and cuddly, mischievous, temperamental
small and unique pet for you
Image Source: San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants

9. Sugar Glider

Sugar Gliders got their sweet name as they love eating sugary foods, like fruits and vegetables. This unique marsupial has little "wing-like" skin that helps them glide in the air up to 150 feet. They are tiny creatures who love to bond with people in family environments.

Care Information for Pet Sugar Glider

  • Diet: a variety of fruits and vegetables, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, live insects, or raw nuts as treats
  • Housing: a tall, multi-tiered wire enclosure with nesting areas or soft fabric pouches, food dishes, lots of toys
  • Normal Behaviors: nocturnal, high energy at night, vocal (dog-like bark), social

My grandma adopted a sugar glider a few years ago and she's obsessed with it. Her pet is the tiniest, most precious animal I've ever seen.

Wild Animals in Unnatural Habitats

While owning one or more of these unique animals may be fun and exciting, it's important to understand they're still wild animals. Most importantly, they're wild animals in a habitat that their bodies aren't built for. They will always have wild behaviors. These animals aren't exactly like the common house dog or cat.

Each unique animal requires unique care if it's going to thrive in a home environment. Still allow these animals the opportunity to give in to their wild tendencies at least a little bit and safely. You can still love them and respect their wildness.  

23 | uni graduate | aspiring author | overthinker | theatre kid

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