30 Exotic Pets No One Should Keep
If you're thinking about buying an unusual pet, be aware that most exotics require special care, diets and attention. Housing and veterinary bills can also be very costly, so you'll need to do some research before investing in one.
More importantly, wild animals should never be taken from their habitat and forced into captivity. Many fail to thrive when removed from their environment. Even if purchased at a young age, an animal's wild instincts will never disappear, making them unpredictable and, at times, difficult to manage.
Unfortunately, too many people buy exotic pets illegally, realize they cannot handle them and then abandon the animals after the damage of captivity has already been done. Remember, just because an animal is cute doesn't mean it will be fun or easy to take care of.
Here are 30 exotic animals that should never be kept in captivity as pets.
Length: 2-3 inches (with a 10-inch wingspan)
Weight: 0.3 ounces
Longevity: 20 years
Bottom Line: Bat
A bat should never be taken from its habitat to become someone's pet. They are complicated animals that require specific care, and they can experience terrible loneliness if kept in captivity.
Many die after only one to two weeks when captured as pets. Some bats also carry the rabies virus and SARS. An infected bat can transmit these viruses to other pets in the home.
Height: 3-4 feet
Weight: 309-534 pounds
Longevity: 8-10 years
Bottom Line: Tiger
It is never a good idea to buy a tiger as a pet. Like any large cat, a tiger can harm or kill its owner with its playful antics. Sure, they're cute and manageable as cubs, but an adult tiger will not lose its wild instincts or ever become a domesticated cat. They are unpredictable animals with a high risk of attacking their owners.
Besides, it's cruel to keep a tiger in captivity — most owners lack the proper resources for housing and feeding or the medical care needed for these big cats.
Length: 3-6 feet
Weight: 4-5 pounds
Longevity: 10-25 years
Bottom Line: Rattlesnake
For obvious reasons, it's dangerous to keep a rattlesnake as a pet. They're venomous creatures that can permanently damage skin tissue and affect your circulatory system with one bite, causing internal hemorrhaging.
Even if a rattlesnake is handled frequently, it will never become tame. These snakes are especially dangerous if there are other pets in the house — a venomous snake bite can be fatal to a dog or cat.
Height: About 2 feet (excluding tail)
Weight: 42-49 pounds
Longevity: 18-19 years
Bottom Line: Wallaroo
The wallaroo is an Australian marsupial that looks similar to a kangaroo but a bit smaller in size. They are costly pets that require a lot of space and early socialization.
If left unsupervised, they can be pretty naughty and quickly damage your property. Also note: These animals must never contact cats since felines can spread the toxoplasmoses parasite, which is deadly to a wallaroo.
Height: 4 feet
Weight: 71-130 pounds
Longevity: 15-40 years
Bottom Line: Chimpanzee
Chimpanzees possess incredible strength that many people are unaware of when they purchase one as a pet. They get bigger and stronger over time, making them more challenging to manage.
Chimps are intelligent, curious creatures with behavior patterns that can change quickly and unexpectedly. They're most dangerous during sexual maturity, a time when they become aggressive toward people and other animals. They attack by biting off body parts (noses and fingers, etc.), and some carry parasites such as ringworm and the Ebola virus.
Length: 3 feet (including tail)
Weight: 35 pounds
Longevity: 2-3 years (up to 20 years in captivity)
Bottom Line: Raccoon
These nocturnal animals can be destructive, mischievous and unpredictable. Although they can be litter-trained and taught simple commands, the raccoon needs to be kept in a child-proofed home or a large enclosure.
They act out when they are unhappy (or hormonal) by peeing on things or biting.
Length: 7-12 inches
Weight: 5-14 ounces
Longevity: 10 years
Bottom Line: Tokay Gecko
These exotic geckos have a reputation for being incredibly aggressive and speedy. They will lunge at you and inflict a painful bite if angry. The males are especially territorial and aggressive.
In addition, some tokay geckos carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their intestines that may be harmful to humans.
Length: 2.5 inches
Weight: 0.02-0.2 ounces
Longevity: 2-6 years
Bottom Line: Scorpion
People like to keep scorpions as pets because they're cool and fascinating when, in fact, these critters can be downright dangerous. They produce venom that delivers a powerful punch, which is especially dangerous to other pets if stung.
In addition, scorpions are not cuddly pets that you can handle or interact with — they're best observed at a distance.
Height: About 2 feet
Weight: 60-120 pounds
Longevity: 12-14 years
Bottom Line: Wolfdog
Wolfdogs are a cross between a domesticated dog and a gray wolf, which means they still have the independent instincts of a wild wolf even when kept as a pet. They are unpredictable animals that become quite aggressive if confined for too long and are prone to urinate on furniture.
They also require time-consuming training since they are highly intelligent. Due to their wild instincts, wolfdogs are not recommended as pets for families with small children.
Height: 15-18 inches (tail length is 22-25 inches)
Weight: 3-3.5 pounds
Longevity: 16-19 years
Bottom Line: Ring-Tailed Lemur
Although adorable and entertaining, lemurs are not cuddly animals and will often exhibit aggressive behavior once they reach sexual maturity. Their teeth are sharp enough to puncture human flesh! They are social animals that need to be in groups — keeping a single lemur is cruel and dangerous to its well-being.
Not only are they expensive and complicated to care for, but they cannot be potty-trained and will mark their territory with pungent glandular secretions.
Height: 1.9-2.3 feet
Weight: 61-198 pounds
Longevity: 12-17 years
Bottom Line: Leopard
As fun as it may seem to own an exotic pet like a leopard, it's certainly not fun for the cat. They are wild animals that are dangerous, expensive and require high maintenance to survive.
A leopard can effortlessly kill a human or any animal larger than themselves. It's cruel to keep one as a pet and, thankfully, illegal in most states unless you have a special permit.
Height: 7.5-17 feet
Weight: 900-1,200 pounds
Longevity: 70 years
Bottom Line: Crocodile
A crocodile is another animal that should never be kept as a pet. Not only are they reclusive and expensive to maintain, but they also have quick tempers and can break your leg with the whip of their powerful tail.
They also have a bite force of around 2,000 pounds, enough to kill a human or any large animal.
Height: 20-25 inches
Weight: 77-150 pounds
Longevity: 8-10 years
Bottom Line: Capybara
Capybaras are the world's largest rodents and have beaver-like teeth that can cause some severe injuries. This animal does not do well in captivity as an only pet because it prefers living in herds of 10 to 20 capybaras.
As cute as they are, these enormous rodents are high maintenance and should not be considered as pets.
Length: 10-15 inches (tail length is also 10-15 inches)
Weight: Up to 14 pounds
Longevity: 5-10 years
Bottom Line: Skunk
Skunk ownership has become more prevalent in recent years, but these animals are not ideal pets. Their scent glands need to be removed at an early age; otherwise, the animal will leave a strong, musky odor that is difficult to remove in a house.
Domesticated skunks lose their homing instincts if they're kept as pets for a long time and can easily get lost if they escape. They also need quite a bit of attention from their owners, or they will become destructive. Many states have outlawed skunk ownership since the animal is prone to rabies.
Height: About 1 foot
Weight: 1.5-2 pounds
Longevity: 30 years
Bottom Line: Squirrel Monkey
It is very difficult to control a primate since they tend to be curious, mischievous animals. Squirrel monkeys are undoubtedly adorable creatures, but raising one is like raising a feisty toddler. They're high maintenance and require a ton of attention.
Plus, they're prone to spontaneous tantrums when they hit sexual maturity and will bite if angry. Some monkeys can also transmit Hepatitis A and HIV-1 through biting.
Height: 5.6-9.2 feet
Weight: 140-320 pounds
Longevity: 40-50 years
Bottom Line: Ostrich
It's one thing to raise ostriches on a livestock farm, but it's quite a different matter to keep one indoors as a pet. These birds are not friendly or affectionate and tend to have bad tempers.
They grow very quickly and with their sharp claws and strong legs, they can deliver a powerful kick that will cause serious injury or even death. Ostriches prefer to stay with their flock and do not make compatible pets to humans.
Length: 14-17 inches
Longevity: 3-4 years
Bottom Line: Prairie Dog
Like all rodents, prairie dogs have continuously growing (sharp) teeth and will nip if annoyed. They are active, playful and even affectionate if socialized early. Still, only people with expertise in handling the breed should be legally allowed to own one. The problem is that prairie dogs do not do well as single pets — they need to socialize with other prairie dogs, or they become difficult and depressed.
They also require a lot of attention — up to six hours a day — and interaction with their owner. Another con to owning one — they're prone to dental issues and obesity while held in captivity.
Height: 20-25 inches (tail is another 10-20 inches)
Weight: 10-20 pounds
Longevity: 9-13 years
Bottom Line: Red Panda
First of all, it's illegal to own a red panda — no matter how much you love the Pixar movie, “Turning Red.” They're native to the Eastern Himalayas and Southwestern China, where they have become endangered due to the black market pet trade and poaching for fur. They are not meant to be domesticated, but unfortunately, they're sold as pets in Nepal and India.
The red panda can also become aggressive if held in captivity, using its sharp claws and strong teeth to defend itself. So, it's best to leave them where they belong — in their own habitat.
Height: 2-3 feet
Weight: 64-220 pounds
Longevity: 8-13 years
Bottom Line: Cougar
Purchasing a cougar as a pet is a terrible idea. They are aggressive, dangerous cats that can kill in seconds. Sure, they can be tamed, but they will never be domesticated like cats or dogs, which means owning them is risky.
Although some consider cougars desirable exotic pets, they're expensive to keep due to their special dietary needs, housing and vet bills. They belong in the wild, not in your home.
Length: About 2 feet
Weight: 6-15 pounds
Longevity: 3-4 years
Bottom Line: Red Fox
Not only is a red fox dangerous and unpredictable around strangers, it is also highly energetic and destructive to property when bored or agitated. In addition, the red fox is a musky-smelling animal with stinky urine and feces that smell like a mixture of skunk spray and ammonia.
Remember, just because an animal is cute doesn't mean you should own one!
Height: About 2 feet
Weight: 6-12 pounds
Longevity: 1-2 years
Bottom Line: Possum
Possums do not fare well when kept in captivity and should only be handled by wildlife rehabbers who have the skills and certification to care for them. Although possums are generally gentle animals, they have sharp teeth that they will use to defend themselves.
However, they prefer not to fight and sometimes "play dead" to avoid confrontation. The point is that you should never try to transform a possum into a pet — they are meant to live in the wild, not in a cage.
Height: 2.5 feet
Weight: 6-17 pounds
Longevity: 20 years
Bottom Line: Sloth
Although they seem like laid-back creatures, the sloth will defend itself with its sharp teeth and claws. They can be easily stressed by loud noises, improper handling and certain smells (such as lotions and perfumes). They also have very sensitive stomachs, which require a special diet.
Sloths will only survive in proper climate conditions and need a significant amount of space. Finding an exotic vet that can treat a sloth is especially challenging but necessary since these animals are prone to skin diseases.
South American Coati
Height: 20-24 inches (tail is another 24 inches)
Weight: 7-15 pounds
Longevity: 7-14 years
Bottom Line: South American Coati
Also known as coatimundi, these critters look like a cross between a raccoon, monkey and an anteater. They don't have a musky odor like many wild animals do, but they become quite aggressive when they reach sexual maturity. Therefore, it is essential to get them spayed by the time they reach 6 months of age.
Coatis are incredibly active, and although they can be housetrained, they need far more attention than a cat or dog due to their stubborn and mischievous behavior. They also have destructive claws and sharp teeth that they will use to bite you if they are agitated.
Red-Tailed Boa Constrictor
Length: 5.9-9.8 feet
Weight: 22-33 pounds
Longevity: 20 years
Bottom Line: Red-Tailed Boa Constrictor
Although they are generally not aggressive, a red-tailed boa will act out if mishandled, causing serious injury by squeezing or even strangling a person. They also get enormous very quickly, so an owner needs to be strong enough to handle one as well as commit to its long-term care since boas live at least 20 years or more.
However, if purchased early and appropriately treated, most incidents with boas are preventable.
Length: 21-31.5 inches (tail is another 15-23 inches)
Weight: 10 pounds
Longevity: 9 years
Bottom Line: Southern Tamandua
Not only are these animals expensive to purchase (around $3,000 to $8,000), but they're also costly to maintain. They need a large enclosure and a detailed amount of care. While it's true that they can be trained at a young age and are highly affectionate with their owners, the southern tamandua is not friendly with other animals.
They have large, sharp claws to defend themselves and spray a potent scent from their anal glands to mark their territory. These high-maintenance critters are not suitable pets for people who work full-time or have young children in the home.
Length: 3.9-5.6 feet (including tail)
Weight: 2.6-8.8 pounds
Longevity: 12-15 years
Bottom Line: Green Iguana
Iguanas are fascinating creatures to watch, but they don't always make the best of pets unless socialized at an early age to prevent biting. Their behavior can also become erratic and aggressive during breeding season when they're hormonal. With their powerful claws and spikey tails, they can cause harm to humans.
More importantly, 90 percent of green iguanas carry salmonella and shed it in their feces.
Height: 5-18 inches
Weight: 3.5 ounces-3 pounds
Longevity: 3-4 years (in the wild), 10 years (captivity)
Bottom Line: Bush Baby
Although bush babies are adorable creatures, they make terrible pets and should never be sold as such. They're illegal to own in most states and challenging to train.
The bush baby also has habits that are not compatible with pet ownership, such as peeing in their hands to spread their pungent urine all around and crying out loudly like a baby in the middle of the night. They prefer to live in groups and need a large enclosure for climbing to be comfortable.
Height: 3-3.9 feet
Weight: 280-420 pounds
Longevity: 8-15 years
Bottom Line: Lion
Lions are natural predators and therefore unpredictable and dangerous to keep in captivity. Sadly, exotic pet traders in the Black Market steal lions from their families and sell them to people willing to pay upwards of $25,000 to have one as a pet.
Also, the animal is usually declawed, which is painful for the cat and can result in permanent nerve damage.
Length: 5-7 inches in diameter
Weight: 2 pounds
Longevity: Up to 100 years
Bottom Line: Box Turtle
Box turtles caught in the wild have difficulty adjusting to captivity. Many die from stress and improper care. They need large outdoor pens to roam around and a varied diet for survival.
Some box turtles carry salmonella, which is dangerous to children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system.
Height: 2.5 feet
Weight: 26 pounds
Longevity: 5-8 years
Bottom Line: Tasmanian Devil
These wild animals are not meant to be domesticated and require special veterinary care. Tasmanian devils are also antisocial creatures that prefer to roam long distances on their own. Their sharp teeth are designed to crush bone and they will become very aggressive if they feel threatened.
Unfortunately, this animal is on the endangered species list and should never be bought or sold as a pet.
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