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From Rats to Kangaroos: 29+ Unusual Pets People Actually Own

Animals

| LAST UPDATE 10/26/2021

By Eliza Gray

From elusive and energetic rodents to prehistoric reptiles, exotic animal lovers have shown some pretty unique taste in pets. Here's a roundup of some interesting creatures that people have welcomed into their homes.

Coatimundi

Coatimundis are the long-snouted cousins of the common American raccoon. And like their cousins, they have tons of energy and can stir up trouble wherever they go. Despite this, they make a popular choice of pet.

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Christian Augustin / Stringer via Getty Images

One key difference between them and their garbage-ravaging kin is that they follow our clock - meaning they sleep at night. However, during their waking hours, they can show aggression, especially after reaching a mature age. And for that reason, many sources recommend against having these pets in the same home as children.

Chacoan Mara

These unique rodents have weaseled their way into the hearts of many exotic pet lovers. For one, their appearance is unlike any other, in fact, they're often thought to look like a combination of two or more animals. The chacoan mara is often described as a cross between a rabbit and a deer.

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Instagram via @ikemofu

But as cute and cuddly as they may appear, these wild rodents come with some challenges as well. For instance, due to their non-domestic nature, they have a tendency to chew up everything in sight and have energy levels that can prove to be difficult to keep up with.

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Degu

Unlike some of the other more ferocious animals on our list, the Degu makes for a relatively easy companion. In the wild, these rodents grew accustomed to living in pods of up to 100 degus, which made them incredibly sociable. But one key fact makes them appealing to rodent-lovers.

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picture alliance / Contributor via Getty Images

Unlike so many other scurry fluff balls, the degu isn't nocturnal. That's right: owners don't need to fret about a bustle of activity in the middle of the night. Instead, they make for excellent nappers and often greet their owners with excitement. These small rodents can live for up to 8 years if cared for properly.

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Gambian-Pouched Rat

The next rodent on our list has also been banned from the United States following an outbreak of monkeypox in the early 2000s. However, their story in the United States took an adventurous turn when eight captive rats escaped in the Grassy Key region of Florida.

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The eight rats created a colony of their own and ended up posing a threat to the local wildlife due to their territorial nature. However, if kept in captivity properly, these giant rants can be just as cuddly and intelligent as the common rat house pet, just roughly double the size.

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Kinkajou

Although small in size, the kinkajou requires all hands on deck when being kept at home. Also known as the honey bear, these South American-native mammals require a home environment that mimics that of the rainforests and can prove to be quite the challenge. And this is no short-term pet. Some can live for up to 40 years!

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Andrew Milligan - PA Images / Contributor via Getty Images

On average, the kinkajou is known to be quite docile, but if spooked can resort to some violent behavior in self-defense. Overall, a highly experienced owner is required for these wild mammals, in addition to a varied diet and a lot of space for constant exercise.

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Snake-Neck Turtle

This unique type of turtle can be found in the wild, off the coast of Australia, but has come to be a staple in aquariums around the world. For many, the appeal lies in their distinctive appearance and relatively rare status. But as interesting as they are to look at, caring for them is no walk in the park.

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The snake-neck turtle requires a very specific kind of environment to live a happy and long life. If the water is too cold, the turtle is at risk of hibernating to the point of starvation. On the flip side, if the water is too hot, then their digestive abilities are interrupted, also leading to their demise.

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Binturong

Almost as if straight out of a scientist's lab, the binturong has the face of a cat, the body of a small bear, and the tail of a monkey. Hence their second name, the bearcat. These unique mammals can be found in the tropical regions of southeast Asia and are related to an Old War class of creatures.

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Instagram via @zookeeperjawnie

One of the most unique traits about them is their distinctive odor that smells like buttered popcorn. However, despite the appetizing smell, they make for difficult pets due to their love of climbing and near-constant vocalizations. Want to see more bizarre pet choices? Keep scrolling...

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Kangaroo

According to online sources, kangaroos in the United States are sold for upwards of $3,000 and are a controversial addition to the family home. For one, many experts in the Australian marsupial believe that it's near-impossible to create a home environment sufficient for these wild animals.

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Sue Ogrocki/AP/Shutterstock

For starters, there has been no reported success in housetraining these giant leapers. They have extremely high levels of energy and do best with sprawling grounds for running and jumping, and have been known to suffer when being kept indoors. However, for those willing to take a shock, they're one seriously exotic pet.

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Alligator

These prehistoric reptiles make for one seriously exotic pet, especially in the United States. As of the time of publication, pet alligators are only legal in five out of the 50 states across America. Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin are the go-to places for alligator lovers.

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Barcroft Media / Contributor via Getty Images

But for those who are able to welcome these scaly dinosaurs into their home, they're signing up for quite the caretaker role. While miniature as babies, it's reported that alligators can grow up to a foot each year and eat roughly a quarter of their weight each day. In addition, they can live for up to 50 years!

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Boa Constrictor

These giant serpents have been the villains of many action movies, yet make for the ideal pet for some exotic creature lovers. While some local authorities do not allow for the purchase of boa constrictors, where they are allowed, people are willing to spend large sums of money to take one home.

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Joe Raedle / Staff via Getty Images

But adopting one of these snakes can be a 20-year commitment in some cases, with their lifespan noticeably prolonged if cared for properly in captivity. Overall, the boa constrictor can be seen as a low-risk and long-term choice as a pet, as long as they're kept happy and healthy.

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Caracal

Caracals are wild cats that are native to the Middle East, Central Asia, and the dry regions of Pakistan and Northern India. And just like the Geoffroy's cat, these felines may be a cat-lovers dream, but they're most certainly not recommended as house pets.

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But despite the warnings, some exotic animal lovers have brought these furry predators into their homes, usually after getting them declawed. But as of the time of publication, most States have a specific caracal ban in place, with a few exceptions like Nevada, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Alabama.

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Zebra

According to the International Zebra-Zorse-Zonkey Association, there's an estimated 3,000 zebras in backyards across the United States. Depending on their purebred status, some of these striped trotters can sell for upwards of $4,000. And business has only gone up since the 2005 film Racing Stripes.

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Since the film came out, zebras have been seen as an exotic substitute for more common breeds of horses, but experts warn that they're nowhere as easy to train. They can take up to a year to become ridable and have a kick that is so lethal that it can kill a fully grown lion, according to NPR.

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Capuchin Monkey

According to The Spruce Pets, capuchins can live up to 45 years in captivity and have become popular exotic pets thanks to Hollywood appearances like Justin Bieber at the Comedy Central Roast, Ross Geller in Friends, and the 1994 children's comedy Monkey Trouble.

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Mediapunch/Shutterstock

But in reality, while capuchins may be cute, it is incredibly difficult to provide them with a mentally fulfilling life in a domestic setting. Many experts believe they suffer as pets due to isolation and lack of stimulation and physical exercise. However, that hasn't stopped people from paying up to $7,000 for one.

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Ostrich

Despite its large size, the ostrich is one of the exotic animals on our list that has been successfully domesticated. The domestic ostrich derives from many other types of wild ostriches, including the North African, blue-necked, Somali, and more. They're currently being bred all over the world for purchase.

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VIKTOR DRACHEV / Stringer via Getty Images

They're also one of the few exotic animals that can provide for their owners. From plumage to eggs, these giant creatures can live a happy life in the yard in both warm and cold temperatures. However, many warn about their lengthy lifespan and sharp claws to interested buyers!

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Fox

Whether red, gray, arctic, or Fennec, overall foxes make for fairly challenging pets. Despite being in the same family as dogs (Canidae), no successful attempt at domestication has been made. No matter how cute they may look, these creatures are wild animals and tend to act as such.

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Depending on the type of fox, between 12 to 15 States in America allow these energetic trouble makers as pets. And for those places that do allow them, owners sign up for restless nights, as these creatures are known to vocalize and dart around as soon as the sun sets.

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Kusimanse

The common kusimanse is a miniature relative of the mongoose and can live for up to 10 years in captivity if cared for correctly. And like the degu listed above, the kusimanse has been a go-to choice for exotic rodent lovers who also cherish a good night's sleep. This rodent is also diurnal, meaning it rests at night.

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However, the downside to these pets is that it can be a challenge to keep them stimulated. In the wild, they lived incredibly active and social lives, living nomadically within a pod of up to 20 other kusimanses. They also grew accustomed to hunting for their own food, including larvae and small insects.

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Whip Scorpion

Don't let the name scare you off, these creatures are actually Arachnids and pose no threat to humans. They're often confused with other, more dangerous critters, but these little ones have no venomous fangs and can make for great companions for the bug-lovers of the world.

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In the wild, whip scorpions typically live in little clusters and take up residence in tight vertical spaces that shield them from predators. Tree trunks, caverns, and boulders are just some of their go-to home bases and make for great inspiration for recreating their environment at home as well.

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Patagonian Mara

Like the Chacoan Mara, this type of rodent is distantly related to the common guinea pig and is sought after for its unique and almost fantastical appearance. Most owners keep their rabbit-like companions in petting zoo-like enclosures, but some have reported success with house training.

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Valery Matytsin / Contributor via Getty Images

And according to The Spruce Pets, some owners have even had success with clicker training and leash walking! If you want to keep your Patagonia mara happy, it's recommended to give them lots of space to dig and to keep them in a male and female pair. Keep scrolling for more exotic pets...

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Geoffroy's Cat

The Geoggroy's cat is a must-have for many exotic cat lovers. Their size is a huge selling point for owners that don't have a huge property at their disposal because this breed is one of the smallest types of wild cats around. In captivity, they can live for up to 20 years.

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Instagram via @kylie.rose22

On average, an adult Geoffroy's cat can reach 24 inches in length and can weigh in at anywhere from 4 to 11 pounds. But don't let their small size fool you, these felines are definitely wild and have the energy levels to match. They also love hunting and feast on small rodents and bugs in the wild.

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Marbled Polecat

The marbled polecat may look familiar to the untrained eye, and that's because they are closely related to a more common pet, the ferret. However, there are some key unique differences that set this critter apart from its more commercial family member.

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Instagram via @ranger.stu

For one, polecats are typically larger in size. They are far less social than ferrets as they lived relatively solitary lives in nature. But most importantly, the marbled polecat has the ability to emit a rancid smell from its glands when it feels threatened or frightened.

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Bat-Eared Fox

If cared for properly, this large-eared fox can live a happy life for up to 14 years in captivity. In their full adult state, the bat-eared fox reaches only around the size of a small dog, weighing 12 pounds maximum. They come from the Saharan grasslands but can be found all over the world due to breeding in captivity.

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Instagram via @the_fox_and_hound

While not as domesticated as dogs, the bat-eared fox can be trained to use a litter box and even respond to simple commands like "sit" and "come," according to zookeepers and owners. In addition, they're known as more well-behaved compared to North American foxes.

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Jerboa

Jerboas are some of the rarest rodents when it comes to exotic pets. And that comes from a variety of reasons working against their favor. For one, jerboas originate from Northern Africa in addition to the Middle East, and there are tight restrictions on importing creatures from these regions.

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In addition, these small rodents need ample space and don't fare well in captivity for the most part. For the few jerboas found in zoos and research centers, it was difficult to breed them in captivity and the mothers often rejected their offspring due to the unnatural conditions.

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Raccoon Dog

This eye-catching creature has created a lot of confusion due to its name. But let the record show that these medium-sized mammals aren't raccoons, rather, they belong to the canine family. They're native to northern Asia and eastern Siberia but have spread across Europe as well.

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Natalia Fedosenko / Contributor via Getty Images

However, the raccoon dog (also known as a tanuki) is nowhere close to as trainable as the common domestic - or even wild - dog. And organizations actively discourage people from trying to purchase them. However, due to their unique coloring and rare status, there are some brave owners who still risk it.

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Dik-Dik

The dik-dik is a type of miniature antelope that hails from the continent of Africa. There are four types of dik-diks including silver, salt, Gunther, and Kirk subspecies. But amongst them all, the dik-dik only reaches a height of roughly 1 foot tall.

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Instagram via @mcvaynicholas

And while their petite stature makes them an appealing animal for some exotic pet lovers, purchasing them is highly discouraged by experts and zoologists, and has even led to some bans on importation in various countries, with zoos getting an exception.

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Tiger

For those familiar with the Netflix series Tiger King, this next mammal won't be too much of a surprise. But as beautiful and regal as these giant creatures may seem, tiger experts strongly discourage people from buying them as personal pets. For starters, these enormous cats can weigh more than 600 pounds in adulthood.

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The Ring Magazine / Contributor via Getty Images

Beyond their large size, these striped predators can live sometimes two decades and prefer a solitary life except for the occasional mating and cubs. While some tiger owners feel as though they have a bond with their creatures, it is often noted that the behavior of a wild animal can never be totally predictable.

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New Guinea Singing Dog

As their name suggests, this wild dog breed is best known for its unique and piercing vocal capabilities. It belongs to the common grouping of Dingoes, which represent the wild dog breeds of Oceania and South East Asia. And while some efforts have been made to tame these canines, they've never fully been domesticated.

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Instagram via @singingpuppydog

Owners of these South Pacific hounds have characterized them as affectionate with their family, but standoff-ish with strangers. Coupled with their predator-like instincts, it can be a challenge to predict their behavior. In addition to their temperament, they're approaching near-extinction.

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Turantula

Despite their bad reputation from Hollywood and folklore, the majority of tarantulas that are kept as pets have the venom potency equivalent to that of bees or wasps. For that reason, they make for fairly exotic-looking pets without a high-risk factor involved.

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INA Photo Agency / Contributor via Getty Images

However, depending on the type, some tarantulas can be a struggle to care for. For example, when they feel threatened, these arachnids can bite or erect brittle hairs from their body that can irritate the skin of humans. In addition, some breeds are known as extremely fast, which leads to them escaping their tanks.

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Capybara

The capybara is the largest rodent in the world and can weigh up to a staggering 170 pounds in its adult years. But despite their large size, these South American creatures make for surprisingly good pets, if the necessary arrangements are made to keep them happy and healthy.

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Melanie Typaldos/Shutterstock

The capybara pictured above is named Caplin Rous and resides in Buda, Texas. His life is nothing like that of his wild kin in the forests of South America, however. Instead, Cappy enjoys daily walks, yogurt in the morning, and a lot of attention from passersby.

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Tamandua

For the art historians out there, the Tamandua may be familiar already. The famous artist Salvador Dalí kept this type of anteater as a pet and was famously pictured walking it down the streets of Paris, France. And apparently, he was on to something. According to many, these creatures make for suitable pets.

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Instagram via @zookeepercolleen

Owners and zookeepers alike compare the tamandua's temperament in captivity to that of a household cat: cuddly with owners at times, but also lovers of alone time. For those interested, it's reported that these creatures are sold at a price anywhere from $1,500 to $8,000, depending on their breeding status.

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Spotted Garden Eel

This unique type of eel has grown in popularity amidst fish tank enthusiasts as they make for compelling displays. The spotted garden eel belongs to the heterocongrine subfamily, according to Reefs Magazine. The entire subfamily utilizes their tails to root themselves in the ground, creating a grass-like appearance in the water.

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YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / Contributor via Getty Images

However, as unique as they look, they make for challenging pets to keep happy. They need very specific conditions in order to thrive in the water and often perish due to novice owners. One of the key requirements involved in keeping these skinny fish happy is making sure to mimic the tank's bottom to that of the ocean floor.

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Bamboo Shark

While this may not be a hammerhead or great white, these mini predators are sharks nonetheless. And that means quite the commitment for avid fishtank lovers. But for these aquarists, there is no such thing as "too exotic." So, what is involved in caring for bamboo sharks?

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Instagram via @flyingdogtravel

Well, these creatures can live for up to 20 years, which means quite the commitment. Once they reach adulthood, they clock in at roughly 40 inches in length and require a 180-gallon tank! According to Spruce Pets, these fish are only meant for "expert" owners due to their "aggressive" nature.

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Chipmunk

No, this isn't Alvin, Theodore, or Simon, but it is, indeed, a chipmunk! And while these scurry creatures haven't been considered pet-material for long, they can certainly provide quick-paced entertainment for their owners. But there's one thing, in particular, to consider when it comes to these rodents.

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Instagram via @chipmunk_miron

According to many exotic pet enthusiasts, it's actively discouraged to try to adopt a wild chipmunk and attempt to domesticate them. Rather, it's recommended to adopt a baby chipmunk for a better shot at training. According to some experienced owners, they can even learn to respond to their name!

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Skunk

The North American skunk, or more officially known as mephitis mephitis, are rodents that are native to the continent and have developed a potent self-defense mechanism. And while their spray would put off most pet-lovers, there's a solution some opted for, for the stinky problem: scent gland removal.

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Instagram via @coddiwomple.columbus

And what's left is what Spruce Pets describes as a "friendly, intelligent, and unique" pet. If adopted at a young age, these two-toned rodents can learn to love being cuddled and handled by their owners, in addition to adopting a more playful nature. However, they require a close eye to watch over their mischievous ways.

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Rainbow Crab

What's better than an aquatic pet or a land-based pet? One that thrives in both environments! And the rainbow crab does just that. These semi-aquatic crawlers make for interesting exotic pets due to their unique flexibility when it comes to their environment and their one-of-a-kind coloring. Just look at the name!

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Instagram via @hipsterente

These miniature creatures require a paludarium tank or one that can accommodate both water and sand. And besides that, other key facts to keep in mind involve their somewhat aggressive nature and incompatibility with other tank-mates. These feisty crabs require a 20-gallon tank just for themselves!

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Sugar Glider

Besides making excellent selfie buddies, sugar gliders also make for an equally cute and exotic pet. These mini possums get their name from their ability to glide through the air from tree to tree, just like their more widely known counterparts, the flying squirrel.

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Instagram via @i_m_audii

Originally native to Australia, these small gliders have become increasingly more popular as pets, but require a bit of background learning prior to welcoming them into your home. For starters, it's best for them to be raised in pairs due to their social nature. Plus, they have a tendency to nibble on their owners' fingers.

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Galago

The galago, also known as bush babies or nagapies, are small primates that originate from sub-Sahara Africa. But these days, you don't need to be in South Africa to get a peek at this big-eyed creature. In fact, you can even have them as your very own pet!

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Instagram via @bushbabyalmond

But just as their big eyes would suggest, this animal spends quite a bit of time awake during the night. For owners, that means either carefully adjusting their sleep schedule or signing up for some long and restless nights. But that's the price to pay when it comes to these exotic companions! Keep scrolling for more...

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Bearded Dragon

The bearded dragon, more formally known as the pogona, is an exotic type of lizard that derives from Australia. As their talons would suggest, these creatures thrive in the treetops and enjoy spending their time high away off the ground from their predators. But what about in captivity?

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Instagram via @themushulife

The bearded dragon can live up to 10 years in age and can reach a size of 24 inches in length. From tank size to heat requirements, this lizard isn't low maintenance by any means. But if cared for properly, they make for curious and unique companions that would make any exotic pet lover's day!

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Hedgehog

Despite their popularity as household pets in America, it may come as a surprise that these mammals are actually native to Australia and have no living species native to the United States or Canada. But as pets, however, these spikey little pets have taken the nation by storm in exotic pet communities.

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Instagram via @sarahshedgehogsofminnesota

For owners, it's important to know that hedgehogs are fairly solitary animals and are low-maintenance as far as pets go. However, if you're looking for a cuddly companion, you may be out of luck. Pair their solo nature with their spikey outercoat and you may think twice before bringing one home.

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Chinchilla

Hailing from the Andes mountain range in South America, the next exotic pet on the list is none other but the chinchilla. These cuddly-looking rodents have been a long-time favorite of exotic pet lovers around the world due to their cartoon-like features and soft fur.

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Instagram via @tono.com141

They are widely known as excellent rodents to keep as pets due to their clean and odorless nature. However, they do tend to be shy and prefer a quiet environment to call home sweet home. But if cared for correctly, they can live up to 20 years in age! No denying these little fluff balls are adorable.

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Micro Pig

These pocket-sized pigs may not hail from some exotic location, but their popularity has consistently been on the rise for the last few years as unique pets. However, according to BCSPCA, there are a number of things to know before taking a micro pig home.

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Instagram via @pig_emily420

For starters, these intelligent creatures are often sold as newborns without being aware of the size they'll reach as adults. That can mean more food costs, a bigger crate or playpen, and more health needs. In fact, anything 350 pounds can still be considered a "miniature pig," so beware!

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Barn Owl

While these may make for extremely exotic pets, barn owls are actually one of the most widespread species of birds and aren't threatened by endangerment unlike many other species of owls. However, keeping them as pets isn't exactly a walk in the park.

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Instagram via @mugi_cosme.owl

Besides being night-lovers, these large birds have a tendency to grab ahold of household items with their sharp talons, such as curtains, bedding, and other fabrics. Throw in some loud vocalizations and increased activity when hungry, and you've got a fairly high-maintenance pet.

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Cockatiel

The cockatiel, also known as the weirdo bird or quarrion is a colorful member of the cockatoo family, a species of bird native to Australia. But no need to go down under to take a look at these vibrant feathers, there's a chance there's one up for grabs at your local pet store!

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Instagram via @boba_the_lop

And beside their beautiful coloring, these birds are often sought after for their beautiful vocalizations. Plus, unlike the barn owl, cockatiels enjoy a good cuddle and are fascinated by their reflection and their owner's movements. In fact, they're ranked as some of the best-suited bird companions!

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Giant African Land Snail

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this next exotic pet is classified as an invasive species. They were first introduced to the country in 1966 as pets and for educational purposes, in addition to some arriving accidentally aboard cargo ships. And since then? They've thrived a little too well.

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Instagram via @asnailnameddelilah

In the subsequent years, this breed of snail went on to much on hundreds of different plant species and ravage gardens. But as pets, they have gained popularity for their unique coloring and abnormally large size. If cared for properly, they can live up to ten years!

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Praying Mantis

While we associate this bright green bug as a praying mantis, the term mantis actually refers to an order of insects that includes over 2,400 species across 460 genera! But far as exotic pets come, these insects commonly go by praying mantis for their preferred posture position.

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Instagram via @pet.mantis

The praying mantis tends to stand upright with folded arms, especially while eating their prey. Despite their ruthless hunting techniques in the wild, Spruce Pets describes them as a "fun and relatively simple pet to care for," and is highly recommended for novice insect owners.

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Armadillo

What do Armadillos and anteaters have in common with one another? Besides both making the exotic pets list, they both belong to the same superorder: Xenarthra. These armored mammals hail from the Americas and have grown in popularity amongst unique pet enthusiasts.

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Instagram via @petarmadillos

However, despite piquing the interest of many animal lovers, these mammals are technically illegal in many states. Not only is this in the interest of the wild animal, but they also have the ability to transmit Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy.

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