There is no single answer to ‘what is an exotic pet?’, but generally an exotic pet is considered an animal that is rare or uncommon, and may have unusual maintenance compared to other common animals like a dog or cat. Exotic pets are more likely to be wild animals that were caught and not bred in captivity to be domesticated
As certain types of animals become more common they may no longer be considered exotic. For example, some pet reptiles like snakes and some small rodents like hedgehogs were once considered rare but have increasingly gone mainstream as a type of pet and are now only borderline exotic.
Legal Issues and Factors With Owning Exotic Pets
The legality of owning an exotic pet is varied. Some countries ban certain types of pets outright, sometimes it’s a grey zone depending on how the animal was bred or captured, and others are fully supportive of keeping certain animals as pets.
Before you consider keeping an exotic pet please consult your local and national laws regarding that pet type. For example, in the United States it is legal and relatively unregulated to own a tiger in eight different states, but the remaining states have laws ranging from modest restriction to outright prohibition of keeping tigers as pets.
The Different Types of Exotic Pets
There are hundreds of different types of exotic pets, but broadly speaking the biggest or most popular categories include:
Exotic Amphibian Pets
Exotic Bird Pets
The large plumage and bright colors found among birds make them popular exotic pets. Parrots in particular can be fun to own for their beautiful feathers and intelligence. Some parrots like the cockatoo are known for their hilarious and trainable repetition of human words. Some can even carry on conversations.
Exotic Arachnids and Insect Pets
Large arachnids and insects can be exotic pets too. Large insects like Madagascar hissing cockroaches and stick insects can be interesting to look at. Tarantulas are growing in popularity as a pet as well. Despite their enormous size they are harmless to humans. They have mild venom and can usually be held in your hands without issue. They are also very easy to maintain as they only need to be fed about once every week. Scorpions are another exotic pet type. The most common scorpion pet is the emperor scorpion. Like tarantulas, emperor scorpions do not possess lethal venom to humans and are relatively harmless.
Exotic Felines and Big Cats As Pets
Exotic big cats is a whole different category of pet ownership. Large wild cats like tigers or leopards have grown in popularity over the years. But make no mistake, these animals are extremely dangerous, expensive to own, and are increasingly regulated. This makes owning large cats as pets difficult. There are more pet tigers inside the United States today than exist in the wild. A-Z Animals does not support big cat pet ownership of any variety.
Exotic Pet Rodents
The word ‘rodent’ may give a first impression of a giant rat or common field mouse, but the category of exotic rodent pets is growing in popularity and includes many fun and cuddly pets like chinchillas, hamsters, and prairie dogs.
Other Types of Exotic Pets
People have been known to keep a huge variety of pets as animals including primates like monkeys, giant African land snails, reptiles, and even skunks! There is really no limitation to the variety of exotic pets humans have owned over the years. However the vast majority of wild animals, including those kept as exotic pets, are not suitable for domesticated life.
A List Of The Best Exotic Pets
What exotic pets are considered ‘best’ is completely subjective. For the list below we’ve chosen the most popular that are also broadly (but not universally) able to be legally owned as pets. Consult your local and national jurisdictions to confirm before adopting any exotic pet.
Very similar to another exotic pet, the sugar glider, flying squirrels are more common and easier to care for. They are adorable and can live in a somewhat contained space like a medium sized cage. They are affectionate as well.
The savannah cat is an exotic and rare pet. Savannah cats are a hybrid cat cross breed with a domesticated cat and a serval. They are larger than most standard house cats except the Maine Coon Cat, and are known for their impressive jumping abilities and beautiful leopard like markings
Yes! Many places allow you to keep a non-domesticated canine like the fennec fox as a pet. With their famously large ears, small faces, and bushy tails these creatures are some of the cutest exotic animals you can legally own.