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3 of the Best Small Exotic Pets to Own

Updated on March 18, 2015

What Is the Best Exotic Pet to Own?

Baby sugar gliders are one of the best exotic pets to own.
Baby sugar gliders are one of the best exotic pets to own. | Source

Are you interested in small exotic pets? Before you jump into ownership, there are some things you should consider. However, if you have done your due diligence and you are ready for the task, here are some fascinating facts about three of the very best small pets to own.

What is an exotic animal? According to local government in Mendocino County, California, “an exotic animal means any wild animal not customarily confined or cultivated by humans for domestic or commercial purposes.”

Let’s discuss which animals make the best exotic pets in terms of safety, happiness in captivity, and environmental responsibility.

Small Exotic Pets Do's & Don'ts

Before we talk about some of the best small exotic pets to own, let's explore some of do's and don't's of owning an exotic animal.

  • Do consider potential health issues like an animal transmitted disease. The technical term is a zoonosis.
  • Do check for local, state or federal laws or guidelines for ownership. Laws vary widely from state to state and may even conflict with federal or other guidelines. Protect yourself by doing your research.
  • Do consider where the animal will be housed, how you will provide daily food and other care, and what you will do with the animal in case of a natural disaster, like fire, flood or tropical storms.
  • Do ponder the ethics: is it humane for the animal? Could others be harmed by your ownership of an exotic pet? Are there potential long-term environmental effects? For example, will a species be perpetuated or diminished?
  • Don't choose dangerous exotic pets that have the potential to transmit salmonella or venomous or constricting snakes, wild cats, or monkeys.
  • Don't purchase animals from unreliable sources.
  • Don't abandon or release animals; get them to a safe place like a rescue shelter or zoo.
  • Don’t introduce exotic pets into homes where there are children under five because of the health risks of zoonosis or other injuries.

Small Exotic Pets: Sugar Gliders

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sugar gliders love to be close to their ownersIUCN Map of Sugar Glider DistributionYour sugar glider will love playing and hiding in small containers and boxes
Sugar gliders love to be close to their owners
Sugar gliders love to be close to their owners | Source
IUCN Map of Sugar Glider Distribution
IUCN Map of Sugar Glider Distribution | Source
Your sugar glider will love playing and hiding in small containers and boxes
Your sugar glider will love playing and hiding in small containers and boxes | Source

1. Sugar Gliders As Pets

Sugar Gliders have a long history (approximately 14 years) of being safe and enjoyable exotic pets.

They are marsupials from the same family as Koala Bears (check out the facial resemblance) and originated in the rainforests of Australia and Indonesia.

What makes these cuddly little critters such awesome pets to own?

They’re low maintenance pets for grooming, feeding, housing, health care, and sanitation.

Incredibly loyal, they follow their owners from room to room like a dog, and can be trained to do many tricks.

One downside is the fact that they cannot be housebroken, but on the plus side, a six-ounce pet can only make so big a mess.

They are long-lived (about 14 years) and tiny (about six inches). Their nickname is "pocket pets," which tells you they will give you years of companionship without requiring much time or space.

These are good pets for seniors, singles, and families with older children or other pets.

Ferret Photo Gallery

Ferrets are playful and mischievous pets - ferrets are not rodents, however.
Ferrets are playful and mischievous pets - ferrets are not rodents, however. | Source
Ferrets are great pets and one of the best exotic animal to own for children.
Ferrets are great pets and one of the best exotic animal to own for children. | Source

2. Ferrets As Pets: Pros and Cons

Unlike Sugar Gliders, ferrets are familiar pets, and many would not consider them to be exotic small pets.

Although they are domesticated, they are related to skunks, and trace their origins back to the European polecat. Neither dog nor cat, but something in between, they qualify as one of the best exotic pets to own.

These playful little pets chew, scratch, dig, smell and steal, but in spite of these minor idiosyncrasies, their intelligence and personalities make them highly popular.

The advantages of owning ferrets are they are easy to litter train and can be taught tricks, while the disadvantage is their rather short life spans—about eight years—and their odor.

These are good pets for families with no other pets, singles, or families with older children. Because of their high energy levels, they may be too high maintenance for seniors.

Images: Fennec Fox

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I am one of the coolest pets to own because I'm so adorable and unusual.No, no...I'm not related to Yoda! Check out my Fennec Fox ears!Fennec fox in replica of its natural habitat: Wilhema Zoo, Germany
I am one of the coolest pets to own because I'm so adorable and unusual.
I am one of the coolest pets to own because I'm so adorable and unusual. | Source
No, no...I'm not related to Yoda! Check out my Fennec Fox ears!
No, no...I'm not related to Yoda! Check out my Fennec Fox ears! | Source
Fennec fox in replica of its natural habitat: Wilhema Zoo, Germany
Fennec fox in replica of its natural habitat: Wilhema Zoo, Germany | Source

3. Fennec Foxes As Pets

If you’re looking for an exotic-looking exotic pet, the Fennec fox fits the bill.

They are diminutive in size—about two or three pounds—with gigantic ears that make them look like Yoda.

Be aware that these little bundles of energy keep you on your toes! Daily exercise is a must; however, they are easily trained to both litter box and leash.

These small, unusual pets are a fairly long-lived species and may survive about 10 years in captivity. The disadvantages of ownership are:

  • They may damage property as they are voracious diggers
  • They sometimes eat their litter
  • They will bolt away from you outdoors if not kept on a leash

The best families for Fennec foxes are those without other pets or small children.

Endangered Species & Small Exotic Pets

There are just three of the many small exotic pets that individuals enjoy owning. Before choosing any exotic pet, check its status on the endangered species lists as many popular pets such as some types of chinchillas or hyacinth macaws are currently on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

After you have done that, research all the legalities involved with owning small, unusual pets. When you've done all your homework, you are ready to choose the small exotic pet that will be the perfect fit for your family and lifestyle. With love, care, and commonsense ownership practices, any of these three exotic animals should provide a lifetime of joy and companionship.

However, if none of these quite fits the bill, you may want to consider an extremely exotic pet such as a Savannah Monitor lizard. While they are not the most cuddly of pets, they can give lots of companionship and satisfaction.

Resources

County of Mendocino, California, “Title 10 Animal Care and Control,” http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/hhsa/chs/animal/ord1004.htm

Los Angeles Times, “Young Children and Exotic Pets are not a Good Match,” http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2008/10/draft-only-chic.html

Sugar Glider Information, “Thinking About Getting a Sugar Glider?,” http://www.petsugargliders.com/information.php

Ferret Central, “Ferret FAQ,” http://www.ferretcentral.org/index.html

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/about/overview.html

Fennec Foxes, “The Fennec Fox,” accessed 07/15/2010


© 2011 Donna Cosmato

What Type of Small Exotic Pet Would You Choose?

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    • Sally Smith1 profile image

      Sally Smith1 13 months ago

      I own sugar gliders. They glide on everything, they are cute and adorable.

    • profile image

      AP 22 months ago

      One (admittedly picky) point of clarification:

      Sugar gliders and koalas are in the same marsupial order as koalas (Diprodontia) but not in the same family. Koalas are members of the family Phascolarctidae, while sugar gliders are members of the family Petauridae. They're also in different suborders. They're about as closely related as cats and dogs, which are in different suborders of the order Carnivora.

    • Maximum A profile image

      Jee Ann G 2 years ago

      Oh, wow -just wow! I never knew sugar gliders existed. Now, I totally want one but I'm sure there are none of those in my country.

    • SilentMagenta profile image

      SilentMagenta 2 years ago

      Aww I have never even heard of a sugar glider. Its the cute little angel ever. Come to me little sugar glider. I love it.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 2 years ago from USA

      Thank you so much, swilliams, for the vote of confidence and for sharing this hub with your Twitterverse. I'm glad you liked it.

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 2 years ago from Arizona

      The little sugar glider is so cute! What an interesting array of animals! Thanks for sharing! Voted up! And Tweeted Out!

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 2 years ago from USA

      Hi Mary, thanks for sharing with us about your sugar gliders! So glad to hear that they are loving companions.

    • profile image

      Mary 2 years ago

      I have 2 sugar gliders and they are THE SWEETEST THINGS EVER! I WUV THEM! :D

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 2 years ago from USA

      Thank you for reading and commenting on this hub, lotz123. Unfortunately, I'm unaware of any sources for sugar gliders in the UK.

    • profile image

      lolz123 2 years ago

      Love the sugar gliders but can't find any breeders in oxfordshire,do u know of any ????

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 2 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Very interesting hub, I think they all look cute. Although personally I will stick to my very special and best mate my Blue Heeler. He does so many jobs for us, entertains us, and often has us in fits of laughing with his antics to get our attention. I will miss him when his time comes to leave us very much.

    • shahkar-khan profile image

      shahkar-khan 3 years ago

      i had never heard of sugar gliders before. they are cute.

    • profile image

      JinxValentine 3 years ago

      Sugar gliders are great to have. I have my own! My best friend go him for me when I graduated from college, and let me tell you, those things are adorable! He follows me every where I go, even when I go to take a bath! I have to leave the door open so he can come in, or he'll start to cry and whine. He tries so many times to climb on the side of the tub, so I have to pick him up. But other than them needing so much love, I'd have to say that they're much better than dogs or cats (money-wise). t

    • profile image

      Friendlyanon 3 years ago

      Most sugar gliders aren't very nice. I would suggest a ball python, african land snail or even an axolotl for a nice, quiet and easy to care for small pet.

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Kept private 4 years ago from Northeast United States

      Liked your article. Those sugar gliders look so cute!!!! My husband and I had a ferret for almost five years. He was so wonderful!!! However a negative thing about ferrets that was left out is the very high cost of vet bills asssociated with these animals. In male ferrets that are fixed, they will evidently develop adrenal disease. This can cost major buck a rues. I would strongly suggest pet insurance. Thank you again for such a wonderful article the fox is a cool idea too.

    • profile image

      Andrew 4 years ago

      Thousands of Australian animals die every year while being smuggled to other countries, they are protected animals, people are not allowed to keep them as pets and there is no such thing as a legally exporting them for the American or other pet markets. Sorry, but perhaps people should be aware.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 4 years ago from USA

      Hi H, Thanks for sharing your point of view about these pets.

    • profile image

      4 years ago

      The vet in the video and the "ASGV" are associated with a large sugar glider mill broker that is well known in the sugar glider community for false information and selling animals to impulse buyers in shopping malls and the like with inappropriate setups and bad info.

      Try Glider Central for better information. Sugar gliders are high maitinence pets, they are in fact very messy and their feeding requirements require fresh food every night that you make at home.

      Also, I have done a ton of research on fennec foxes, and it should be noted that they scream very loudly when excited/happy (like when they see you on the morning), only sometimes can be litter trained, they steal shiney things like keys, and bite when frightened. They need a sandbox to dig in. If you do not spend hours and hours with them they will not be tame. They are certianly not easy or for everyone.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 4 years ago from USA

      Hi Jennzie: I'm glad you liked this, it was fun to write. Aren't those fennec foxes the cutest things?

    • jennzie profile image

      jennzie 4 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

      I was aware of sugar gliders but not of fennec foxes- they're so cute! I also wasn't aware that ferrets were considered exotic.

      That's great that you listed all the things to think about before getting one of these pets, though. Too many times people buy these animals because they think they're cute or cool and don't really do any research before getting them.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing your sugar glider experiences, kjrzeek1 L. I've never had one, but they look like loving pets. Thanks for the feedback.

    • kjrzeek1 profile image

      kjrzeek1 4 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      We owned a sugar glider for a short period of time but had to give it away to a good home because we did not have the time to spend with him to bond. We just had a baby and had 3 dogs at the time. My wife couldn't resist and brought the little guy home. We may try again when the kids are grown.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 4 years ago from USA

      I'm glad you learned some new facts by reading this hub, aviannovice. I'm a teacher at heart! Thank you for the nice comments on my exotic pets article.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted interesting. I didn't know about the fennecfoxes or the sugar gliders. Thanks for the great info!

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for reading and commenting on this exotic pets article, Doodle Coodles!

    • profile image

      Doodle Coodles 5 years ago

      i like hamsters. i also love cats i ust want to hug them sorry i have to end this comment because i am getting emotional!!

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing your input on this hub, Express10. I believe you are right in that the habits of the Fennec foxes does seem similar to that of rabbits. I just think their little faces are adorable:)

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      This is a very interesting and informative hub. I am familiar with the ever-cute sugar gliders and ferrets but had never heard about Fennec Foxes. I found learning more about them the most interesting. In their digging and tendency to run I would say they have a couple of things in common with rabbits. I enjoyed this hub. Thanks.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Hi loriwindspirit, sounds like you have found the perfect exotic pet! Thanks for the tip on chincillas; I really didn't know all that fascinating information about them. Maybe you can work out a joint custody agreement to share Ted....?

    • profile image

      loriwindspirit 5 years ago

      I hope sometime you'll write about chinchilla friends! I'd never seen one until my son and his girlfriend brought one home and now that they are thinking of moving out, I'm trying to figure out how to keep Ted for MYSELF. I am just crazy about him. They are amazing animals ( chinchillas, not the kids) and I can't believe how adorable, sweet, and SMART they are! They are also so crazy and energetic, and are odor free! If you're thinking of a rodent pet, they will be wonderful choice! Did I mention that I just LOVE Ted? :0)

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      I'm glad you took time to share your thoughts on this hub, Life Style Pets! I hope this helps you make your final decision about whether an exotic pet is the right choice for you.

    • LifeStylePets profile image

      LifeStylePets 5 years ago from Florida

      Great Tips. I especially like the list of disadvantages. Helps you contemplate if the responsibility vs. companionship will weigh out for an individual. Thanks!

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on sugar gliders as exotic pets, akeezer! I hope you are able to have one as a pet one day:)

    • akeezer profile image

      akeezer 5 years ago from Pallet Town

      Sugar gliders are attention loving, cute, inexpensive, and get depressed when left alone for a few days :D sounds like meeee! And now I want one even more, I wish I could get one...

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts about these exotic pets, Shaddie:) It's always nice to get feedback on hub and I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment.

    • Shaddie profile image

      Shaddie 5 years ago from Washington state

      These are all interesting pets, but I would be hesitant to say they are the "best." I have known people who have kept all three mentioned on this list, however, and they are all tons of fun as long as you know what you're getting yourself into.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Hi DIY Backlinks! Thanks for sharing that tidbit about ferrets...to be honest, I have no personal experience with them, so that is really interesting. Love birds sound like wonderful pets...do they talk, by any chance?

      I appreciate your reading and commenting my small exotic pets article:)

    • DIY Backlinks profile image

      DIY Backlinks 5 years ago

      Ferrets are just down right mean or at least everyone I have encounters has been. These are all cute pets but I will stick to my dogs and love birds :)

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Hi Sembj - thank you for taking time to leave a comment about this hub on small exotic pets! I'm glad you liked the article, but I'm happier that you cared enough to let me know:)

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you, Valerie, for sharing your thoughts on which small exotic pet would be the best! However, hedgehogs sound like some pretty awesome and unusual pets in their own right, and being a breeder must be really, really interesting.

    • profile image

      Valerie 5 years ago

      Ive also loved to own a sugar glider.. they are sooo adorable. I can't find a breeder in Toronto though. Im a hedgehog breeder and they are so similar being nocturnal and all.. love your article! very interesting! Vote up! :)

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Hi Annette, I'm really glad you liked this hub. While I can't own all the pets I'd like to have, it is so much fun to write about the ones I would love to own! Thank you for voting this up as your support is so appreciated.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Hi homepetz...those are good points! Thanks for pointing them out as it could give individuals reasons to second-guess a decision to get a sugar glider as their small exotic pet.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image

      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      What an enjoyable read for pet lovers, Donna. And those sugar gliders ARE adorable. Thank you for putting together such an interesting hub. Voted up!

    • profile image

      homepetz 5 years ago

      Sugar gliders are very cute, but I've read so many stories of where people have not feed them an appropriate diet and they've suffered broken bones etc. Also, they are nocturnal, which might be tricky for some owners.

    • Sembj profile image

      Sembj 5 years ago

      I found the article informative and entertaining. Great job.

    • Little two two profile image

      LyttleTwoTwo 5 years ago from Canada

      Anytime, I enjoy your hubs ... and you inspired me for an article.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Hi Cindy! I've wanted one of these sugar gliders for the longest time (about 20 years now!) but my hubby (like yours) thinks we have enough pets...and he is right:) I'm glad you enjoyed reading about these small exotic pets because I enjoyed writing it. I figure if I can't own one, I can at least writing about how much fun it would be to have one. Thanks for checking in and sharing your thoughts...I always look forward to hearing from you.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for reading and commenting on this small exotic pets hub, Donna! The sugar gliders are just too adorable, but there are some definite downsides that folks should weigh before getting one. I'm glad you enjoyed this one:)

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Hi little two two...nice to hear from you again! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about small exotic pets, and thank you for also clarifying that point about turtles. I totally agree with you that turtles can be excellent pets if proper hygiene practices are followed. I appreciate you pointing that out for our readers:)

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      I have wanted a sugar glider for quite some time now, but my husband is against it, and it just isn't worth arguing about. After all, I have 3 cats and 2 dogs, and all but one claim me as their owner.

      But they are so cute and I think I would enjoy their clinginess.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks Jackie Lynnley: of all these small exotic pets,the sugar gliders are my favorites! I've been fascinated with them ever since I saw one while I was out and about. I'm glad you liked this hub, and thank you for voting it up.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Oh those sugar gliders... so precious! I would be afraid I'd lay on it or step on it. I had a ferret sneaking in my house killing my hamsters so they are on my ----list, lol and a fox would be OK but a cute dog would do as well. Guess I just have to check out the sugar gliders. Thank you for showing them off! Great hub, voted up!

    • Little two two profile image

      LyttleTwoTwo 5 years ago from Canada

      Nice article on exotics, tonnes of useful information ... only thing I will point out .. is your comment on turtles. Like any pet or animal (AKA the ferocious rottie) they come with risks ... risks can be minimized. I have 2 turtles right now, and have had one since I was 8years old. A fair amount of information on turtles is based on the early 70's and 80's era of misinformation. If a child gets salmonella from a pet turtle, the parent or the pet owner were not properly watching the children or they failed in the hygiene department, period.

      ""All reptiles can be carriers of Salmonella," says Dr. Mark Mitchell, an associate professor in the exotics and zoological medicine service at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. While there are some species of bacteria that are not likely to cause disease, all Salmonella is considered pathogenic in humans.

      While health officials have branded turtles as transmitters of Salmonella, it doesn't mean turtle owners across the country need to give up their beloved slow-moving, shell-covered friend. Dr. Mitchell says, "like any infectious disease, if you follow standard hygiene practices there shouldn't be a problem."" from the website http://aces.illinois.edu/

    • Donna Sundblad profile image

      Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia

      Those sugar gliders are adorable. I can see why people would want to keep them as pets, but you make good points to take into consideration. Very informative and useful!

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