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The 12 Coolest Exotic Pets That You Can't Own

Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.

Slow loris on a branch.

Slow loris on a branch.

Highly Desirable Pets That Are Mostly Illegal in the US

Warning: This is a potentially dream-killing article for the adventurous pet keepers out there in the US.

Many animals such as meerkats, sloths, and slow lorises have risen in popularity due to being featured in TV shows and viral YouTube videos. What are some of the most sought-after exotic pets in the US? Is it possible to get these animals as pets in the United States (without owning a zoo)? Read on to learn about them (and some possibly legal alternatives).

Note: Just because this article discusses which animals are possible to get in the US doesn't mean you should get one. Pet purchases of any kind should never be made on an impulse because an animal is cute, and many exotic animals are uncommonly kept as pets for a reason—they are very difficult to care for.

Slow loris clings to human arm

Slow loris clings to human arm

1. The Slow Loris

When the detrimental effects of the illegal exotic pet trade are discussed, the slow loris is often brought up. The popularity of these Asian primates took off when a private owner of one uploaded a video of their pet, named Sonya, getting its underarms tickled. Lorises have a similar appeal of sloths—with their lazy, human-like appearance and mannerisms, complemented by strange nocturnal eyes, many videos of the creatures soon become viral hits after.

Due to this, conservation groups retaliated and implored viewers to consider the unfortunate source of slow loris pets. They are often removed directly from the wild, their teeth painfully yanked out (but slow lorises are not actually venomous), and shipped to other countries. These animals are not easy to breed, hence why they are uncommon in zoos. Therefore it is unlikely that there are captive breeders selling animals to the people who own them in an ethical and sustainable fashion. It's feasible that claims of captive-bred slow lorises are fabrications.

Why you can't have one: They aren’t available in the United States due to their exportation being illegal, for good reason. However, other countries do sell them. The famous tickled loris Sonya resides in Russia. Some people keep them in Japan as well. The most common place for them to be kept as pets is in their native countries where they are sold directly, hence why it is pointless to blame the pet trade in North America for this devastating result of people’s pet-keeping desires.

Baby kinkajou looking alert

Baby kinkajou looking alert

The Kinkajou: An Alternative to the Slow Loris

The kinkajou closely resembles a primate but is actually a procyonid, which is a taxonomic group containing raccoons, ringtail cats, and coatimundis. Kinkajous may be legal in more states that have bans on wild animals. Like raccoons, kinkajous are intelligent and need space for their nocturnal activity. They are somewhat easier to own than primates but should never be underestimated since they may also have aggressive tendencies that need to be considered. Another animal that is similar-looking to slow lorises but currently uncommonly kept as a pet is the cuscus, which is a marsupial.

Man and cheetah get acquainted

Man and cheetah get acquainted

2. The Cheetah

Many people are not aware that cheetahs, compared to other big cats, are not really dangerous and are sometimes kept as pets (often illegally) in other parts of the world where they can be walked on a leash like a dog. Scientists are now considering taking cheetahs out of the definition of a big cat.

While these cats are certainly big compared to a typical tabby, they are not muscular like lions and hunt by chasing down their prey and tripping them. They will not see humans other than very small children as potential prey.

Still, cheetahs epitomize grace, ferocity, and allure for many people. Cheetahs are one of the first animals you see in the powerful "Circle of Life" opening in The Lion King, and they were featured in the film Duma.

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Reason you can't have one: Cheetahs are rare in the United States and are mainly found in accredited zoos. These animals haven't made it to the private sector because they are very difficult to breed. This is a contrast to other cats such as tigers, which reside in captivity and private ownership in far higher numbers.

A serval licks his nose.

A serval licks his nose.

The Serval: An Alternative to the Cheetah

For potential wildcat owners, servals are a common and easily propagated medium-sized African cat that have the exotic look of the cheetah wrapped up in a smaller package. If your idea of a good pet is an animal that adapts to the household as readily as a typical domesticated cat . . . then a serval will make a miserable, horrendous pet for you, so don't bother. It is best that owners of these animals have an outdoor run for them as they will spray and have aggressive tendencies (but they are not a danger to the public).

Servals are also illegal in about as many states as cheetahs. A better alternative for many people may be lower generations of Savannah and Bengal cats.

A red panda looking concerned.

A red panda looking concerned.

3. The Red Panda

The red panda is not to be confused with the panda bear, which they are not closely related to. However, like the panda bear, the red panda is threatened in the wild due to habitat loss, although they are classified by IUCN as vulnerable with only 10,000 mature individuals existing in the wild.

Red pandas are surging in popularity. The DreamWorks film Kung Fu Panda features an anthropomorphic animated version. These animals have striking coloration and a superficial resemblance to their namesakes. While in the past they were placed in the bear and raccoon family, recent phylogenetic evidence suggests they are in their own taxonomic group. These animals are sometimes kept illegally as pets in their native range, which may contribute to their threatened status in the wild.

Why you can't have one: With its cat-like face and attractive coloration, many people make inquiries about red pandas as pets. Not only would this not be a good idea for the species, but they aren’t going to be legally available anyway. There are only small populations existing in captivity in the United States, and they are probably restricted only to accredited zoos.

A red panda on the move.

A red panda on the move.

Pet raccoon walks.

Pet raccoon walks.

The Raccoon: An Alternative to the Red Panda

Captive-bred raccoons are legal in some states in the US. However, due to the concern of rabies, of which they are a significant vector for in the wild, they are often believed to be dangerous zoonotic disease sources and are heavily regulated in many areas. Raccoons originating from the wild shouldn't be kept as pets in most cases, and those in need of rehabilitation should be given to certified wildlife rehabilitation centers.

A King penguin spreading its wings.

A King penguin spreading its wings.

4. The Penguin

Penguins have gained obvious popularity. Again, their human-like qualities and waddle make them a favorite with people, and this was highlighted by the 2005 film March of the Penguins and 2006's Happy Feet.

Emperor penguins are obviously only suitable for captivity in publicly funded professional zoos and aquariums, but there are smaller penguins that tolerate warmer temperatures which originate from Africa and New Zealand (however, here is one owner of a king penguin, a bird that originates from Sub-Antarctic regions).

While not all penguins live in the frigid Antarctic waters and require subzero temperatures, they are still uncommon as pets. There is a shocking YouTube video showing a store in Japan where there was a penguin being sold (shown below.) Entitled "The Most Controversial Pet Shop," it depicts a shop in Japan called The Inner City Zoo. It displays and sells otters, bats, sloths, penguins, meerkats, and more, along with more traditional pets. The penguins in the video appear to be African penguins, which are endangered.

It is not impossible for a private owner to provide for these aquatic birds, but it is not likely that responsible, educated owners would patronize a store like this. The animals require more room than a traditional kiddie pool.

Reason you can't have one: Penguins are protected under the Lacey Act and are illegal to possess without certain permits that aren't likely to be available to pet owners. If you are determined, however, perhaps you can get one if you start an educational facility or some form of exhibition.

What you can get: Ducks, obviously.

Penguins for Sale

The tree kangaroo on a roof.

The tree kangaroo on a roof.

5. The Tree Kangaroo

Tree kangaroos are marsupials that are the most threatened and native to Australia and New Guinea. They are arboreal and are far more content in the trees than on the ground. Several species of this unique animal exist. Tree kangaroos are thick, fuzzy, and people often find them very appealing.

Why you can't have one: Like other threatened and uncommon exotics, these animals are not in the private sector and are distributed amongst accredited zoos only, as they should be. You wouldn't want this animal as a pet anyway—they require massive enclosures to simulate their arboreal habitats.

Small pet wallaby.

Small pet wallaby.

The Wallaby: An Alternative to the Tree Kangaroo

Wallabies are common amongst exotic mammal keepers and are easier to care for than tree kangaroos. Typical species that are kept are Bennett's wallabies and the smaller Dama wallabies. These animals however are not indoor pets, they must have an outdoor run to exercise in and a climate-controlled enclosure to retreat to. When young, they demand a lot of attention, and the owner should carry them in a makeshift pouch if they are to be raised alone. This is certainly not a pet for someone who just wants a pet and not specifically a wallaby.

Jerboa with large ears

Jerboa with large ears

6. The Jerboa

This is a super cool rodent from the deserts of Africa that you may have never heard of unless you landed on the popular YouTube videos. They come in different sizes based on the species, and they closely resemble a kangaroo rat, although they have a far stranger appearance. In some of the videos, they have been described as aliens for a good reason. Balanced on teeny legs, they dart and hop across the floor.

The video "Dramatic Little Monster" popularized them somewhat and featured a very strange-looking individual. There are pygmy species of jerboa, as well as larger jerboas that have rabbit-like ears known as Euchoreutes naso.

Reason you can't have one: The United States has banned the entry of African rodents into the country because of the monkeypox scare, which may be a good reason. The animals were once available here. Then, what may be due to their difficult care and breeding, once the imports stopped, they eventually disappeared from North American captivity. However, it appears that they are still kept as pets in Japan where there are many videos of them as pets (see one below). These animals are probably mostly wild-caught importations.

What you can get: Gerbils, which are popular pets, and anyone with common sense can properly care for one. I haven't seen kangaroo rats in captivity recently either, possibly because they are not easy-care rodents and no one is trying to breed them.

Video: Greater Egyptian Jerboa

A pygmy marmoset on a branch.

A pygmy marmoset on a branch.

7. The Pygmy Marmoset

Marmosets are small, New World monkeys in a group along with tamarins called callitrichids. They are intriguing and unique, being monkeys that appear small and almost rodent-like in appearance. Don't let their toy size fool you, though. Keeping small monkeys as pets is just as involved as keeping their larger counterparts.

These small monkeys, which really should be kept with members of their own species, would need caging that allows enough space for them to carry out species-specific behavior. In other words, around 6x6 feet minimum.

Pygmy marmosets are a particular type of marmoset that is incredibly small, and pictures of them circulate and induce a lot of "Awws." People like teeny things, such as toy breeds of dogs (including those blasted teacup dogs), "mini pigs" (which are not so mini when they reach their adult size,) and pocket pets like dwarf hamsters. Marmosets of any sort are the size of pocket pets, but they are anything but an animal like a dwarf rabbit or hamster. They are demanding and relatively socially complex.

Why you can't have one: I'm not sure, but they just don't seem to exist in the American pet trade, unlike many other monkeys and lemurs.

Common Marmoset

Common Marmoset

The Common Marmoset: An Alternative to the Pgymy Marmoset

Marmosets and tamarins are somewhat common in the exotic mammal trade. During my visit to Las Vegas, there was even one being sold in a pet store. Red-handed tamarins, Geoffrey marmosets, and cotton-topped tamarins are examples of some of the callitrichid species that are found in private ownership. However just because these are legal in the few remaining states that haven't outlawed non-human primate ownership doesn't mean they should be sought out as pets by anyone other than those who are dedicated to providing long-term (at least 20 years) high-quality care.

A koala clinging to a zookeeper's arm.

A koala clinging to a zookeeper's arm.

8. The Koala Bear

Many people love koalas, and I am not sure why. These marsupials have become a symbol of fuzzy cuteness even though they can be quite vicious. People are probably unaware of this fact because these animals are not very common, even in North American zoos. They have a highly specialized diet of eucalyptus, which must be grown on-site to support these animals. For obvious reasons, they wouldn't make a suitable pet for people.

Reason you can't have one: Koala bears are highly endangered, and Australia has restrictions on which animals can be imported out of the country. Obviously, koalas are on it and are even uncommon in accredited American zoos.

What you can get: Sugar gliders are popular Australian marsupials that require some research to care for but are readily available in the pet trade. Actual bears are also sometimes kept as pets (the closest resemblance to the koala would be the sun bear) but that is obviously not recommended.

A snowy white owl.

A snowy white owl.

9. The Snowy Owl

These magnificent birds were popularized by the absurdly popular Harry Potter books and movies. In fact, these birds are purchased illegally in India as pets by 'muggles' due to the craze. This bird is also responsible for the O RLY meme. However, owls as pets would require a large flight home, and they are not house pets.

Why you can't have one: Birds of prey are heavily regulated in the US. Harboring any native owls requires a federal permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Snowy owls inhabit Alaska, Canada, and Eurasia, and I'm not certain if they are illegal at the federal level, but I do know that the birds are rarely offered to private owners.

What you can get: Pretty much any parrot.

The sand cat takes a step.

The sand cat takes a step.

10. The Sand Cat

Sand cats are strange-looking, small, and exotic felines that have a somewhat close resemblance to our domesticated fare, but their heads have an interesting distinction. They are the only feline native to true deserts and have a distribution that includes Northern Africa and Central Asia. The sand cat was voted as the cutest cat in a contest held by Big Cat Rescue, which has held five of these animals which were surplus from other zoos.

Sand cats are sometimes illegally kept as pets in their home range and are under threat from habitat loss (although they are not listed as threatened). In captivity, their enclosure must be kept arid to ward off upper respiratory infections that are a common cause of their death in captivity.

Reason you can't have one: They are restricted to accredited zoos and institutions. As of 2009, there were only 200 individuals in 45 facilities around the world. Captive sand cat populations should be reserved for those actively breeding them in participation with a species survival plan. Update 2018: One seller started offering sand cats for the hefty price of $20,000 for a pair.

An orange fennec fox

An orange fennec fox

The Fennec Fox: An Alternative to the Sand Cat

Sand cats are basically the feline version of the fennec fox in appearance, which is a desert canid that requires relatively easy care and make fascinating pets. They adapt well to human households, so there is no need to simulate the desert to care for them. They are active and noisy, and have traditional exotic pet tendencies that may make them a handful for people expecting more tame cat and dog-like behavior.

A meerkat standing in grass.

A meerkat standing in grass.

11. The Meerkat

Meerkats have been made famous by Disney's The Lion King. They are popular for their stance that implies, "look out," in which they stand on two legs like a person. Meerkats are actually mongooses and make pretty bad pets, although some people keep them in Asia and even Europe.

Why you can't have one: These animals are sold as pets sometimes in other countries but are heavily regulated in the States. They are also difficult to breed and maintain outside of natural-esque colonies, so their populations are not high even where captive-bred animals are available. Their rareness as pets is probably for the best, considering their difficult care and the extreme bond they would have with their owners. This would essentially make re-homing them impossible without psychological overhaul.

A prairie dog munches on hay.

A prairie dog munches on hay.

The Prairie Dog: An Alternative to the Meerkat

Prairie dogs stand bipedally like meerkats, live a similar lifestyle in the wild, and are not prone to aggressive attacks toward strangers in captivity. The animals are even said to have a distinctive language. They also don't require deep sand boxes to satisfy digging urges and are far more adaptable to a more typical pet-keeping situation. Like the jerboa, their imports are restricted due to the African rodent embargo, but there are enough captive animals to sustain the American pet trade. Prairie dog babies are only born in the spring.

A tarsier on hand.

A tarsier on hand.

12. The Tarsier

The tarsier is an animal with comically gigantic eyes. Amusing videos of the creatures, which are Asian primates (not monkeys), can be found on YouTube with high view counts. Their small size and sheer uniqueness may make them appear to be cool pets, and they very well may be (for advanced keepers as they are primates, although not as intelligent as monkeys and apes.) However, most of us will never know. Some of the sub-species are critically endangered, and they are heavily protected.

Why you can't have one: They have special feeding requirements and do not breed well in captivity, therefore, accredited zoos and on-location breeding sites only (if any) keep them.


The Bush Baby: An Alternative to the Tarsier

Bush babies are primates called prosimians (like tarsiers), and they originate alternatively from Africa. They are sometimes kept as pets where nonhuman primates are legal. Their eyes are a bit smaller, but they are also nocturnal. One unpleasant trait the animal possess is their desire to rub urine on their hands for scent marking purposes. Scent marking seems to be a trait that consistently ruins potentially awesome pets.

Exotic animals can also be kept in outdoor enclosures (in the right climate) if their unpleasant habits become overwhelming.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: why can't anyone own a koala bear?

Answer: They are rare, even in zoos. Australia doesn't allow any exports of their wildlife, except for conservation purposes.

© 2013 Melissa A Smith


OrangoSam on July 10, 2020:

a bushbaby would also be an alternative to a slow loris

Cutest things on this list on June 17, 2020:

Why are red pandas illegal!!! :(

I asked my sister to help me protest

The saddest article I’ve ever read :( on June 17, 2020:

The red pandas made me so sad because they look absolutely HARMLESS!!!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 11, 2019:

Charles v brooks How is it 1700, I see 2500?

Charles v brooks on May 11, 2019:

Underground Reptiles in Florida have Sand cats foe sale as we speak for 1,700.00

Animal lover 11 on May 10, 2018:

I'd like to own pretty much every animal

Opossum Lover 10 on January 18, 2017:

Virginia Opossums should be legal everywhere!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on November 11, 2015:

Not the ones on this list.

John on November 05, 2015:

Some of those pets are always for sale online. I can even buy a dingo, wolf, hyena, warthog, monkeys, etc.. Real cheap. Ohio is one of the only states without any bans on any exotic animals.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 26, 2015:

I guess that's true, although I've heard sloths are difficult. I've seen those ducks before, they disturb me, I hope that's not bad for them.

AP on May 25, 2015:

I think this might be one of my favorite articles of yours. I mean, most of them say what I want to say (only they say it a lot better), while this one is fun.

One point though: From what I know, kinkajous are far more energetic, and far more likely to bite than a slow loris. I'd argue that a better alternative would be a sloth. They look like lorises, and move like them too, and unlike the slow loris and kinkajou, if they *do* bite you, you won't require any special treatment.

Also, while the duck-for-penguin suggestion is a good one, I wish you'd expounded a bit. If you want a penguin because of how the penguins walk, I'd suggest runner ducks. They walk upright just like penguins and can even be obtained in similar color patterns. If you want a penguin because they're adorable, I'd suggest call ducks. (They don't look much like penguins, but are so cute that you won't care.)

NMC on May 22, 2015:


You can't have meerkats because the Fish and Wildlife Service claims that they are prohibited under the Lacey Act of 1900 as a potentially invasive species, along with eighteen other species of mongoose. They're legal for a limited number of purposes, including being zoo exhibits.

poetryman6969 on May 08, 2015:

Some interesting looking animals. I prefer to leave the wild in the wild. That goes double for sharks! But I understand some folks love animals.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 20, 2015:

It depends on the species, the place. Sometimes you can't. I can't answer your question.

Rae on April 20, 2015:

How can you obtain a permit? I've been trying to find out but in getting no where.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 20, 2015:

Rae, unfortunately and bizarrely they are illegal in PA without a permit.

Rae on April 20, 2015:

I've been looking into getting a Sugar Glider. I live in Pennsylvania and have read so many different things saying they're illegal and that they're not illegal. I am capable to take care of this animal, I can provide everything it would need. I just wanted conformation on wether or not it was possible. Thanks.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 12, 2015:

Aw man how embarrassing! Thanks Jason.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 08, 2015:

Damn, foliage? I meant plumage. Now you're turning me into an idiot.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 08, 2015:

Enjolras-- If you won't look at my replies I'll just remove your comments.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 08, 2015:

Hannah, show me one photo of a macaw with pink in its foliage. If you do this, I will restore your miserable comments.

If you fail to do this, it is irrefutable proof that you are an irreversible moron with no right to an opinion on these matters, and that I am somehow more intelligent than all the authors of your 'credible' links that literally just sit there and make up imaginary animals.

Hannah on April 08, 2015:

Melissa strikes again, focusing on a the words "a pink macaw" instead of the actual links to try to discredit them. There are plenty of macaws with pink in their foliage, and thus the general public refers to them as "pink macaws", regardless of whether that is the proper name for the bird.

Yes, they are smuggled within their country so that they can be brought here. What, did you think wild macaws were captured in the US? They are smuggled within countries like Brazil, handed through different buyers, and eventually smuggled into the US.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 07, 2015:

You don't seem to get it. You feed both species their respective required diets. It isn't much harder to pour a bowl of cat food than it is gerbil food (I don't believe in feeding raw food so don't bring that up). Expense has nothing to do with ease of care. I said, "If a person can keep a gerbil, they can keep a serval, period." That just means if it's OK for one person to keep a gerbil ethically it should be OK with a serval. Serval enrichment is not much different from that of a dog or active cat, it's all fully achievable if the owner -cares-. Just give them what they need, it isn't hard, and it's WAY more affordable than raising a human child which most of the populace does. If you aren't willing to dedicate the time any money, DON'T GET ONE.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 07, 2015:

Hannah strikes again, with a link that says:

" A pink macaw taken from Brazil will sell for as much as $2,000 in Italy."

Wtf is a pink macaw? I hope these liars get theirs, someday. Anyway, I took that comment to mean that most of the parrots in our country have been smuggled here illegally. Most are smuggled within their native country, as the links show. Now once again, since I can never be trusted because I'm not 'credible', no more of your garbage is being posted on my blog.

Enjolras on April 07, 2015:

A gerbil is an herbivore, a serval is a carnivore; polar opposites. Plus, a serval's food would cost more, the exercise would be more extensive, enrichment would be much more intense and complex, and their enclosure would be MUCH more different. A serval costs much more monetary and emotional devotion than a gerbil.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 07, 2015:


Gerbil: Food, water, exercise, enrichment, proper enclosure

Serval: Food, water, exercise, enrichment, proper enclosure

Enjolras on April 07, 2015:

"If a person can keep a gerbil, they can keep a serval, period. Both require pretty much the same things."

...I'm concerned, to say the least.

john on April 07, 2015:

1) ppl should be able to own whatever they want if they can care for it (endangered species are exempt from this)

2) the author has never been to Nebraska if they are talking about importing prairie dogs

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 04, 2015:

mar-- and you are?

mar on March 04, 2015:

I've just seen so many abuse cases in the exotic pet trade to encourage people to get exotic animasls. Most people are impulsive and irresponsible.

Yokorotozoo Namii on November 06, 2014:

Want... Sandcat.... NOW

Chelsea Garcia on September 15, 2014:

all these animals are cute!;(

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 11, 2014:

But you were right with that last part Steve.

Steve on September 11, 2014:

Pretty good article, I enjoyed it. I think people are missing the fact that this is geared towards people whom are going to or trying to get an exotic animal. It's not like the article is saying "Don't get a dog, get an exotic animal!" of course they are more then what most people can/should get, and of course we should let them live in the wild to be hunted, eaten and generally die of untreated illnesses and diseases... ok last part was trolling ;)

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 10, 2014:

Pilot whales aren't whales. Ring-tailed cats aren't cats. Red pandas aren't pandas. Mantis shrimp aren't shrimp. Maned wolves aren't wolves. Mountain goats are not goats. Kangaroo rats are not rats. Do you want me to go on?

not a bear on September 10, 2014:

They are called Koalas - not Koala bears. They aren't a member of the bear family.

Ally Lewis on September 03, 2014:

I'm by no means an expert on pets or exotic animals, but I feel like some of the alternatives on this list are still unsuitable to be kept as pets, at least for the general public. Maybe some people would be more than capable of keeping them. Overall cool hub though!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 08, 2014:

If by HA you mean Hawaii then absolutely not.

S on August 08, 2014:

Cool are genets legal in ha

Pop on August 06, 2014:


KATJA on July 21, 2014:

You are welcome and free to remove anything...

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 21, 2014:

Dogs and cats also stick around because of food KATJA, what is your point? You have yet to write an intelligent comment on my hubs. I might have to start removing them.

KATJA on July 21, 2014:

For Christ Sake... Leave These Animals Alone - And Get Yourself A Dog Or A Cat!

People Like You Contribute To Illegal Animal Trade And Poaching. As Long As A So Called Pet Is NOT Looking For Your Affection It Is NOT A Pet - PERIOD. You Just Force Them Into A Dependency By Providing Food - That's It...

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 21, 2014:

Amanda, your training in biology and involvement with the zoology field has failed to provide you with insight about the subject of exotic pets. Your black and white dismissal of all 'wild' animals as 'bad pets' reveals you have a simplistic view. If a person can keep a gerbil, they can keep a serval, period. Both require pretty much the same things. They might be a bad pet for -you-, if you aren't willing to do what it takes to care for them, but some people are willing and ready to make the commitment.

The documentary that you mentioned, I have seen, and there is nothing enlightening. It basically follows the story of one, ONE, bad owner who had no business keeping what he had, and various other insubstantial criticisms about reptile shows. I can determine that you are very unknowledgeable if you need to refer to that movie to make your point.

Provide some proof on your statement that "Most of the parrots you speak of are being brought over illegally from other countries and are being smuggled like drugs over the border.". Not until I see some real credible evidence will I believe this. Showing isolated examples of various birds being found smuggled is NOT that evidence.

Amanda on July 21, 2014:

I am quite confused by this post to be quite honest with you. As a trained biologist and someone who has worked in the zoological field for the last 7 years, I find your alternatives to these animals quite ludicrous. Servals, fennec fox, kinkajous, bushbabies, and wallabies are still wild animals. These animals should not be kept as pets either. The only animal you did mention in your entire article that would be a suitable "pet" would be a gerbil. While some people do in fact have some of the animals you mentioned in your post as "pets," they should not be kept as pets.

Most of the parrots you speak of are being brought over illegally from other countries and are being smuggled like drugs over the border. A serval would destroy your house with its claws and teeth (and no declawing should not be an option as it is cruel and disgusting). Any sort of primate like a marmoset, while adorable, would also destroy property.

I would highly recommend you all watch the documentary "The Elephant in the Living Room." Enlightening and sad. It will teach you all about the exotic pet trade.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 20, 2014:

Poon, they are captive bred. No reason why we can't enjoy them as pets.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 08, 2014:

Thanks Eddy!

Eiddwen from Wales on July 08, 2014:

A great hub which will be useful to many. Voted up.


Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 01, 2014:

Zoos like to keep animals away from private owners, as of recent. So what we have now will probably stay the way it is. I don't know of any laws against it but you probably need special permission to import animals.

Jared TM on June 30, 2014:

I believe Pygmy marmosets do exist in the private market but they are very rare, I seem to remember them being advertised in the animal finders guide once. Btw, what do you mean when you say some of these animals are "restricted" to zoos and such? Not by law? You just mean to say that they're not typically available privately right?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 26, 2014:

Hi Sarah I usually state that doing your own research is a necessity for everything. I believe that fennec foxes adjust to their owners schedules as do the normally nocturnal ferrets and semi-nocturnal cats. They are definitely one of the easier exotics to keep looking at some other additions on this list.

Sarah on June 26, 2014:

I found your article to be very informative and a good read. I only wished you would have encouraged your readers to do their own extensive research on any animal they might be interested in owning, before committing to the idea. As example: Fennec foxes, although available in North America, are for most people, not at all a good pet. They are described by some as being very good natured. As that may be true, they are also nocturnal. People like to put them in cages at night, which is harmful to their mental well-being as they are active at night and require a lot of nocturnal stimulation. They will hide food in furniture, as they are desert animals, and are used to storing food. They are loud; extremely high energy. They can easily out tire a cat or dog and be nowhere near tired. Also important, they are naturally skittish and extremely fast. They will make runs for doors, and if they escape, the likelihood of ever recovering them is very low.

Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on June 26, 2014:

Hello miss melissa. I like your hub about the exotic pets. It is good to have this kind of pets when you live in a big land away from people. In the mountans is a perfect place. There are always curious eyes to see exotic pets. There are always in danger for some one to open the door and let them go out from inside the house. Keeping them in a cage is not a good idea. They were born to be free in the wild. I love your hub. I like the pictures too. They are beautiful animals. It is true about your hub. I am happy I can have my dogs and a cat in the near future. Thanks miss melissa.

JR Krishna from India on June 25, 2014:

I would love to have a white owl or a penguin. Unfortunately I live in the tropics ...

Unknown on March 30, 2014:

Great hub. I have a few questions. Why can't you have meerkats? They aren't listed on CITES or anything. And, although we can't have North American birds of prey, what about birds from other countries? Just asking because I think it would be awesome to have these as pets.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 30, 2014:

Thanks Carrie

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on March 29, 2014:

Thank you for your writing a very interesting hub :) Have a great week

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 27, 2014:

Thank you Everyday Miracles . I have to say 'Of Wolf & Man' that it does sound like you are calling my beliefs ignorant because of this sentence: "I mean that so far as this belief is an ignorant one - a belief you hold without knowing all the facts." where you basically assume I don't know all of the facts because I reached a different conclusion than you. But my site obviously doesn't discourage people from owning pets as do so many other sites and while all animals have degrees of difficulty with care, just like human babies, I don't need to repeatedly disparage the idea of owning them in every sentence.

This is just a list of animals people can never hope to own in this country, and exotic pets that are obtainable. I have another article on cheetahs as pets that basically states what you are saying, and I believe the link is in this article. So I don't see what the point of your comment is. Although there are cheetahs with 'junk genes' that someone needs to be caring for. No one owns cheetahs as 'pets' without having an exclusively registered facility in the United States (and going through difficult importation laws), and I doubt some billionaire royal in the UAE will care what I have to say about owning cheetahs.

That being said, the idea that it is wrong to own a serval is just your OPINION. I don't need to own any of these animals to obtain real information on them. Have you owned a serval? If not, maybe you shouldn't be saying they can't be pets. A serval basically needs the same thing dogs do, or most mammals.

Becki Rizzuti from Indiana, USA on February 26, 2014:

I have the impression that you aren't reading what I'm saying here. Perhaps my point is getting lost in too many words, so allow me to make my statement as clear as I can.

You are calling the author of this article and those replying to it "ignorant" (a word which is, combined with its repetition, highly offensive to most people) without supplying any concrete facts with regard to the statements that you've made.

For reasons which should be obvious, you have no way of knowing how much research any individual has done into the care or keeping of a particular animal. What you /do/ know is that other people have come to alternative conclusions based on their research. It is my opinion that in order to provide helpful commentary on the subject, you will need to support your viewpoint.

As it is, you've referred to people as "ignorant," which implies a willful desire not to supply oneself with sufficient information to make a decision. If one appreciates the root of "ignorant" as being the same as "ignore" you're telling us that we are "ignoring" the information that has been provided to us, but you supply no information nor support your viewpoint other than with the insistence that you have experience with working with these issues.

That isn't helpful, and it appears -- to me -- that your purpose here is to ruffle feathers more than it is to inform.

Of Wolf & Man on February 26, 2014:

@Everyday Miracles, only.

I also find that an exotic pet owner thinking someone standing against exotics pets as ignorant would be misguided. The opposition to ownership of such animals comes from a deep understanding through experience with wild and captive specimens as well as study and qualification in the animal field. Whereas the desire to own something is driven by emotion and impulse. Both of which have their merits, but are not a good enough reason to think you should be entitled to own a serval and certainly not a cheetah. You clearly do not realise the true extend of the cheetah's struggle, a genetic bottle neck thousands of years ago has resulted in all cheetah being related with little to no genetic diversity. Such animals require strict protection. They need defense in the wild, solid breeding routines in captivity, and every cheetah should be accounted for in order to ensure the continuing efforts to deepen the genetic pool of this species. People keeping any cheetah as a pet is irresponsible on so many levels.

I realise I may have ruffled your feathers but I am afraid that is the gravity of the situation.

@Melissa, I will stop posting comments now as I feel this may descend further, keep up the good efforts, stay true to yourself and take my words on board (you don't have to use them, its your life and your choice). My original post meant you no disrespect and I hope you can see that.

Take care.

Becki Rizzuti from Indiana, USA on February 26, 2014:

I still respectfully disagree: That is up to the individual potential owner to determine what makes /for them/ a good pet. I've owned snakes and marsupials, had friends who owned prairie dogs and hedgehogs, and each animal I've owned has had its benefits and its drawbacks. I'd be unlikely to ever purchase another Savannah Monitor as a pet, but I'd be quite happy to take on another Burmese Python -- with everything that entails, and with a great deal of knowledge of what they eat, the sizes they reach, and the risk factors of ownership, as well as the fact that reptiles lack "conscience."

In order to address these issues, Melissa (or any other author) would need to address each and every animal individually, with pros and cons of ownership. This would be impossible unless she has personally owned each of these animals. She can state what her reasons would be for desiring to own them, but she cannot appropriately address what makes them good or bad pets unless she has personally owned those pets.

I'm not sure if this is making sense, but my point is that I wouldn't want to write about the reasons that someone should or should not wish to obtain a Tokay Gecko, but I can appropriately write about the reasons that Leopard Geckos make good pets and the risks associated with ownership (such as using the wrong substrate in their enclosures).

Obviously most of my experience is with reptiles.

My point, however, is that no amount of research is equal to the experience of ownership. Melissa can (and has) successfully write about the proper care of a spotted genet or a green iguana, but she may not be able to cover the topic of whether or not a cougar makes a good pet because she hasn't had the opportunity to experience ownership of a large wild cat.

I'm not defending her: I'm sure that Melissa is capable of defending herself. The reason I chose to respond is because I feel that you're not providing sufficient information in your comments to be helpful to anyone reading the hub or your comments on the hub. Clearly she's done her research, and if you disagree with her, your part of any debate is to defend your position with supporting facts.

Of Wolf & Man on February 26, 2014:

@Everyday miracles

Sorry, perhaps I didn't explain myself well. I don't think the author is ignorant, I have read certain other hub pages where she demonstrates just how much the opposite she is. I don't comment on them because there would be no need to. I don't think her beliefs are ignorant I think that the beliefs that some of these alternate species make better pets is ignorant. By ignorant, I don't mean deliberately, I mean accidentally, but perhaps it was the wrong word.

I respect her opinion and I respect yours. If you read my comment again I try to make it clear I mean no disrespect or insult. I also try to encourage her to read my comment and do her own homework - this is her page and its her right to do so or not and I will respect her response as such, however I am not going to fill her comment section with an essay on each animal and the why nots of keeping them, that is for the author, should she wish to do so...she may, she may not. I was not intending to insult, merely to try to help point her in another, deeper direction.

@Melissa, if you read this and feel the same as @Everyday Miracles, just understand it was not my intent...perhaps I should have worded certain phrases better. I respect your writings, particularly your pro-zoo conservation stand...I just thought a little constructive criticism might aid a future article project along the same subject.

Becki Rizzuti from Indiana, USA on February 26, 2014:

I'm not the author of this hub and for that reason, perhaps I shouldn't get involved here, but I find it astonishing that anyone would call a hub author "ignorant" without providing additional information about why you make this statement. What is it about Melissa's beliefs that are "ignorant?" While you are obviously permitted to have your own opinion, many supporters of private ownership and conservation efforts would call someone who stands in opposition to private ownership "ignorant."

Having read much of the body of Melissa's work here on Hubpages, I believe that she works very hard to make herself highly educated about the topics that she writes about. Her hubs are incredibly well-researched and she writes with a great deal of authority as the owner of exotic pets herself.

I personally don't believe that any person can claim that a single animal type is appropriate for another person without knowing that person or his or her education /very/ well before making this statement. I've owned exotic pets myself and have fallen in love with them, and I wouldn't give up that opportunity to "touch the wild" for anything.

But I'd be interested to know what it is /specifically/ about what Melissa has written here that is ignorant, since I respect her opinion, as to many of the others who are reading her hub pages. This is not an uneducated woman in the least.

Of Wolf & Man on February 26, 2014:


First may I say you write extremely well and am happy to see someone discouraging attempts to obtain certain exotic species. I must, however, point out that your article is somewhat misguided in the alternatives you refer to. Don't take this as an insult, I mean it only as constructive criticism. Having read the article, I feel that you obviously mean well but perhaps are missing some of the information about these animals, specifically why they are not allowed to be kept as pets and why your alternatives are not well researched.

Whilst I would agree, based on evidence of people I know personally, that parrots in certain circumstances can make good pets (depending on the word's definition) they are also extremely delicate with regards to environment, and problems such as feather pulling and stereotyping can result from a bad home. They are also vulnerable to moulds and spores.

Furthermore the suggestions of kinkajou, servals, wallabies, any primate at all, fennec fox, prairie dogs and bushbabies are very ignorant. By ignorant, I don't mean you as a person are ignorant, I mean that so far as this belief is an ignorant one - a belief you hold without knowing all the facts. I am trying to write this in a way to convey admiration for your attempts to help but also educate (as much as one can within a comment section) without insulting you, so please take this constructively and not as a personal attack - its not!

I would be interested in seeing an article like this, written by yourself of course, but with a bit more understanding and research behind it. I honestly think that by digging deeper you will find for yourself what I am trying to explain to you, from there you should be able to write a very useful and insightful article on the keeping of exotic animals.

Your thoughts are welcome, this is an area of expertise in which I work and study so I do know what I am talking about. I'd just prefer to give you the benefit of the doubt before thinking of you as a villain, I choose to see the good in everyone.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 26, 2014:

@CMW not for everyone

Nathan on February 26, 2014:

I would just like to add that Koala's are not bears. I normally wouldn't comment but being Australian this is a pet hate of mine. They are marsupials.

CMW on February 26, 2014:

Parrots are terrible pets. Don't encourage people to get them

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 14, 2014:

Yes Logan, I have a genet and from what I read, they are more 'tolerable' over meerkats. The lesser evil.

Logan on February 14, 2014:

I would recommend the genet over a meerkat... I've seen more examples of those making great pets and they often stand up on two legs if that's what the owner is after. I would also recommend a genet over a raccoon, which don't make good pets at all. Skunks are a lot nicer pets than raccoons; if you want something adventurous/mischievous, then get a ferret. They make great pets!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 13, 2014:

Thank you Suhail.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on February 13, 2014:

Very novel and creative hub. I enjoyed reading about the pets that nobody can and should have.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 13, 2014:

Really?? That is really awesome and you should post information on this site when that happens. Yes I doubt anyone could get cheetahs without being an accredited facility, especially in 5 years.

Becki Rizzuti from Indiana, USA on February 13, 2014:

I'll be getting a serval in about five years. I've thought about Cheetahs (because they're so graceful and beautiful) but have decided that even if it was possible it would be the wrong choice for my family. Boy are they gorgeous though!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 03, 2014:

Francis--please point out any 'misinformation'

Francis on February 03, 2014:

This page is filled with misinformation and it makes me really disappointed that you don't consider the welfare of all these animals when they are kept as pets and the influence a website like this can have.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 03, 2014:

Lucy--It's based on legality and obtainability, however I support exotic pet ownership. CT-tamarins are only legal to buy if they are captive-bred in this country. If the small monkeys have no habitat to expand in, their numbers will not magically re-appear in the wild by abolishing the pet trade. If anything, the pet trade will increase their numbers so that their DNA still exists in the world. CT-tamarins can be kept in a large cage (at least around 6'x8') with around three individuals successfully. Here is an example of a good cage a non-zoo person can provide:

Lucy on February 03, 2014:

I mean this with no disrepsect, but i was just wondering why you would recommend "alternative" animals that are as equally unsuitable for captivity as the "exotic" ones you mention? Does animal welfare and ethics come into this or is it purely based on legalities of ownership?

The cotton-top tamarin you mentioned as a possible pet alternative is a critically endangered primate and one of the worlds rarest species. Do you not think these animals should be left purely to the wild, with animal lovers donating money to conservation, rather than buying one to put in a cage? Surely the welfare of an animal is more important than having a cute pet? Although i appreciate you stated these animals require space, special care and socialisation with their own species, most exotic pet owners do not or can not do this. Really it is only zoological societies that can cater for them and even then, the wild is still better. As someone who works in animal conservation I always find it sad to see people still care more about pet ownership than what's actually best for these animals. Again, I appreciate you are not responsible for what others do with animals or the decisions they make, but I feel this site still promotes the pet trade in animals that are unsuitable for captive life and will suffer as a consequence.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 02, 2014:

Thank you sparkleyfinger!

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on February 02, 2014:

Great hub ! I would love a slow loris! Soooo cute! But unfortunately, it wouldn't survive in the uk. I love how you gave alternative solutions though. Voted up and useful!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 29, 2014:

Glad you liked it Carlon!

Carlon Michelle from USA on January 29, 2014:

What a great article. It was so different. I like how you put a What you can have substitution. I learned about some odd pets I can have. Thanks for sharing and for all the research.

Adriana Mile from Chisinau, Moldova on November 15, 2013:

Slow Loris is the best :-)

Insane Mundane from Earth on September 01, 2013:

Yeah, my username represents the majority of the inhabitants on this planet, not me... : )

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 01, 2013:

That is what I plan Insane Mundane. In reality he is just irritated with me because we got into an argument about indoor cats. He believes that people who have indoor-only cats are committing animal cruelty, so now he's spamming up my hubs and it won't last much longer.

Haha, you know your user name is far more fitting for 'Mr. Jones'.

Insane Mundane from Earth on September 01, 2013:

@Mr. Jones: Since you spend so much time on here, why not write some Hubs about exotic animals if you truly enjoy this subject?

@Melissa: Yeah, I'd only remove redundant & repetitive comments that are saying the same thing over and over, since traffic is still traffic, regardless of the source.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 01, 2013:

Oh my, please do. For anyone interested, the discussion is called "Customer Discussions: Keeping cats indoors is cruel" (you can put this into the Google and fine it). I am a poster there, under G.Dianne Smith. I encourage anyone to read up on some of the insanity going on in Europe regarding indoor cats, as I plan to write about this in depth for the future. To find my posts, refer to the last 20 pages or so, as it is quite lengthy. I am proud of each and every one of them.


P.S., I have no problem at all with removing your comments and I will start to if you start repeating yourself, such as in the meerkat article. Find something new to say, or your next comment may evaporate mysteriously.

Mr C O Jones on September 01, 2013:

That’s Mr Jones to you, Smith, if you don’t mind.

No, you’ll continue to accept my comments to save yourself from looking like a complete hypocrite, having said that you ‘abhor all forms of censorship’.

Your pathetic excuses don’t wash with me. You tried to obtain a Jerboa illegally and were bragging about it on here and got found out – just accept it.

By the way, what’s with the reasonable tone, lack of ranting, lack of insults, lack of bullying? Afraid readers of your hub pages will see the real you that is in evidence on the Amazon discussion forum? Perhaps I should direct them to the stream of abuse that emanates from your mouth every time someone disagrees with you.

Actually, I don’t need to do that – they can see for themselves by reading your responses to TSquare on your Genet hub page.

Insane Mundane from Earth on August 31, 2013:

@ Mr. Jones: We look forward to reading your future Hubs about exotic pets... LOL!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 31, 2013:

I will continue to accept your comments Jones because you are actually reading them! So your comments are valid. I have to clarify the comment you are quoting, I did not illegally try to obtain one, I was on a waiting list for one, not really sure if they were legal or not but it was confirmed they weren't as the dealers I signed up with couldn't get them, so I got my money back and all was well! Except my lack of a neat jerboa :(

The second comment you addressed was a joke, chill out Jones! Did you think I was seriously suggesting that someone in a spaceship drop some Jerboas down here? Although, that would technically be legal, only imports from Africa are barred. Hence why I said that :)

Mr C O Jones on August 31, 2013:

This article is tantamount to an incitement to break the law – what is the author’s following comment in respect of the Jerboa supposed to mean, other than she tried to get round the law to obtain one? ‘I'm not so sure about other people but I immediately felt as though I should have one as a pet. However, my efforts were futile.’

And above she says in response to someone who wishes he could get hold of some: ‘they are so cool, but please drop some off here in the US to override that embargo :/’

This is deeply irresponsible. It also gives the lie to the whole article, in which the author pretends to promote responsible ownership, and then admits that she would break the law to get one because it looks cute. Pathetic.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 12, 2013:

Don't be sorry, they are so cool, but please drop some off here in the US to override that embargo :/

Insane Mundane from Earth on August 12, 2013:

This was a really good Hub filled with a lot of interesting animals. Uh, I think that Jerboa fell off our spaceship while we were performing some routine genetic experiments; sorry about that... Ha!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 22, 2013:

Hi John, I would like to own a cheetah too. Owls would probably mostly be eye candy (hands off) animals in a large aviary. There definitely is an allure to owning unique pets!

John Schloemor on July 22, 2013:

It would be pretty awesome to own a Cheetah or Snowy Owl. It's too bad. Not that I have the time or money. But I think there is a certain allure to being able to interact with such creatures.

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