7 Cuddly and Affectionate Exotic Pets
What is a pet? While some animals like fish, reptiles, and small birds are not meant to be interacted with, they are still considered pets just the same. Many people say exotic pets are "not pets" because most are much less affectionate with their owners, but they are pets just like the others. Animals that form that extra bond with their owners and enjoy cuddling and interacting with them are distinguished by the term companion animal.
Which Exotic Pets Like to Cuddle?
Perhaps the most desired type of pet people want is one that enjoys their company so much that they will find pleasure snuggling in their grasp. People want companion pets because their affection and neediness reminds us of human babies. Most domestic cats and dogs love to be around their owners. The more popular small pets, such as rabbits, ferrets, rats, and guinea pigs also have a higher degree of seeking out human attention.
What about the more unusual exotic pets? Can these animals, often called "wild animals", form a similar bond with humans? There’s no reason why an animal that is considered to be undomesticated can’t be just as affectionate, if not more, than the most popular domestic pets. These alternative animals just have their own sets of traits that humans might be less likely to recognize as affection in the same way cats often have their signals misinterpreted. Cats have a lot more in common with many so-called wild animals. Still, there are some exotic pets that exhibit a clear reciprocal bond with their human owners that everyone will understand.
1. The Kinkajou
Kinkajous are monkey-like and tree-dwelling relatives of raccoons, and their care is about as involved as one. Also called honey bears due to their diet that includes nectar and honey, these animals will be found to be adorable by most people. Many owners of kinkajous find them to be very interactive and affectionate pets when they are raised by humans from a young age. These animals can be very friendly and even extend their human interest to strangers, which is uncommon for exotics. However, there is a catch. Before you consider buying a kinkajou, like most exotics, their pet quality will positively correlate with how well they are cared for. Kinkajous are active and nocturnal animals that need an outlet for their energy. If these needs are not met, they can be prone to "spontaneous" aggression.
- As they are nocturnal, the cage for your kinkajou should be a very large walk-in dog kennel or some other similar enclosure. You should interact with your pet during the start of its waking hours around 7 pm, and it should have plenty of space and enrichment to explore when you go to bed.
- Kinkajous have been reported to "attack" their owners. Improper care and pent-up energy can exasperate these issues but animals should also be expected to have hormone-induced behavioral changes that will need to be dealt with accordingly. Inappropriate behavior should be met with a verbal command and immediate ending of the play session. This applies to other animals.
- Kinkajous are very sociable in captivity and rely on you for their mental well-being, particularly when kept alone. A properly cared for and socialized kinkajou will be very affectionate and perhaps cuddly.
2. The Muntjac Deer
Muntjac deer are small cervids about the size of a medium dog. Some people keep these animals as house pets, although this can be a challenge. Like larger deer, muntjacs can be flighty. Indoors, they require carpeting, otherwise, they will have trouble walking and resemble Bambi from the famous "ice-skating" scene. Muntjacs can also be destructive with a need to chew on everything. Aside from these issues, they are affectionate pets, although not very cuddly. There are many videos showing how muntjacs love to give their owners "kisses". Deer, in general, can be very friendly towards humans, including white-tailed deer that are raised by them.
If you are looking for an exotic pet that's easier to care for than most exotic mammals, skunks fit the bill, although most people will find them more difficult than standard traditional pets. These animals might strike fear in most people for their smelly reputation, but in captivity, they are de-scented and make for intelligent and cuddly pets when raised properly from youth.
In captivity, skunks have been so prolifically produced that they come in different color morphs. They have an affinity for human companionship, especially if they are kept alone, and will seek you out for playtime. There are a few major things to consider before buying a skunk:
- Skunks are illegal in most states because they are rabies vectors. Even though the chances of a pet skunk that is kept indoors will contract rabies is close to zero, they will still be confiscated and euthanized for rabies testing if they bite or scratch someone and that incident is reported.
- You will need to find a vet with exotic animal experience and spaying/neutering is highly recommended to avoid unwanted urine marking.
- Skunks can be mischievous and energetic, so rooms will need to be 'skunk-proofed' before they can free-roam.
4. The Wallaby
Everyone is familiar with kangaroos and most with wallabies. If you bottle-feed a wallaby and raise it attentively, they will become extremely affectionate pets. Wallaby owners generally carry the young joeys around in a makeshift pouch or sling to truly bond with their babies. For owners who are willing to invest time and care into an exotic pet and can arrange for spacious outdoor housing, a wallaby is an excellent pet and 'surrogate child'. In fact, they demand similar time and attention that newborn infants require when young.
Many birds are very affectionate and most people are familiar with the intelligence and highly social nature of parrots, but toucans, or specifically the smaller aracaris, are quite cuddly birds. Green aracaris are said to be the easiest toucan species to raise and they literally like to snuggle with their owners. This is due to the fact that they nest with their flock members in the crevices of trees. Hand-raised aracaris will seek out this comfort from you, but they will also happily sleep in a soft hanging ferret tent.
6. Flying Squirrels
Just like wallabies, these cute, little pocket pets require a bonding period where you will carry them around in a pouch for several hours per day for a few weeks, starting when they are a few weeks old. If you successfully raise them this way, expect a highly affectionate pet that will thoroughly enjoy being around you and scampering around your clothing. These tiny rodents will snuggle with you as well. Just be sure that flying squirrels are not purchased with the expectation that they can be left alone a lot like hamsters and gerbils. If the owner does not have ample time for them, they should have at least two squirrels or choose another species.
7. Coatimundi (Coatis)
Coatimundis are somewhat large, 10-pound carnivores that will require a decent-sized enclosure and constant attention before they can become what most would consider 'cuddly' and affectionate, but when raised right, these animals are very much so. In the wild, male coatis are solitary while females live in groups called bands, but in captivity, both sexes are inquisitive and playful with humans, seeking out and requiring their company. Like the other animals on this list, pent-up energy from lack of space or attention will result in a frustrating experience for the owner.
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.