A dog or a cat isn’t the right fit for every family, whether
it’s because of allergies, space constraints or a variety of other
reasons. But that doesn’t mean your family has to be deprived of the happiness
a pet can add to your life.
From bunnies to hedgehogs, there are many other critters that can make
great pets and might be a good fit for you. In the gallery below, we’ve pulled together some information and
expert advice on a variety of exotic pets. You just might meet your perfect match!
Bunnies are generally cuddly, friendly and adorable. Unlike a barking dog,
rabbits make little to no noise, which can be a big benefit, especially if you
live in an apartment building. Bunnies often bond
closely with their owners, recognize their owners’ voices and will come
on command, writes Dr. Laurie
Hess, who specializes in treating exotic animals. If you’re not familiar with bunnies, you may not know that they
have distinct personalities — so before you bring one home, spend some time
with her to make sure you have a good fit. They are usually quite clean and trainable and should live indoors but spend a couple hours outside each day so they can be exposed to sunlight. You can even adopt a rescue bunny at many shelters. Rabbits may
live a long time — 8 to 12 years or more — so be ready to make a
long-term commitment to your new pet.
If you’re looking for a pet who can be affectionate and is good with kids, the guinea pig may be for you. Caring for a guinea pig properly and feeding him
well helps him stay hardy and healthy, writes Dr. Hess. Guinea pigs are best
kept indoors and need clean water, hay, fresh vegetables and food pellets to ensure they get the vitamin C they need daily. Plan to
spot clean the cage daily and give it a thorough cleaning once a week. These
typically friendly pets require attention, enrichment and exercise each day. They can live 5 to 7 years
and, like bunnies, they can have a lot of personality. Some are shy while others are
bold, so take some time to find the guinea pig you’re looking for. Here’s
a secret that guinea pig owners know: These cute creatures make an adorable little vibrating
or purring sound when they’re content.
Considering a hedgehog? Dr.
Hess warns that hedgehogs aren’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to
spend quality time interacting with and socializing one, he will hopefully reward
you by bonding with you and responding to your voice and presence. African pygmy hedgehogs won’t shoot their quills out in defense like a porcupine does, but
hedgehogs are prickly so you have to be careful about how and when you pick
them up. These guys curl up into a tight little ball when they’re
scared. Owners need to handle them gently and often to help them to
relax and uncurl, showing off their tiny faces, Dr. Hess writes. Hedgehogs are
night owls, making them less than ideal for light sleepers. Many hedgehogs love to eat,
so you’ll need to be careful about controlling their weight. They vocalize with
grunts, squeals, snorts and snuffling sounds. Hedgehogs can carry some
diseases, including Salmonella bacteria in their stool. They are illegal to own
in some places, so check the laws in your area before you decide to get one.
These mischievous animals aren’t right for everyone — but ferret
owners have a tendency to adore their pets, writes Dr. Hess. Many ferrets are snuggly,
playful and entertaining members of the family and can be wonderful for
people who have the time to get them out of their cages each day and interact
with them. Be warned, though: Ferrets like to dig and chew on everything, and they
have a habit of hiding items in secret locations. They need daily exercise and require supervision when they’re out of their cage.
Many ferret owners end up getting more than one of these social little animals
to ensure their pet has a buddy. Keep in mind that ferrets, like hedgehogs, are illegal in some municipalities. Also, as with any pet, you’ll need to be financially and emotionally committed to their veterinary care needs.
Are you willing to consider a pet who’s feathery instead of furry? Birds
like parrots, canaries and finches tend to be beautiful
and very intelligent. Owning one of these
birds requires a lot of time and care, Dr. Hess explains. They can be messy, shedding feathers and continuously passing
stool and dropping a lot of their food. They can also be
very loud, especially when they’re eating. Many birds like to chew on whatever they
can find, and medium-to-large sized birds need to spend at least a couple of
hours outside of their cages each day while being supervised and interacting
with their owners. Sadly, many birds are surrendered to shelters by owners
who weren’t expecting them to be so much work. If you're prepared for the high level of
commitment, birds can make wonderful pets — some of whom can live for dozens of
For many people, fish are the go-to choice for a first pet. But to make sure they stay healthy, even goldfish need
attention and care — and there are some important things to know before you bring one
home. First, you don’t want that tiny fishbowl. Dr. Greg Lewbart, who specializes in aquatic
medicine, says you’ll need at least a 20-gallon tank, but 29 gallons is best. He
recommends starting with four or five goldfish in a tank with a power filter, a
thermometer and high-quality fish food, as well as other
items for your setup. The most important thing you can do to keep your fish
healthy, Lewbart says, is to quarantine any new fish in a separate tank for at
least 30 days before introducing them to the rest of your fish.