Getting a dog is going to the dogs. In our modern world that’s always thinking newer, bigger, and further, even our animal companions are getting more advanced. And when it comes to cuteness and fluffiness, you only want to go with cutting-edge.
There are actually a lot more exotic animals for sale than you might think. We’ve listed the 12 best ones in terms of accessibility, pet care, and friendliness.
Please note: State laws vary, so don’t be surprised to see some of these same animals on our “10 Pets That Are Illegal to Have in the US” list. Each state has different laws about what exotic animals can be sold and kept as pets, so double check your area’s guidelines before bringing home your new best friend.
1. Fennec fox
Are you the kind of pet owner for whom, when it comes to ears, bigger is better? If so, the fennec fox is for you. Probably the most popular of all the exotic animals for sale in the U.S., the fennec fox has been described as a perfect mix of a cat and a dog, in case you’re still undecided in that debate. Like dogs, they’re quite social and playful. And like cats, they sleep frequently during the day (but are energetic at night). Plus, they can be litter-box trained.
2. Pygmy goat
To be fair, a pygmy version of any animal would be prized as a pet. Pygmy giraffe. Pygmy grizzly bear. The goat is a nice pet, and pygmy-sized ones are just that much cuter.
They’re travel-sized and easy to contain in an enclosure. Plus, female pygmy goats tend to be friendlier than their larger counterparts. They’re also fairly low maintenance, making them one of the most inexpensive pets. And if you milk or breed them, they might even pay for themselves.
3. Kinkajou (honey bear)
Are goats not exotic enough for you? The kinkajou is certainly more on the wild side of our exotic animal list. Kinkajous, also known as honey bears, are rain forest natives similar to monkeys and raccoons.
As pets they are affectionate, cuddly, and soft. But they require a bit of maintenance, namely an enclosure that has large vertical and horizontal space with swinging and hanging bars. They’re also very social, so it’s best to pair them with another pet — especially a second kinkajou.
The first pet on our list of the aquarium variety, the axolotl is a Mexican salamander beloved for its unique appearance. Unlike the other exotic animals for sale, axolotl are not that fragile. In fact, they actually have superb regenerative properties, making them suitable for aquariums with somewhat temperamental animals (but please don’t put your axolotl in danger).
They require, at minimum, a 20-gallon tank. They can be cannibalistic with other axolotl. Because of their sensitive skin, handling is not recommended. These are a look-but-don’t-touch pet.
One of the best parts about globalization: a wallaby in your backyard. When comparing Australian wildlife, wallabies are cuter, smaller, and a lot friendlier than kangaroos. But wallabies are more similar to livestock than pets, so you’ll need a lot of outside room, almost always outside of city limits. Plus, these critters are fast and excellent jumpers.
Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent, growing as big as 150 pounds and 4 feet long. To everyone who has fantasized about rolling around in the grass with their pet hamster or mouse, the capybara is a dream come true.
Smart, playful, and probably the most social creature on the planet, capybaras will get along with practically every living thing in your house (and it’s highly recommended they have other pets with which to socialize). One note: They require ample area to swim. Their name translates into “water pig.”
You want a life of danger, so long as it’s enclosed behind glass? In some states, a piranha is a perfectly acceptable pet, as long as you know proper care.
Piranha do best in tanks of at least 25 gallons, with a water temperature between 76 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit. In some cases they can be kept with other fish, as long as they were raised to differentiate friend from food. Similarly, they can be raised in schools with other piranhas, but occasionally they attack each other. It should go without saying, but never stick your hand in the tank.
If domesticated cats are a little too domesticated for you, the serval is the closest you can legally get to owning a jungle cat in the States. As close relatives to the cheetah (servals are actually the second fastest of the cats), servals certainly look like exotic cats.
Servals are pretty high maintenance. They require zoo-like habitats, pee on everything, are not good with children, need special diets, and really aren’t lap cats. And don’t even think about flying with them. Only true cat lovers should apply.
9. Squirrel monkey
While you can legally own several types of monkeys in certain states, the squirrel monkey is probably the most adorable. Weighing in at about 2 pounds, these little tree-hoppers offer everything you’d expect from a pet monkey. They’re affectionate, playful, and quite clever. And they wrap their tails around you when they sit on you.
They’re actually the smartest of all primates, so you can even potty train them. They have a lot of energy and require ample attention. If you neglect them, you’re going to hear about — they’re known chirpers and callers.
If you’ve never heard of genets before, they’re sort of like cats, ferrets, and monkeys but with a raccoon-like appearance. Yes, genets are your typical cat-ferret-monkey-raccoon.
Genets are not the cuddly, affectionate kind of pet but rather like a fascinating roommate who doesn’t pay rent. They’re agile and rambunctious, so along with their gorgeous coat, they’re quite fun to watch. They’re usually solitary. If you want to bond with them, it’s recommended no other pets live in the environment.
11. Tamandua (anteater)
Have you ever had your face licked by a dog and thought, “I wish their spit were stickier and more glue-like?” Then, you need a pet tamandua.
These medium-size anteaters are able to be domesticated and will actually help with insect problems, such as termites. Of all the exotic animals for sale, they’re actually quite practical in pest control — like the way cats safeguard against mice — and the Amazonian tribes were the first to use them as pets for this exact reason.
12. Sugar glider
Last but not least, we have one of the most popular exotic animals for sale in the U.S.: the sugar glider. With a name like that, what’s not to love?
These tiny marsupials make great pets because they bond well with humans — perhaps too well. They’re extremely social, so getting them in pairs is best to keep them happy. Just be warned they’re noisy, especially at night. But it’s a small price to pay to have something that cute gliding around your living room.