Beyond Dogs And Cats

If you are looking for a new family pet, forget the dogs and cats and consider something a little out of the ordinary. These pets are a bit unusual but generally easy to care for and good with families.

sugar gliderSugar gliders

These pocket-sized marsupials are oh so cute. They are very friendly, but they can't be toilet trained, so you'll have to keep them in a roomy cage. They are nocturnal so a good time to bring them out of the cage to play is in the evening. Be sure that your sugar gliders are neutered because they breed like rabbits. You must be able to deal with a mess because they suck the nutrients out of their food and then spit it out.

Guinea pigsGuinea pigs

If you have little kids, then a guinea pig might be the perfect pet. Guinea pigs aren't as small and delicate as gerbils and hamsters, but they are still furry and fun. Of course, you still need to keep close supervision on toddlers and preschoolers when around any pets.


For kids with allergies, get a reptile. Geckos aren't as scary to young children as snakes might be. Choose a leopard gecko because it can't climb walls — so you won't have to worry about it getting out of the tank.

Read about coping with pet allergies >>


If you like birds but don't want to deal with a squawking parrot, pick a small, quiet bird like the finch instead. Though they aren't completely silent, finches are much quieter than parakeets, cockatiels and other pet birds. Be sure to buy at least two — they need friends.


If you live in a cool climate, consider a chinchilla. These nocturnal animals have soft fur and a bushy tail. They can't be in temperatures higher than 75 degrees, so you need to keep your chinchilla cool. They'll need a large cage with plenty of room to move around.

Pot bellied pigsPotbellied pigs

If you have the space, consider a potbellied pig. Though the potbellied pig craze has eased off a little bit in recent years, they still make fabulous family pets.

Hermit crabsHermit crabs

Perfect for apartment dwellers and those looking for a low maintenance pet, hermit crabs are fantastic choice. You just need an old fish tank, gravel, extra shells in various sizes (they change homes as they grow), food and water. The more that you play with the crabs, the less likely they will pinch.


For lizard lovers, the iguana is a wonderful choice. They require warm temperatures and a cage big enough for them to grow. Green iguanas can grow to up to 6 feet long. One disadvantage of iguanas is they require special lighting — both UVA and UVB lights in their cage.

Read about lizard and other reptiles as pets >>

Ant farmsAnt farms

If your child is interested in science and you don't really have any space (or time) for a pet, consider making an ant farm. Just be sure not to leave the feeding port open, or you'll have ants all over your home.


Are you ready for a something a bit exotic? Try a monkey. As a child, I had a pet cottontop tamarin. It was very small, cute and easy to train. Before buying a monkey, be sure to research thoroughly — some types of monkeys can be extremely aggressive.

Other unusual pets to consider include hedgehogs, pygmy goats and tarantulas. Be sure to check about the legal restrictions for owning monkeys and exotic pets. In some counties and states, owning primates is prohibited.

More about family pets

How pets benefit child development
Which exotic animals make good pets?
How to pet-proof your home



Comments on "10 Unusual pets your family will love"

Animal lover March 07, 2014 | 8:28 AM

Agree!! Monkeys should never be pets!!! That comment should be removed from this article Kori Ellis!

Jonas July 19, 2013 | 7:45 AM

You're an idiot. Wild animals should never be kept as pets.

Kristina June 20, 2013 | 3:35 PM

MONKEYS SHOULS NEVER BE PETS! This article is very concerning...First of all, a cotton-top tamarin is a critically endangered species. I learned of them at an environmental conference in San Francisco. Having one as a pet means suporting a VERY dirty and VIOLENT black market trade, as stated in a previous comment by someone else. I volunteered at a sanctuary with their cousins, Panamanian tamarins as well as 4 other monkey species and various other rainforest animals. We had to use caution when interacting with them. All the monkeys were confiscated pets or from labs, circus. Seriously, Even small monkeys can SEND YOU TO THE HOSPITAL! For SOOO many reasons, monkeys should NEVER be pets. Here are a few: 1) We can share germs/diseases because we are closely related (even a common cold can be fatal) 2) THEY BELONG IN THE WILD WITH OTHER MONKEY FRIENDS!!!! 3) Having one means ripping one away from its wild troop (monkey family), usually babies stolen from mothers 4) When they reach ual maturity they become aggressive and people don't want them anymore. NOT FAIR. 5) Again, they are wild and deserve to be that way with other monkeys in the trees (save our rainforests! Know where and how your wood is harvested!) I wish celebrities like Steven Tyler, Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton would stop having rainforest animals like monkeys, sloths and kinkajous and enjoy them in the wild or zoos instead! SET A GOOD EXAMPLE! And of course, adopt pets first! Rats are great!

Wanz June 06, 2013 | 2:17 PM

Thanks but only the dog cat ginni pig and hermit crab sell where I live

Lexie March 14, 2013 | 9:16 PM

I really don't agree with some of these animals, and here's my reasons why: 1-sugar gliders are very high maintenance and expensive! 2- finches are wild animals, don't bring them into our homes. especially if you live in an area they're not native too, you could raise chaos on the ecosystem. 3-most of these animals are very expensive too! monkeys and sugar gliders especially. also BEWARE of the animals behavior. Monkeys especially. a good, quality,cheap pet would be..... a RAT! i own 2 myself, they are compact, (females are a little larger than a hamster) very smart, strong, obedient animals! i have taught my rats to swim and you can teach them other things like liter box training.they are also very sociable and very sweet animals! just ADOPT NOT SHOP please :)

Shannon September 05, 2012 | 12:35 PM

I have always wanted a hedghog but you can not buy one in Arizona. I dont have much experience with them but they are so cute. Anyone have any advice? id love to hear from someone who has one.

Jeremy June 13, 2012 | 7:03 PM

The fact that monkeys are included on this list makes me question the overall research behind this article. There aren't really reputable pet experts who consider monkeys an intelligent decision when selecting a pet, for reasons too numerous to mention.

Angela June 13, 2012 | 4:40 PM

Hermit crabs are NOT low-maintenance! They actually require very strict, regulated temperatures and humidity, need INCHES of sand to dig under when it is time to molt (they CANNOT molt in gravel and will likely die!,) they need both saltwater and freshwater, and they also need AT LEAST a ten gallon tank. PLEASE, before purchasing or adopting a hermit crab, DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Hannah June 12, 2012 | 10:08 AM

Sugar gliders are so cute, but they sound a little high maintenance!

Heidi June 11, 2012 | 6:48 AM

they also fail to mention that iguanas were taken out of the pet trade and can be incredibly mean and aggressive. and primates (monkeys) love to throw fecal material

Rachel June 09, 2012 | 8:00 PM

This article is quite humorous but great ideas! I do remember when I was younger, it was the “it” thing to have a hermit crab. This can be tons of fun for young children that are allergic to cats and dogs! I remember they used to sell these at the mall, and each crab had a different design on their shell. Some were quite decorative, and it made it that much more fun for the kids to pick out their own. However, I don’t remember how long they lasted. So just make sure you have that talk with your kid beforehand so they aren’t surprised if one doesn’t make it as long as the others. They are super affordable as well! Secondly, I have ALWAYS wanted a Chinchilla! They look so adorable and the cutest little thing. I agree with the comments above, my family has ALWAYS rescued our cats and dogs from animal shelters. HOWEVER, I have grown to realize after 20 years of owning cats and dogs, I have developed an awful case of allergies and believe I may be allergic to the animals now. I have never been one to have allergies, but coming home to them now after going to school in Arizona, I can’t be around the animals for long, let alone have them anywhere close to my room. I now have to have a loud vent in my room that collects the pet hair or else I will be up all night with a closed up throat and itchy eyes.

Sharon June 08, 2012 | 9:06 AM

You forgot rabbits. Our lopear rabbit is potty trained, has free roam of the house and patio and loves to be pet! The bunny eats carrot tops so my son and I also get to grow a garden together as well as have a furry friend to love!

josephine June 07, 2012 | 12:58 AM

This artical is really horrendous. What they have failed to mention here is that almost every monkey for sale for the use of having it as a pet has been bought through the black market or raised a very unnatural upbrining which can only be seen as crule. If you really cared for the animals you are wanting to buy to have a family pet you should do your research on where that animal has come from. Many of these animals have been taken unnaturaly from their mothers at very young unhealthy ages to hand rear them to get used to humans. There is a reason why owning primates in some countries is prohibited. ALSO PLEASE RESCUE OR REHOME ANY ANIMAL YOU BUY AND HELP GIVE THAT ANIMAL A SECOND CHANCE OF HAPPINESS.

Mindy June 06, 2012 | 10:25 AM

Interesting suggestions, but I think I'd rather stick to the standard (dog).

Yi-Fan June 06, 2012 | 10:04 AM

Some of these pets are cute, but I think I would like to have a dog instead.

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