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.
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.
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.
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.
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 >>
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.