Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate
in veterinary assisting and a bachelor’s degree in biology.

A cuddy big cat, the lion, lying on its back.

A cuddy big cat, the lion, lying on its back.

Are Exotic Pets Dangerous?

The public, and animal rights groups in particular, always seem to have such a
negative impression of more unique animals being kept as pets. “You own that?”
“How can you have that as a pet?” “That’s dangerous!” “It must be wrong for
the animal!” And the ever-so-popular and ideology-driven claim: “That animal
belongs in the wild!” Well, all animals certainly come from the wild, but that
doesn’t mean they can’t be happy (or happier) in domesticity.

The existence of these animals should, at minimum, call into question blanket
bans of exotic pets on the pretense of public safety. The goal of this article
is to illustrate how pet ownership is being decided upon by the speculative
and highly unsubstantiated emotions and ideologies of people who also have no
interest in keeping these pets and possessing no empathy with this personal
freedom, or those seeking to restrict pet ownership as a whole because of
animal rights agendas, thus infringing on the freedom of choice and lifestyle
pursuits of others. For more information on this, scroll down past the list.

10 Exotic Pets That Are Not Dangerous

  1. Fennec Foxes
  2. Tamanduas and Two-Toed Sloths
  3. Bennett’s Wallabies
  4. Muntjac Deer
  5. Spotted Genets
  6. African Servals, Savannah Cats, and Other Small to Medium-Sized Felines
  7. Bushbabies
  8. Capybaras and Patagonian Cavies
  9. Kinkajous
  10. Boa Constrictors

A reminder: This article is not a care sheet, nor do I endorse any of
these animals as pets. I do support open-mindedness, and I oppose pet bans.
Always do your research before inquiring about any animal.

The fennec fox licks its nose.

The fennec fox licks its nose.

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

1. Fennec Foxes

Keeping a small desert fox in a home environment may sound as though this
small mammal may be a fish out of water. However, fennec foxes are actually
one of the most popular exotic mammals. This is because they thrive with the
proper owner, being one of the easier exotic animals to manage.

Unlike other foxes, these animals make good house pets. Many use a litter box
with varying levels of consistency, and the droppings are dry since this
desert dweller conserves water efficiently.

Fennec fox care may be comparable to that of a high-maintenance ferret. A
reasonable enclosure for this small mammal should be, at minimum, a multi-
level ferret enclosure such as a Ferret Nation. In small enclosures, fennecs
should be let out to play daily.

They weigh as much as a chihuahua and are harmless. Bat-eared foxes are
similar animals that are not privately-owned in high numbers.

A fennec fox yawning

A fennec fox yawning

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

A tamandua on a leash.

A tamandua on a leash.

Used with permission: TamanduaGirl via Flickr

2. Tamanduas and Two-Toed Sloths

I include this unique animal only to show how an animal being “wild” and
exotic certainly doesn’t mean it has to possess the danger of a Bengal tiger.
Not all animals are ready to pounce on your next door neighbor or bat its paws
at moving cars.

How many people would feel threatened by a two-toed sloth? This is an animal
that an infant can probably out-crawl. Sloths are high-maintenance pets, and
there’s a lot of misinformation floating around about them.

Currently, their captive-bred populations are small, and they are (thankfully)
unpopular as pets. To properly accommodate them, they should have a large room
or an aviary with sizable branches and ropes to climb on. But with the right
owner, the animal’s welfare needs can be met.

Scroll to Continue

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Is a sloth or anteater (tamandua) dangerous? Well, look at them. Sloths do
possess teeth, and in the worst case scenario, a person holding one can
sustain an injury. As far as these animals escaping and running rampant,
causing problems for other people, it’s impossible.

A baby wallaby and its albino mother in the

A baby wallaby and its albino mother in the background.

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

3. Bennett’s Wallabies

Unlike kangaroos, wallabies are simply too small to be any possible threat or
nuisance to anyone. So why should they be banned anywhere? Wallabies are
mostly outdoor pets, and should be kept in a sufficient pen with available

Owners can seal a connection with these marsupials early on by carrying them
in a makeshift pouch sling in their early adolescence. After this criterion is
met, wallabies thrive in domestic settings. Outside of ideologies, no valid
reason exists to ban these animals as pets.

A muntjac deer sniffing a finger.

A muntjac deer sniffing a finger.

Life Lenses Photography via Flickr

4. Muntjac Deer

Similar to pot-bellied pigs, muntjac deer are kept by some as house pets, and
they are unique to their larger counterparts. Muntjac deer reach the size of a
large house cat, and are reported by their owners to be extremely

If you realized that your neighbor was keeping a pet deer indoors, that might
sound bizarre and destined to be a problem. However, aside from the owners
needing to deal with the excessive chewing habit this species is prone to,
they are wonderfully enriching pets that thrive with the proper human’s care.

My small spotted genet sitting.

My small spotted genet sitting.

5. Spotted Genets

I can personally attest to the harmlessness of this supposedly intimidating-
looking exotic pet. An episode of the show Wild Justice on the National
Geographic channel will call them a “wild African exotic mammal.”

To me, they are a high energy, arboreal, and nocturnal “cat-ferret.” They
combine many qualities of different animals, as well as possessing a few of
their own, and make a very rewarding pet for the right owners who can tolerate

Owners who like to snuggle and hold their pets for extended periods may want
to turn owning a genet down—they just aren’t mentally built for it. Genets are
very skittish and hate to be restrained by humans, and the last thing any
person needs to worry about is their neighbor’s genet attacking them. Scratch
marks can be expected for the owner who will interact with their pet genet
(mine have significantly decreased since my genet’s babyhood).

I have also gotten some angry nips and the occasional bite due to food
protection, fear, and simple playing, but I have survived these superficial
wounds. My genet is extremely hesitant to leave my room, let alone the house,
not that I would allow that to happen. If he did escape, my biggest fear would
be his death, not him “sneaking into someone’s doggie door and messing with
someone” (as was literally stated by the Wild Justice episode). Every genet
owner knows that is preposterous.

A Geoffroy's cat in a bag.

A Geoffroy’s cat in a bag.

Tambako the Jagaur via Flickr

6. African Servals, Savanah Cats, and Other Small to Medium-Sized Felines

As the most “intimidating” animal on this list, servals deserve a spot on this
list. Why? Not because they make excellent pets for average pet-keeping people
(they require demanding husbandry and caging requirements), but because they
are so sadly often lumped into the same category as tigers, lions, and
leopards, which results in their unfair banning.

This type of ban has recently occurred in Ohio, because when people think of a
wild feline, they generally think of big cats.

A caracal cat looking up

A caracal cat looking up

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

While servals may have an intimidating size, most of their height comes from
the length of their legs. They have a build similar to a cheetah (which,
despite being a big cat, is also not so dangerous to people), and hunt much
smaller prey.

A pet serval is not even likely to stalk a child if, by worst-case scenario,
it broke free from its owner’s home. In fact, from what I can find, servals
have been responsible for no human fatalities or even any significant injury
in the US.

I can assure any person that they would rather spend an hour in a room with an
angry serval than 10 minutes with a protective dog on its turf that they don’t

A serval and a baby Geoffroy's cat.

A serval and a baby Geoffroy’s cat.

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

A siberian lynx lying on a rock.

A siberian lynx lying on a rock.

Tambako the Jaguar via Fluckr

Other medium-sized felines:

  • Bobcats. In this category, bobcats possess the biggest potential to be dangerous because they actually take large prey despite their size. Yet, outside of rabies cases in wild bobcats, there are no reported bobcat attacks (this disease makes some animals highly aggressive) and are actually said to be the easiest of all the medium exotic pet cats.
  • Asian leopard cats, ocelots, jungle cats, and Geoffrey cats. Asian leopard cats, ocelots, jungle cats, and Geoffrey cats are also small cats that will not hunt down neighborhood children in the event of an escape. However, they do not make good, easy pets. The owner would need to be willing to create double door entrances to their house, have an outdoor pen for the cat, and deal with excessive scent marking via spraying.
  • Savannah cats. Savannah cats are domesticated cats mixed with serval blood. The highest serval percentage (53%) Savannah is an F1, and their prices run from $7,000 to $22,000. F4 generation Savannah cats are similarly tall, and F3 and down are smaller and far more domesticated (more like a regular cat) than wild. They are simply interesting cats with dog-like characteristics. Bans exist for this particular pet due to fear of the unusual. These animals pose no threat to public safety.

A bush baby perching on shoulder

A bush baby perching on shoulder

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

7. Bushbabies

Welfare-wise, it’s hard to defend having primates as pets. This is because
they require dedicated individuals who have the animal smarts to understand
their complex needs. The prospective owners should also preferably set them up
in colonies so that they can benefit from social enrichment. Either that, or
they should have a human owner who can spend significant amounts of time with

Unfortunately, many monkeys are purchased on a whim by people who believe they
can be treated like small people. In the end, they have a relatively
intelligent but highly instinctive and high energy animal with retained wild
characteristics; hence, why primate bans are so quickly brought upon counties
and states.

For the previously stated reasons, I’ve never been interested in owning
monkeys without garnering the needed experience and financial means, but I
think bush babies differ from monkeys, other prosimians and certainly great
apes (which don’t belong with any private owner—no exceptions).

Bushbabies should not to be confused with slow lorises, which are not readily
available in the United States and for the most part, cannot be kept as a pet

Common marmoset eating fruit.

Common marmoset eating fruit.

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

Two patagonian cavies

Two patagonian cavies


8. Capybaras and Patagonian Cavies

Many states or counties who exempt rodents from their definition of a wild or
exotic’ animal, thinking that this category only covers hamster-sized mammals
may be interested in knowing what animals qualify for that definition.

  • Capybaras. Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent, clocking in at 150+ pounds. Their size alone would arouse interest from the non-exotic pet experienced crowd. However, if you have a yard with a water source like a pool or deep pond, these massive semi-aquatic rodents can potentially be an enjoyable pet that clearly are of no danger to those uninvolved with this animal’s care.
  • Patagonian cavies. Patagonian cavies are smaller, more terrestrial versions of the animals (both are closely related to guinea pigs) who require some room to roam, and are obviously not dangerous as well.

The idea of a large rodent as a house-pet may sound weird to another person,
but it truly is a harmless pet that a person should be allowed to keep if that
is their desire.

Baby kinkajou being held

Baby kinkajou being held

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

9. Kinkajous

Thanks to mundane pop culture worship, kinkajous may have found a way to make
a name for themselves among the typical cat and dog owning public. Well, one
in particular at least:

Aptly named Baby Luv by owner Paris Hilton, this medium-sized pet proved to be
not so suitable for red carpet photo ops. Leave it to naïve celebrities to
give exotic pet owners bad names due to their mishandling. Logic should induce
someone to conclude that this normally secretive arboreal mammal (from the
raccoon family) wouldn’t appreciate bright lights and unfamiliar scenarios. It
is also illegal to own these animals in California, along with every other
non-dog or cat.

Exotic pet ownership requires some remnants of common sense and ‘animal
smarts,’ and while Ms. Hilton did get “attacked” by the small mammal (bitten
more than once), she went to the hospital for a tetanus shot and the bites
were described as superficial. There were no life-ruining deformities there,
just the overly sensationalizing and predacious media at its finest.

Kinkajous require a spacious cage and need an outlet for their energy at
night. Consistent handling will make them wonderful pets for true exotic
animal lovers, and they are relatively popular in terms of exotic mammals.
Coatimundis and ringtail cats are also closely related exotic pets that are
similar. Those who aren’t their owners really have no business minding if
someone brings one home.

A large boa constrictor on a couch.

A large boa constrictor on a couch.

Squamata55 via Flickr

10. Boa Constrictors

All reptiles are undomesticated and considered to be exotic pets. Yet, most of
them are essentially harmless; however, the words “boa constrictor” may send
chills down the typical snake-o-phobe’s spine.

Somehow, this animal has received a reputation as being hazardous to the same
level of the two larger species that are responsible for the most deaths: the
Burmese python and the reticulated python (death rates from these animals,
however, are still quite low.)

It may be of interest to some people that previous to 2010, boa constrictors,
despite immense popularity as pets in the reptile trade, were responsible
for zero recorded human fatalities in the US. Nor am I aware of any
incidences in other countries, but the US is a more than sufficient sample

There are many miserable people who feel as though keepers of these
constrictors deserve to die, but any snake owner knows that their chances of
dying driving on the highway to pick up their pet’s dinner is extravagantly

Close-up of a boa constrictor head.

Close-up of a boa constrictor head.

bmairlot via Flickr

Fatalities Caused by Boa Constrictors

In 2010 a pet, 9-foot boa constrictor strangled its owner while he was showing
it to a friend.

Therefore apparently, this species has caused one death. However, one could
only imagine the stupidity and unfairness that would result if we decided to
ban everything that has caused a single death.

We’d essentially have to ban our existence. More importantly, this article is
addressing public safety, and an attack against the owner of the animal is not
considered to be an attack against a member of the uninvolved public. So not
only are boa constrictor incidences pathetically rare (as are incidences with
the larger snakes which have actually killed people with a regular
occurrence), but they are even less likely to occur toward a person who is not
involved with the care of the animal.

Therefore, outside of baseless fear, discomfort with a neighbor owning these
animals is unjustified and senseless.

A Closing Note: Why Exotic Pets Don’t Threaten Public Safety

The words “exotic pet” frightens many, but little do many people know that
when they support exotic pet bans, they may be empowering bans for their own
pets, such as ferrets, sugar gliders and select rodents that they don’t
consider to be exotics (not to mention breed-specific legislation of
domesticated animals).

The word exotic has never been synonymous with the words “large and
dangerous,” but of course, this is its main association. Animal rights groups
are not ignorant to the word—they just tend to keep quiet on their anti-
position toward more common and less overtly threatening animals such as
hedgehogs, sugar gliders, reptiles, and others so they can gain this group’s
support to take the big guys down first. There are, however, many articles
that indicate their disgust with keeping even small pets like these.

All Exotic Animals Are Not the Same

A common tactic by anti-captive animal organizations (such as The Humane
Society of the United States or the Animal Legal Defense Fund) is to ever so
subtly, throw all so-called exotic animals into the same category when these
groups speak to legislators. In other words, if a chimp mauls their owner, a
fennec fox is also responsible for it. If a human contracts monkey pox from a
pet Gambian pouched rat, you should fear disease from any other animal that
isn’t domesticated, even though domesticated animals are capable of zoonotic
transfer as well.

Every Animal Species Poses Some Risk

Can domesticated animals harbor potential pathogens or cause deaths?
Absolutely, and often domesticated animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and
livestock are included within assessments of ‘exotic pet zoonosis.’ Rarely are
there ever incidents like these from animals that are often banned without
question such as wild felines, canines, and other largely uncommon pets. Each
animal species present unique risks—this just applies to all animals in
general, regardless of ‘domestication’ and popularity.

Therefore, when I say that the animals on this list—which are all not legal in
some states—are “not a threat to public safety,” I’m not suggesting that they
pose zero threat to individuals like a stuffed animal does, or that a person
should leave small children alone with these animals and fall asleep in the
adjacent room, but that they pose the same threat, or far less, than a typical
dog or cat.

Animals of any respectable size have teeth and can cause minor injury. This
should be distinguished from a severe injury (all are equated when an exotic
pet is the perpetrator), but even incidences of this occurring toward people
who aren’t directly involved with the animal are rare or have never

Blanket Bans Create Misinformation

The legislative goals that animal rights groups are calling for imposing bans
on entire groups of animals without exception under the guise that they are
all dangerous, even though some clearly aren’t. They know this, but their true
goal is to eliminate ownership of animals to support their ideologies. The
discussion of exotic pet ownership then becomes a battle of which side can
effectively exploit the ignorance of non-animal oriented legislators.

Some people even keep cheetahs as pets.

Some people even keep cheetahs as pets.

Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

Additional Related Links

  • Everything You Need To Know About Pet Cheetahs

  • 5 Irrefutable Arguments That Support Exotic Pet Ownership

  • What is an Exotic Pet?

Questions & Answers

Question: Where can I get a Fennec fox?

Answer: Contact a breeder and get on a waiting list.

Question: How do exotic “medium cats” not risk public safety?

Answer: These cats have never caused a fatality in the U.S. and generally
only pose risk of injury to people who own or choose to contact them.

© 2013 Melissa A Smith


Little confused on June 17, 2020:

Other than the boa constrictor I’m good. I just don’t know enough to really
say this but, The rest of the animals all seem right to me!

Name on May 27, 2020:

By the way what exotic pet do you have.

J.Read on February 29, 2020:

Although I can understand humans being scared of animals, I cannot understand
their lack of desire to be rid of such fear.

Ranting at this author is in no way productive, or in the case of some,

There is one thing I am very surprised no one has mentioned and that is that
all animals have come from the wild and all cats and dogs have been reared
down the chain of their breeding from a dangerous version of ancestor.

Where do people think their pet cat came from in the first place?

If the people in authority years ago were as uptight as it sounds like today’s
are being, then there never would of been a single pet dog or cat to ever
exist today, so no lassie, no beethoven, no real police dogs, no homeward
bound, no marley and me, no mr pickles, none of em!

Aubree on February 24, 2020:

I would own any of these animals I love animals and i will take good care of

Bruce on January 15, 2020:

I think you give too much responsibility to the owner to protect the public –
and also themselves. It’s like saying cars should only have safety features
that protect the uninvolved public, not the owner/operator, who should just do
research and take their chances with a potentially unsafe vehicle.

Jocelyn on August 19, 2019:

I want muliple of the animals on this list 🙂

I already have 3 cats, a bunny, 2 chinchillas, 7 rats, 3 mice, and a bearded

My rats and mice are called nasty but whatever, they are very sweet pets to

Plus its called I bathe them lol

Bingo on August 06, 2019:

There were to many choices can we vote more than once. Pz

I on May 19, 2019:

I believe that anyone with the right resources and the right knowledge (that
can mean anything from going to a breeder in combination with a lot of google
searching to owning a similar creature) can own any animal. Even some exotics
can be easier than dogs and cats, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research
at all. I am not quite an adult yet, but when I am I hope to own many exotic
animals (they are so interesting in my opinion, not that dogs and cats

People shouldn’t ban animals just because they aren’t domestic. They even ban
domestic creatures as pets. Heck, cows are domesticated and they still ban
them in some places.

And why do people ban animals just because “they are wild and belong in zoos?”
A zoo isn’t the only place that can provide proper housing for these animals.
They should only place bans on animals that are a threat to the general
public, and only in crowded areas.

When I consider an animal as a potential pet, I also need to consider if it is
illegal. I am not a big fan of that.

I am not a fan of this. on May 03, 2019:

I disagree with animals that are exotic pets.

L on April 27, 2019:

I feel exotic animals are extraordinary pets if properly cared for. I myself
have 5 Crested Geckos, 3 Leapard Geckos, a Tortuois, a Bearded Dragon, 6 Rats,
2 Goats, 2 Miniature donkeys, and 2 Peacocks.

My rats get a bad rap. They are called “filthy” “disgusting” and “horrid”
animals which, in my opinion, is so unreasonable and arrogant it’s funny.

Thank you for posting this amazing article! I have read a few of yours and
really liked them! Keep up the good work!


J on February 28, 2019:

i wont a Capybara are cool

KILLA 401 on February 25, 2019:

tis is true

foreign hen on February 21, 2019:

small wild cats are cool

Ethan on January 22, 2019:

I have 3 boa constirctors love them

gutygyugyu on August 08, 2018:

where is all this info in the article coming from?

Casey Lewis on August 05, 2018:

BS article. In 2013 two boys age 5 and 7 were killed by a boa constrictor in
Canada while they were sleeping. Do your research before posting this crap.
Any parent would be completely irresponsible to have a large constrictor in
their home with kids.

FlowerPelt on May 22, 2018:

i want a Fennec Fox!

Jazmin on May 01, 2018:

I want a mountain lion

Janisa from Earth on March 26, 2018:

I’d really love to have a hedgehog and a raccoon, don’t know if those are
exotic enough. A wild cat would also be amazing! 😀

Sam on January 15, 2018:

Hello I am getting a wallaby in the near future for my b day and I am so
exided lol

DD on December 14, 2017:


Destin on December 13, 2017:

I had 2 sugar gliders, 1 escaped and 1 died


Kathy on May 20, 2017:

Yup! As long as the animal is safe, can be kept legally, is not listed as
endangered/threatened/etc, it is vaccinated and you have a vet, you know how
to make sure you and the animal stay safe, and you can take care of it and
make sure it is happy, and it was not taken directly from the wild, owning the
animal should be completely fine! Some animals are better off in the wild, but
some are fine as pets.

Usman on April 06, 2017:

I love snakes but to dangerous I have a corn snake

Smiling emerald on April 06, 2017:


Frida Nyberg from Sweden on November 25, 2016:

No Chris, a Boa constrictor can’t EAT a human, unless we’re talking infants.
This snake rarely exceeds 2.5 meters (8 feet), and no matter what the size,
can never swallow an adult human or even an older child. They can strangle
you, but that’s a different thing, and is extremely rare, as for a snake to
strangle you, they have to first view you as potential prey.

Chris on November 05, 2016:

by the way boe constrictors aren’t safe because they can eat a human.

Chris on November 05, 2016:

this was a very great article. I might show this to my 2 period lang. arts
although my class finished the unit.

Keysa on September 22, 2016:

I would never keep a monkey.

I’d personally like a Wallaby someday but I’d build the right enclosure first.

Coatimom on August 23, 2016:

I am so glad I found this..tired of all the sites like born free etc. that do
not even address how social and affectionate so many animals can be…my
coatis literally climb up me when I get home …a lot of people own dogs and
cats and do not take care of them that is a lot worse than owning an exotic.
Coatis have brought me much joy for the last 20 years and I recently
discovered I will have to move to another state to legally have one.

Donna on July 19, 2016:

Note – the fellow who was killed by the boa was drunk, and decided to dance
around with the animal around his neck to show it to his terrified girlfriend.
The snake tightened its grip to avoid falling, and unfortunately cut off blood
flow to his brain. He naturally fell down, scaring the snake even more, and
the girlfriend ran outside.

The paramedics didn’t arrive in time – the snake was absolved of
responsibility for the accident, and from what I heard, was taken by Henry-
Doorly Zoo, not euthanized (since it didn’t attack anyone).

sage on June 04, 2016:

i love all of the animals so much

Bill Kelly from Wyoming on April 26, 2016:

I’ve owned pet snakes for over ten years. During that time, I’m aware of five
deaths in the United States.

Two of those deaths involved reticulated pythons that were sick. In both
cases, the owner was trying to administer medicine alone. I don’t know exactly
what they were doing in each case, but medicating a snake usually involves
either giving a shot, putting medicine in a prey item and feeding the snake,
or putting a tube down the snake’s throat and pouring liquid into the stomach.
No one likes getting a shot, and anything that simulates feeding can trigger a
snake’s constrict and feed response. On top of these issues, any unhealthy
animal is more likely to react defensively to a strange situation. In both
cases, the owner underestimated the response.

The most famous death was the little girl in Florida. Her mother used illegal
drugs. Her mother’s boyfriend used and dealt drugs. The little girl was
malnourished and underweight. Even the boyfriend’s pet snake was underweight.
Children are often abused by bad boyfriends. This child didn’t have a chance
regardless of what kind of pet he kept.

The fourth case involved a guy who was found in the doorway of his Burmese
python’s cage. He had a blood alcohol of 0.2. Good things don’t happen when
people have that high a blood alcohol. No one is absolutely certain that the
snake killed the guy. Even if the snake constricted the guy, we don’t know
whether he did something in a drunken stupor that led to the attack.

The final case is the boa constrictor mentioned in this article. I’ve heard
that the snake did not attack but was just exploring and constricted the
owner’s neck in order to climb onto a shelf or something. That account says
that the guy blacked out and may have hit his head. Sometimes in martial arts,
someone is put in a sleeper hold and just doesn’t wake up again. That’s a
freak accident, but it doesn’t suggest over aggression.

There’s no case for any of the big snakes being particularly dangerous to
their owners. Snakes over about 12 feet in length require a little more
attention to logistics, but they aren’t dangerous to their owners or the
general public. One big danger of any snake over 9 or 10 feet is tripping over
a part of the snake’s body if one is walking and carrying a snake that is
draping part of its body towards the ground.

Thanks for a good article.

uwy on March 28, 2016:

it isn’t good to keep wild cats as most of them are endangered and if it is in
captivity it does not contribute to conservation and by buying it people
create a demand for it and the number of these species in the wild decline.
although the conservation status is “least concern” it may drop and there is a
possibility that they could become extinct.

but it is a cool exotic pet and I would like to own 1

Jewel on March 08, 2016:

I like all of these animals, except maybe the boa constrictor …….\/013

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on November 03, 2015:

I don’t understand twitter 🙁

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 04, 2015:

Most of these animals are 99% of the time born in the states. Sloths might be
the only exception.

Yvonne on June 04, 2015:

Yes, but this article without that information is just promoting bad decision
making. Most of these animals are not bred in the states and so you end up
ordering one on the internet like the new latest gadget. There is no way to be
sure the person you are dealing with is reputable, or responsibly breeding or
legally harvesting. You have comments of “hey that is cool, I want one” with
no thought as to what goes into ownership. This is why there are so many
animals in zoos and sanctuaries who began as pets and end up mistreated,
displaced, animals with health problems. The same way popular animals end up
in rescues. If you have information on how to go about properly finding a
reputable breeder of any of these please let those commenting know so they can
purchase a healthy animal they can love for a full lifetime.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 03, 2015:

Yvonne–that’s not what this article is about.

Yvonne on June 03, 2015:

I think an aspect you are missing is where these animals are coming from and
who are they going to. Many exotic pet breeders and importers are strictly in
it for the profit which can lead to an unhealthy animal and many people do not
do enough research into what type of animal is best suited to their home.

Isabelle on May 24, 2015:

Too bad savannah cats are banned in my province. I would love to have a big
cat like that. They are so beautiful!!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 16, 2015:

You’re welcome.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 16, 2015:

Thanks Kristen.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 16, 2015:

Melissa, this is interesting to say the least. It depends on how much
environment you have and what your neighbors say. Some of those animals I
never heard of before, while the rest I’ll say pass. Voted up!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 31, 2015:

I wouldn’t say zero, but close. Remember, injuries are also a part of public
safety issues, not just fatalities. I recall a non-pet owner getting attacked
by a bear (I’ll have to do one on them later), and my recent write up lists
the potential uninvolved public incidences with big cats. One example:

“August 11, 1993 Georgetown, OH: Two teenage boys suffered facial cuts when a
lion attacked one, and the other attempted to intercede. The boys were walking
when a “pet” lion escaped from his cage and attacked them unprovoked.”

Of course, this has to do with smaller populations (especially hyenas and
chimps) and more precautionary actions taken, but that’s to be expected. It is
a GOOD thing that overall, exotic pet owners have been responsible enough to
severely limit fatalities and injuries. But what an awesome site!

Frida Nyberg from Sweden on March 30, 2015:

Practically and looking at history, even big cats, bears, wolves, wolfdogs,
hyenas, chimps, large snakes (like retics and burms) and venomous snakes all
pose ZERO public safety threat.

(I used your article on dangerous animals for a lot of sources.)

That’s what really pissed me off about the new “documentary” (what a joke),
called “Wild and Dangerous: The World of Exotic Pets”. After they had already
blamed extinction, illegal wildlife trade, animal cruelty and all sorts of
things on “exotic pets” as one big, broad brush – then they said that WORSE
than all of this, is the “public safety threat”. That’s when I turned off the
film, just 15 minutes in, because I couldn’t stand anymore bullshit.

E on March 06, 2015:

great article

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 15, 2014:

Only in a few states, but they aren’t really in the private sector.

Abdullah Alharbi on September 15, 2014:

Is legal to have cheetah as pet in USA?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 24, 2014:

Jane, not only are Savannahs not dangerous, but neither are servals. That is
the point of this article. Some Savannahs have more serval blood than
domesticated cat.

Jane Hash on August 24, 2014:

Savannah Cats should not be listed in this article. They are NOT exotic.
Though they are NOT dangerous at all.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 17, 2014:

Thanks Ryan.

Ryan on August 15, 2014:

Oh wow!! Extremely interesting article. I’ll definitely have to read more of
your articles. Beautiful animals on this list. I find it even funnier reading
the people replying to you. Anyone with common sense who read your article(s)
should easily see that you have experience & have done more than enough
research. Thanks for making me laugh. If people believe that the animals
listed are meant to be wild their entitled to their opinion. I do like the
fact that multiple people seemed to skip the bold words before the article
begins that you aren’t saying that these animals should be bought and sold
legally. Your just saying that lumping all exotic animals is ignorant. I
strongly believe not everyone should be allowed to own certain dogs. Also
someone said that taking a desert animal & making it a pet is cruel. Well is
it cruel to own a St. Bernard or Siberian Husky in a warm climate? I
personally say not at all. Thank you for your knowledge and expertise. Above
all thank you for actually knowing what your talking about before writing your
article. For to many people are doing that nowadays.

Nancy on August 05, 2014:

I have seen in television that there are people that keep snakes as their pet.

Aeris Wright on August 01, 2014:

Great article!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 16, 2014:

Thanks joehelsing, they are difficult.

Joseph Brown from Yorkshire, United Kingdom on July 16, 2014:

I’ve always wanted a sloth. Great article.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 03, 2014:

Thank you J. R. LaGreca

Jody R LaGreca from New York, New York on July 02, 2014:

Fascinating, informative and well done!

spike on June 29, 2014:

here’s the thing most people don’t even need a dog or cat much less any exotic
i keep and have kept anything from hawks and owls to many reptiles such as
monitors and boas i mainly keep venomous now i personally think with the use
of intelligence anything can be kept as a pet and i use the term pet loosely

Olivia on May 28, 2014:

i really want a Fennec fox AND a small big cat. I would personally enjoy a
baby lynx.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 12, 2014:

ameagari– You’ve earned the dunce cap of the week out of the posts I’ve
received, even though the week’s not over, for failing to realize that this
post is not my ONLY post. I’ve addressed people making statements like “no,
that animal belongs in the wild”, for two years, and I have articles DEDICATED
to them:……

This is why I said “how original”. I’ve addressed these assertions,
tirelessly, tediously. About every other week or so an idiot starts attacking
me with the exact same arguments. This week, that’s you. It’s an insult to
myself to even try to reply to your points. The use of your Animal Planet link
as ‘proof’ that exotic animals are often illegally caught from the wild for
the American pet trade is so unfathomably pathetic. I’ve probably visited that
page 20 times and spoofed it twice.

Just….go. Don’t humiliate yourself here anymore.

ameagari on May 12, 2014:

Oh, how original! a rebuttal that consists of ironically saying “how

Melissa, I thought you deserved a somewhat respectful reply to your hub, but
after reading your responses to your detractors– including the one directly
above this– I really don’t have enough respect remaining for you to offer

Leigh Anne is correct. It’s a shame that your desire for a cute, unique exotic
trumps the countless reasons that these animals should be given the respect to
be left wild. I’m sorry her response to you wan’t original– the lack of
originality may have to do with the basis in fact. Sometimes when you keep
hearing something it’s because YOU NEED TO LISTEN.

I’m going to respond to some of your points. This is, by the way, a subject I
do follow closely. I have and do care for exotic pets which have been given up
by owners who thought it was cool to have them, until they realized that
meeting these animals’ basic needs was beyond the ability of any normal home
or caregiver.

melissa said: “Where are you getting this information? Is this a subject that
you normally follow? Where is the proof that most exotics are illegally
poached? It is -illegal- to do that and there are heavy restrictions on wild
imported animals nor does it pay for poachers to catch any animals on this
list and smuggle them to the U.S. You are free to point out any proof to the

Try a google search. You’re a big girl, I am sure you can find the info if you
were really interested in facts. But just in case, here’s one for you.…

Ever read about the poachers and illegal importers who use /tape/ to bind
birds to the inside of their clothing, wrapping their beaks in tape to keep
them quiet? Most don’t survive the trip but yes, it does pay when the poacher
manages to sell the one or two out of 20 that did survive. I’ve seen the
pictures of the aftermath.

melissa said “Regardless of all that it is arrogant and oppressive to ban
something simply because you don’t agree with it.”

Really? We’re the ones who are ignorant and oppressive? Ignorant– my dear
that is the kindest thing I can say about you at this point. Oppressive? Yes,
I’d call it oppressive to keep a non-domestic creature that has– by god or by
evolution– been designed to live in a wilderness you are completely incapable
of recreating, with others of its kind– that’s what I call oppressive. But
it’s just an animal right? And you love it and hug it and squeeze it and call
it George so it’s just FINE.

melissa said: “There are millions of people out there who would love to ban
non-vegan food, and I can certainly tell you animals would be a fan,?”

Oh yes, I’m sure the lions and alligators and raptors of the world would
appreciate being forced to go on a vegan diet. Oh, wait. Vegan diest aren’t
natural. What we’re supporting here is NATURE, and allowing creatures to
remain and thrive in their natural habitats rather than be a cool talking
point amongst your friends when you bring the exotic out at house parties.

Melissa said : “What if I took something important from you because I had a
trivial ‘moral objection’ despite having little substantiation. “

TRIVIAL moral objection? Here’s my trivial moral objection– THOUSANDS of
exotic, non domesticated animals are subjected to improper living conditions,
abuse, bad, unnatural diets, and abandonment because of YOUR TRIVIAL desire to
own a cool pet.

Melissa said: “Why don’t you think about that for a while.”

Indeed, it would be nice if people could THINK. You should try it.

You should also try some research. The data on why exotics and non-
domesticated animals make extraordinarily difficult and inappropriate pets is
all over and readily available. Talk to anyone who works in exotic animal

Most appalling of all is your obnoxious attitude toward anyone who has
expressed any differing opinion to yours, any suggestion that people shouldn’t
own exotics. The comment immediately preceding mine where you smugly dismiss
someone’s very polite and conscientious objection is a stellar example.

I wonder if you’d make a good pet. I hope you have some pleasant dreams where
you get to find out what it is like.

Dogs and cats are human companions. They don’t need a cage to remain with you,
to come back every day and lie down by you on the couch. The animals on your
list do require cages and restraint. That should make you think.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 06, 2014:

How original Leigh Anne, haven’t heard that before.

Leigh Anne on May 06, 2014:

No. Exotics are not meant to be kept by humans who, after realizing that the
needs of the animal are beyond what can be provided, are just going to end up
relegating the animal to a life of neglect, abuse, or restricted movement.
Exotics need to be wild. Leave them there. There are thousands of exotics that
are abandoned by owners who just wanted to feel special owning an exotic. If
you really love animals, this is not how to show it.

Muebles de jardin from madrid on May 03, 2014:

beautiful docoment!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 22, 2014:

Jabberwocky– Her comments were utterly untrue. The animals on this list
(fennec fox, small wild cats, tamandua, bush baby, sloths, boa constrictor,
wallaby, deer, capybara) are either not normally taken from the wild to supply
the pet trade in the U.S. or never.

Many people just automatically assume a non-domesticated animal was captured
from the wild. They are probably thinking of one or two animals where this
might be true (cheetah, orangutan, slow loris), and of course, this was true
at one point in history, but now we have captive breeding. It’s not rocket

Be disgusted all you want. I don’t usually respond kindly to people who accuse
me of animal cruelty after having stated a wholly ignorant, made up statistic
as a fact. But I actually did not call her arrogant nor did I “insult” her so
it sounds like you’re just angry that you agree with her wrong opinion and
needed an excuse to call my reply ‘infantile’.

Your comment is more deserving of an insult. Try using your own brain
sometime. Your quotes make no sense at all. They sound like a precautionary
warning that blanket every animal that can be considered ‘exotic’ yet some
exotics are far easier to care for than dogs and cats if the owner has basic
competence. And of course, more difficult animals can be owned too. I’m tired
of repeating myself. It’s as simple as the right animal for the right owner.

Jabberwocky on April 22, 2014:

I was absolutley appalled by response to lyndarox’s comments. She was simply
stating her concern for these exotic pets, and you berated her and insulted
her intelligence. She may not have stated her sources, but it has been made
known to the public by vetrinary and animal groups (not just animal rights
activists) that exotic animals do not make good pets.

Even if that were not the case, to belittle someone for objecting to your
opinion shows a staggering lack of debate skills. To tell someone that they
are “arrogant” for simply being concerned for these animals is disgusting. Are
you capable of a civil debate or just sling insults like an infant when
someone has a decending opinion?

“The American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
have all expressed opposition to the possession of certain exotic animals by

Exotic animals do not make good companions. They require special care,
housing, diet, and maintenance that the average person cannot provide. When in
the hands of private individuals the animals suffer due to poor care. They
also pose safety and health risks to their possessors and any person coming
into contact with them.”….

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 04, 2014:

Thanks ZookeeperByNature.

ZookeeperByNature on March 04, 2014:

Correction to one of the paragraphs I made above due to a typo:

Despite the millions of Boa constrictors that exist in American households and
private facilities across the nation where they are legal, they have NOT
established a single confirmed invasive populations in the continental U.S.,
and Florida has even made an exception for them that still allows their
ownership as pets whereas they have banned large pythons.

theBAT on March 04, 2014:

Interesting hub. Perhaps, What is important is the objective determination of
whether the animal can co-exist in an urban community. Is the “exotic pet” on
the endangered list? Thanks for sharing.

ZookeeperByNature on February 13, 2014:

It’s not public safety, those are not Boa constrictors you are hearing
about. In fact, there are not really any invasive boas anywhere in the United
States, aside from Puerto Rico. (Interestingly enough, there are boa species
that are native to areas such as California and New Mexico.)

The snakes you are referring to are actually Burmese pythons, which are
noticeably different than boas. For one, they get larger, much larger, and
two, they reproduce at a faster rate since, unlike boas, they lay eggs instead
of giving life birth.

Despite the millions of Boa constrictors that exist in American households and
private facilities across the nation where they are legal, they have
established a single confirmed invasive populations in the continental U.S.,
and Florida has even made an exception for them that still allows their
ownership as pets whereas they have banned large pythons.

Those that have managed to escape (which is more likely than someone dumping
them) have either been found, captured, or do not sustain themselves long
enough to breed and die off shortly after due to environmental hazards, such
as the great North American cold fronts.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 29, 2014:

Thank Amanda, I hope to get one in the future.

Amanda on January 29, 2014:

I loved seeing boas on this list. We have one (along with 2 Kenyan sand boas
and 2 ball pythons), and he’s a delight. He’s even pleasant while in shed,
bless his little heart.

Those fennec foxes sound amazing! Not the right pet for me — we have enough
rabble-rousers in the house already with the 3 cats, 2 dogs, and 4 pet rats,
but I’d love to see one up close someday.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 27, 2014:

Good to know they made new plans.

Cassandra Cooper on January 27, 2014:

It’s not public safety, according to DNA studies, the majority of snakes
loose in Florida originate from one breeding facility that was destroyed
during a hurricane. That’s why facilities now have to follow strict disaster
rules when a major storm is about to hit. People releasing their pets is
almost a non-existent factor. The constrictors’ numbers are also falling
because of the cold snaps occurring there lately. The “invasive” snakes are
kind of tropical and sub-tropical and so they don’t survive temperate
conditions very well. If it is even a problem, it is only one or two states’

I am glad to see boa constrictors on here! I have a wonderful boa who has
always been just the sweetest snake. He has never hissed at me, and only
struck at/bit me when I was feeding out of the enclosure due to his feeding
response. Once I smartened up and began to feed in the enclosure, that’s all
stopped! Hook/tap training a snake is much more reliable and less stressful
than feeding in a separate enclosure. He’s not the least bit cage aggressive
and is even sweet when in shed.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 14, 2014:

I only found one boa-related fatality brianna.

brianna on January 14, 2014:

well I can see the boa cause many pet owners and their kids have been killed
by their boas.Most are banned due to more and more Exotic Pets being released
by iresable pet owner or just plan escaping into the wild and the black

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on December 30, 2013:

I’m aware of invasive species, and it IS public safety because that’s what the
legislators are saying. That’s why it’s called ‘dangerous wild animal act’,
ect. Furthermore, there are NO significant mammalian invasive species that
originate from the pet trade, but plenty of domesticated animals that have
gone feral and are messing up the environment (dogs, cats, pigeons, wild pigs,
horses), so that blows your statement far out of the water I’m afraid.

It’s not public safety on December 30, 2013:

It’s environmental safety. For example, boa constrictors escaped from their
owners in Florida thrive in the Everglades; they’re multiplying hugely and
causing massive ecological damage right now, basically eating every meat they
can find. Damaging invasive species is one main reason for import/export
restrictions on certain things.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on December 17, 2013:

Jasmine, I made the point you’re making in this article:…

But the main point is that out of nearly every exotic pet incident, the victim
is the -owner- or the person assuming the risk of being involved with the
animal, which is relevant to ‘public’ safety. It is not common for exotics to
escape and attack, unlike with dogs, which are traditionally left behind easy
to escape fences. If people treated dogs like tigers, I would agree, attacks
by tigers would beat dogs, but that won’t ever happen. The animals listed here
are unlikely to cause a fatality to anyone other than an infant.

Jasmine on December 17, 2013:

While I do agree that exotic animals are given a bad rep, I also wonder have
you thought about the comparison you are making? You mention how there are
more incidents of “domesticated animals” like dogs hurting people than there
are “exotic animals”. However, couldn’t it be that it just seems like there
are more incidents because of the fact that there are far more dogs in homes
than these other animals? If you were to take the total of “domestic animals”
in homes and use that number to come up with a percentage of harmful incidents
and then take the total of “exotic animals” in homes and use that number to
get a percentage of harmful incidents most likely you will find that the
numbers are not that far apart. So while I agree that exotic animals should
not be lumped into one category I also say that what we call domestic animals
should not be given a bad rep either. We are all animals in this world and the
chances of a harmful incident by any animal that is in a home is almost the
same to me.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on November 27, 2013:

Thanks for that great comment DACA! I wish my state was as lenient as yours.
We can only have fennec foxes.

DACA on November 27, 2013:

Wow Bonnie you might want to do a little research. I share my home with
several foxes (red fox-vulpes, vulpes) and they did not come from the “wild.”
They were privately/ranch raised for the past 200 years. They have an outdoor
run and they can choose if they want to be in the house or outdoors. They use
a litterbox and several of them sleep at the end of my bed. They are so
incredibly “wild” that we take them into schools to exhibit them for K-5th
graders! Vicious little beasties have nearly licked the face off many an
unprepared child (mostly because we go right after lunch)! 😛

We also have nearly 20 Fallow Deer and we’re on waiting lists for both Muntjac
Deer and Patagonian Cavies. None of these animals came from the wild. Most of
them would be unable to survive in the wild and would die a slow painful death
caused by starvation.

Melissa I really enjoyed your article and the positive spin it put on exotics!
We’re incredibly lucky to live in a state that allows us to have these
critters in our home (with proper permits).

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on October 27, 2013:

Haha well my snakes seem to get stressed easily so I don’t like moving them.
Balls can be very funny about feeding I’m sure you know.

desolatefox on October 27, 2013:

Lol! Well, that makes life interesting for you, I’m sure. That’s why I feed in
separate plastic tubs. Some people say it doesn’t make a difference, but at
least a couple of my snakes seem to know what the tub means. My young carpet
python has only ever bitten me while in or leaving the feeding tub, never in
her enclosure or while being handled. While in the tub, she strikes the side
any time I move too close to it. I always worry the silly thing is gonna break
a fang doing that.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on October 26, 2013:

My snakes associate my presence with food and always take it as an opportunity
to lunge at me.

desolatefox on October 26, 2013:

Interesting article. I’ve read a few of yours after ending up on Hub to read a
review of the movie Blackfish.

I love savannah cats, I swear one day I will own one. For now though, nice to
see boas making the list. 😉 I have one, and he’s pretty docile. A little cage
aggressive, but that’s understandable.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on October 22, 2013:

I agree cjarosz, these small pets pose no one any real risk.

cjarosz on October 22, 2013:

Interesting look on things. Some of these are so cute! If only I could
actually have one. I think people create the scare that they have of animals
period. We pose more threat to any animal, then they do to us. How many have
went extinct, or on the brink of it?

afffrrrtgjkklll on October 03, 2013:


Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 27, 2013:

I’m not sure where you read that, Bonnie. Getting drunk is perfectly legal as
long as you aren’t behind the wheel. I think alcohol is a major public safety
threat and small pet foxes are not (whether under someone’s control or not),
so I wonder why unnecessary attention is paid to them and other animals. I
wonder, if the ‘industry’ for more atypical exotics is booming so much, why no
major retailers provide any products for the millions of owners of pets like
those on this list aside from the snake?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 22, 2013:

Thanks Kallie. They are usually around $2-2,700.

Kallie on September 22, 2013:

I actually just met a guy who used to privately breed Kinkajous for private
homes. His prices were incredibly high because he figured if they were willing
to spend the money on one of his, they would be able to provide for it
comfortably, he also kept in contact with the ones he sold and had them on
contracts. The laws changed and he was unable to continue to sell his
Kinkajous, but he says that they made the most magnificent pets and were great
for ‘average pet owners’ who would put in the time to spend with these
animals. Great article and good list!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 15, 2013:

Thanks Carrie. Some animals should remain unpopular as pets because they don’t
fit the lifestyles of most people, unlike dogs and cats. However animals like
ferrets are good for anyone who doesn’t mind the smell!

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on September 15, 2013:

Interesting HUB! the first one mentioned (the fox critters) They are soooo
cute. I never knew people had them as pets. I remember a while back when
people said they owned ferrets people gasped in disbelief, but now they are
very common. I think as time goes by we will start to have more homeowners
host exotic pets. I know potbelly pigs, hedge hogs and flying squirrels are
becoming more common. I wonder what’s next ?

I remember when I was a kid my aunt had a baby raccoon, but that didn’t work
out for long because it became very aggressive and had to be confided to the
cage…thus she could’nt take care of it anymore. Thank you for this hub 🙂
Have a wonderful week

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 28, 2013:

Thanks toptenluxury.

Adrian Cloute from Cedartown, GA on August 28, 2013:

Those are some crazy ideas for exotic pets. Great hub! Voted up!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 19, 2013:

Steven, it is likely that a zoo that accepts pet cast offs isn’t really a
decent zoo. Some exceptions could exist I guess. I recommend posting this
information in these locations:… even here: … but please screen homes
thoroughly. Ask about past experience, expectations of exotics, ect. This is a
great rescue that could provide info or perhaps adopt your pet: Please do not just give your pet away! Unless
the person has exotics already and you are comfortable with them. Beware that
‘road side zoos’ may put your animal in a small cage with little enrichment…

steven on August 19, 2013:

i was wondering if it is better to take some animals to the zoo to live or to
give them up for adoption coz i really love my fennec foxes but their mother
just put to birth and i am on my way out of the country can some one help me?