For many people, the traditional dog or cat simply does not satisfy their need for adventure in a pet. Something more interesting or exciting is in order. For many others, a dog or cat will not work well with their living arrangement. (This is often the case with families who are away from home often, have small children, or who live in small apartments.) While that is so, these individuals are usually not swayed away from the desire for companionship, and for good reason. A companion animal can be a great comfort, and will provide great joy and love for us throughout their lifetime. For anyone who is facing this dilema, the variety of pets that are available today can certainly offer a solution. While that is so, we stress that regardless of what type of pet is brought into the home, there is no such thing as a 'maintanence-free' companion. All pets are living creatures that require some form of human interaction in order to be properly domesticated. Even pets that seem happy in their enviornment, such as fish, require daily feeding, and at least, weekly cleaning of their tank. (It is a sad fact that many pets are turned over to shelters, and are often euthinized, after biting or scratching their owner, when they are simply not used to being handled, and therefore, are protecting themselves from what they perceive as danger.) There is great confusion on 'starter animals', which people assume are for children who are learning the responsibility of pet ownership. The fact that a person wants to share their love for animals with their children is truly wonderful, but along with that love, we must also instill in them a sense of responsibility. A parent must understand that all pets require at least some form of 'maintanence', in handling, feeding, and cleaning their living area, just to name a few. Acknowledging and properly addressing these responsibilities is the most important thing that we can do when teaching a child the responsibility of owning a pet, regardless of what kind of pet it is. With that said, here is just a brief summary of some of the options available to people looking for something besides the 'traditional' pet.
For the least adventurous of those interested in unusual pets, there are a number of wonderful options:
Guinea pigs can make ideal companions for those looking for a pet that is quiet and fairly clean. While they are not as accident prone as ferrets, they do require more tender loving care than other animals, as they are very social creatures. Many who own a guinea pig have at least two, so that they may keep eachother company while the pet parent is away. While guinea pigs are perfect for small living arrangements, pet owners should strongly consider whether they have the time to take care of this species.
Ferrets make great pets, and people in small apartments often keep them in place of a cat or dog because, well, they don’t bark or scratch, which can keep landlords and nearby neighbors happy. The drawback to ferrets is that they require more attention than other animals. They are not a good choice for busy people who are not home often or who do not have time to devote to their furry friends. Moreover, they can be very curious, to say the least, and can get themselves trapped, injured, or can even escape their homes all together! Ferret parents want to make sure that they can keep tabs on their adventurous companions when they are out of their cages, and as with any other pet, leaving them in their cages for hours on end is not the answer.
Fish are often thought of as the perfect pet. They don’t eat much, the only mess is in their bowl, and they are definitely as quite as can be. For those who don't mind investing a little more into the fish's habitat, cleaning is not even as necessary, as many tank set-ups come equipped with a filter that get's rid of larger debris in the water. They can also be enormously relaxing and entertaining to watch, especially if one sets up a 'community', equipped with different (yet compatable) fish species and decorations. Studies have even found that those that own fish, on average, have more regulated blood pressure levels that those that don't. Except for those who do not wish to commit to cleaning a fish tank every few weeks, there may not be one single drawback to owning a pet fish.
Turtles are also wonderful and, somewhat, low-maintanence pets, as they are both quiet and, for the most part, non-destructive. There are several species of turtles, so one must be sure to do their research to be sure not only of the turtle that they are getting, but also the care that specific type needs. After that, a turtle can make for a very interesting companion.
If all of these unusual pets are a little too tame, then there are plenty of more adventurous options. Warning all of the following should be handled with care:
Pigs first became popular as pets (as opposed to potential dinner) about 15 years ago, and the trend is growing. Pigs are cute and smart, and they are actually cleaner than their stereotype may suggest. The drawback is that, well, pigs are pretty large, even those that are termed 'tea-cup' pigs. Another drawback is that many who breed these 'pet pigs', often are not sure of the exact breed themselves, and sell the pigs as 'minis' when they are babies, and utterly adorable. When the piggy grows up, it surprises it's parents with it's substantial size, and sometimes, bad habit, such as eating everything in sight. Especially the latter makes them not as ideal as indoor pets, and those who are interested in a pig as a companion animal should have space outdoors, just in case the pig outgrows its indoor environment.
Sugar gliders have been called a cross between a squirrel and a ferret, and they can even fly a little. These little guys are fun to watch, but they can also tend to cause chaos in any home. If your house is not gremlin proof, it may not be a good place for sugar gliders.
Stick insects are another big recent rage in unusual pets. But the very thing that makes these little guys perfect in nature can be a terrible hazard to them as pets: they look almost exactly like thin tree branches. More than one pet owner has ended up accidentally throwing his or her exotic, expensive stick insect out with the trash.
Last but most certainly not least are birds, who have long since been adopted by many as pets. While some species, especially those that are smaller, do better not being handled (which would make them ideal for those who do not have a lot of time to devote to a pet), there are several, such as the macaw parot, who are large and prefer to interact physically with its parents. It is a common misconception that all larger birds, such as parrots, can speak. Only some can, and that is only with extensive training. Regardless, the beauty, grace, and elegance of these feathered creatures makes them more than ideal for those who want a truly exotic pet.
Whatever your choice in unusual pet is, you are most likely going to have to be a regular at a specialty pet store to pick up food, toys and supplies, and you may even have to find a specially trained veterinarian if your pet becomes ill or suffers an injury. All that means extra money and extra work, so unusual pets are definitely not something to be brought into a family without a lot of serious thought. We strongly recommend extensive research on whatever type of pet you are considering, so you are well prepared for the responsibilities that they bring with them (and luckily, the advantage that is our modern-day internet can make this research not only easy, but very enlightening and even fun!).
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