The World’s 10 Weirdest Pets

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Some people are shocked when I tell them I have pet chinchillas, but my small rodents are hardly the strangest pets around. Even pet raccoons, snakes, spiders, pigeons and skunks aren’t that weird when you take a look at some of the wildest pets in the world.

Bobcats

A friend of my family’s once adopted a baby bobcat, its angry hisses on the first day they brought it home were both adorable and pathetic. Surprisingly, bobcat ownership isn’t all that rare. A quick search on Google can provide you with an array of resources on where to get a bobcat and how to raise it. There are also plenty of happy owners of the wild cats that post videos of their pets on YouTube, like the one below:

Lions

Lions on the other hand, are quite a bit rarer when it comes to pet ownership. The most famous pet lion was Christian The Lion, who was made famous in a viral video that has made its rounds on the internet many times over. If you’re one of the three people on earth that haven’t seen it, be sure to watch the clip below. Christian was adopted from Harrods London, but his owners eventually gave him up to a big cat reserve when they realized that owning an animal that can reach over 500 pounds just isn’t very practical in a big city like London. After a year, the two men visited him at the game reserve and were delighted to discover that their feline friend still remembered them and gave them massive cat hugs.

Tigers

When I was a youngster, I always wanted to own my own pet tiger. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one and many other people never gave up this eccentric fantasy. There are many tiger owners out there, some of whom operate within the law and some of whom don’t. Tigers are one of the most dangerous feline species and their nature doesn’t change when they are privately owned. In fact,  at the beginning of this year, a Toronto man was mauled to death by his pet tiger a few years before that, the same tiger attacked a 10-year old boy.

Image by Go Splat [Flickr]

Despite the incredibly complex laws regarding tiger ownership and the dangers of living with the big cats, you can still buy pet tigers online thanks to buytigers.com. I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. Here’s a bit from their site, “We have been shipping tigers worldwide since 1984, giving our lucky customers the chance to own the most fashionable animal in earth. This is for true nature lovers and purists, and it comes 5 months old, already trained to be nice with its owner, to eat meat and respond to basilar voice orders.” Only $13,000! I’m pretty sure this is a scam, if only because the price tag seems too low.

Alligators

A lot of people are creeped out by the idea of pet iguanas. If you think that’s weird, just imagine entering someone’s home that’s dominated by a twelve foot long alligator. While the creatures may be considered the most docile of the crocodilians, they can still turn murderous and are exceptionally difficult to care for. Unlike the big cats above, these animals will almost never bond with their owners. On the upside, they can be pretty cute as youngsters as you can see in this YouTube clip:

Bears

Pet bears may actually be the issue that closes the gaps in American laws regarding exotic animal ownership. When a man in Ohio’s bear attacked the person hired to care for the animal, the Humane Society took the opportunity to push for tighter regulations on exotic animal ownership. Of course, all the people who already own alligators, tigers and bears would be grandfathered in if legislation were enacted, but at least it could prevent problems in the future.

Pet bears are actually one of the most common exotic pets of old, as they can be rather friendly when raised from an early age and they are also very common in many countries. America’s sweetheart, Mary Pickford, even had a pet bear at one point. That’s them above.

Capybaras

Not all wild pets are so dangerous though. Most people don’t really want to own a predator that weighs more than their whole family. One of the most famous non-predator exotic pets is Caplin, a pet capybara happily living in Texas. Caplin’s owner, Melanie Typaldos says her pet has been easier to train than a dog and that she just needs to use a few popsicles to teach him a new trick. The hundred pound rodents are known for being semi-aquatic, so Melanie ensures that Caplin gets plenty of swim time at the family’s home. You can see him loving his family and swimming in the clip below:

Otters

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Ring Of Bright Water,” then you know that otters are another water-loving mammal that can actually make a surprisingly sweet pet. The movie is loosely based on the autobiographical tale of Gavin Maxwell after he bought a pet otter in 1956. You can see the trailer below and if you haven’t seen the movie yet, watch it. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I assure you I see a lot of movies.

Hippos

Calvin Coolidge owned a pygmy hippo during his time in office, but the president quickly gave the animal over to the Smithsonian National Zoo. Interestingly, “Billy” was one of the first pygmy hippos in captivity in the states and is a great grandfather to most of the pygmy hippos now residing in American zoos.

But having a pygmy hippo and giving it away to the zoo is nothing compared to the dedication of a South African couple that has been looking after Jessica the Hippo (seen above). The young hippo was washed up on the shore with her umbilical cord still attached, so Tony Joubert and his wife committed themselves to take care of the abandoned baby. Jessica sleeps on a mattress on the family’s porch, gets massages every night, plays with her dog friends and is fed piles of yams every day. She’s even allowed to come inside and watch tv with the rest of the family. Jessica has her own website and was even featured in her own television special shown on Animal Planet.

Reindeer

Image via Troy B Thompson [Flickr]

Santa’s not the only one with pet reindeer, Alaskan Albert Whitehead owns one named Star and he proudly parades her through the streets of Anchorage. Interestingly, he is the sixth “Star the Reindeer” from Anchorage. The town has had a reindeer serve as the unofficial mascot of the town for almost fifty years now, and like Seaworld and its many Shamus, Star seems to be a permanent character in the town.

Zebras

Plains zebras are the only species that are not endangered and as such, they are a popular exotic animal in states that permit ownership of such creatures. The $3,000-$4,000 pets are pretty awesome in that you can ride them (with a whole lot of training and dedication) and they also eat the same food as horses, so you don’t need to spend a fortune on food. If you get one, you’d better get it a friend because they are herd animals and get very stressed out without friends around.