Pet ownership is a gigantic responsibility that requires a lot of hard work and dedication which, frankly, not everyone is mature enough to handle. Choosing what type of pet to get, on the other hand, is easier than grade school algebra and your sister combined because it usually comes down to either a dog or a cat (or fish, if your personality resembles peeling wallpaper). But doesn’t that just feel wrong, somehow? I mean, you’d think that pets should at least come in more varieties than coin flip outcomes…. and you would be right because they totally do. In fact, there are dozens of awesome and totally legal alternative pets which you can go out and buy at this very second.
10. Mini Pig
Nowadays, bacon has become roughly as popular as Batman or the feeling of holding your infant child for the first time. So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that after putting it into our ice-cream, perfume and blowtorches, we’d eventually want to keep it as a pet. Thus, enter the mini pig, to the eardrum-shattering squeal of men and women everywhere.
The mini pig is also known as the teacup, miniature or micro pig, but its name is hardly important. What’s important is that they are cuter than 5 puppies hugging a teddy bear at the same time and one of the best arguments for going vegetarian. But far from being just an adowably pretty face, these real-life Piglets are also reportedly smarter than dogs and bond just as easily with humans.
The only downside to owning your own BLT-that-could is that some less-than-scrupulous farmers often pass off regular pigs as micro ones, which sadly only becomes clear after your pink bundle of micro preciousness has turned into a 400 pound Swinezilla currently occupying half of your living room. Also, Paris Hilton is apparently responsible for starting the mini pig craze which somehow makes me like them less.
The Common or European Starling is a smallish bird with black/spotted feathers that some people occasionally keep as a pet. Oh, and it can totally talk.
OK, not really. Starlings actually only possess the ability to mimic often heard phrases and natural sounds of their own environment, which is basically what parrots do but let’s be honest here: If you’d ever see and hear a talking bird that didn’t look like it escaped from the Brazilian pride parade, your first thought probably wouldn’t be “My, what a splendid example of avian mimicry” but rather “Did that bird just talk?! WHERE DO WE KEEP THE HOLY WATER?!”
But the ability to freak out your friends and family isn’t the only reason to get a Starling because they are also very playful birds that quickly imprint on their owners, thus combining the loving attention of a dog with the ability to fly and repeat your favorite curse words. Default warning: the birds allegedly poop a lot. For up to 20 years.
8. Emperor Scorpion
The Emperor Scorpion (Pendinus imperator) is one of the closest things we have to a real-life Pokémon: an 8-inch long panzer arachnid with giant pincers and a comically-exaggerated venom-injector on the tip of its tail. And you can go out and buy one today because of… reasons.
To be fair, Emperor Scorpions are actually very gentle creatures which (together with their intimidating appearance) basically makes them the Michael Clarke Duncan of the animal world. They don’t require much work and their stings aren’t fatal to humans (unless you’re allergic to their venom) so if you’ve ever wanted to own a miniature embodiment of fear designed by Mother Nature itself, the Emperor Scorpion is probably your best option.
Also, if you put it in a tank with a bunch of action figures and blast some heavy metal, you can pretty much recreate the entire plot of the Clash of the Titans remake.
7. Long-eared Hedgehog
The long-eared (or Egyptian) hedgehog is not only one of the cutest alternative pets out there but also the favored candidate for the title of “Most Likely To Be Accused of Being a Lazy Photoshop Job.” But though it may look like the result of hastily slapping a pair of bunny ears on everyone’s favorite needle mouse, these spike rabbits are actually very real and completely legal to keep as pets in most countries.
Hedgehogs in general are considered timid and docile creatures and their long-eared variant isn’t much different. However, they are considered quite challenging pets because they are not as domesticated as regular hedgehogs and will require a lot of work to be properly house/people-broken. Once that happens though, they are said to be very interactive and easy to handle, with the only downside being that these hedgehogs don’t really like rolling into balls, collecting gold coins or fighting armies of animal robots.
Unlike hedgehogs, it turns out that pop culture did not lie to us about the behavior of skunks because just like Pepe le Pew, pet skunks are also curious, stubborn and require tons of affection. Though, they are admittedly less on the rape-y side, which makes them one of the coolest alternatives to dogs or cats out there. Well, that and the fact that their stink glands are removed surgically when they are young.
There are a number of places where you can purchase a pet skunk in North America though you’ll have to make sure whether your country/state makes it legal to own one. And why wouldn’t you want to own one? Not only are skunks incredibly intelligent, they also love to be petted so much that many eventually turn to (what professional skunkers refer to as) “lap skunks,” which I was surprised to learn wasn’t a sex-related term at all. Huh, you learn something new every day.
5. Hissing Cockroach
Cockroaches are somewhere between rusty razor blades and rabid Siberian wolves on the list of things least likely to make good pets. Add to that the ability to produce an audible hiss into the mix and the Madagascar hissing cockroach starts to sound less like a pet and more like the definite proof that there is no God… which you should totally get for yourself.
For one, there is something inherently badass about owning a living thing that can survive the aftermath of an atomic blast or having its freaking head chopped off. Not only that, the hissing cockroach is also an amazing climber, able to scale smooth glass with no problem, making it the insect love child of Wolverine and Spider-man. Combined with a pretty docile personality, the hissing cockroach is often hailed as a great beginner pet, though some states require a permit to keep them. Also, if you ever get up in the middle of the night and hear your roaches hissing at you from the dark corner of the room, you will most likely never stop screaming.
4. Pygmy Goat
Do you have a yard? Tired of dogs but still sort of want something similar to help you stave off the inevitable realization that nobody loves you? Then let the tiny wonder of the pygmy goat fill the sadness center of the brain with pure, sugary cuteness.
As the name suggests, pygmy goats are the tinier version of nature’s favorite evil-eyed trash compactor, nowadays bred almost exclusively for pet owners. Pygmy goats are reportedly extremely curious creatures, constantly demanding tons of love and attention so if you cannot provide them with it, you should probably check if you haven’t had your heart removed, you emotionless monster. It’s not just the fact that pygmy goats are very sociable and playful, but that they can adapt to almost any environment/food, so if you can’t love them for their appearance, you can at least respect their Rambo-esque survival skills.
But be warned: most places still consider them livestock, so check your local laws before deciding to get one.
3. Prairie Dog
Prairie dogs exist because someone once bet God that he couldn’t crossbreed a puppy and a rat and make it look absolutely adorable. That man obviously lost, while the prairie dog continues to roam the Earth and living rooms of some of the luckiest pet owners on the planet.
PDs are technically rodents but their main characteristic is the bond they quickly develop with humans around them. Get one early enough, and it will immediately imprint on you and never leave your side (which is why Batman recruits his Robins when they are so young.) After that, according to specialty PD websites, it’s like living in a house with a hyperactive puppy which never grows up, which is basically what we’ve been asking of science for centuries now.
2. Sugar Glider
Take a look at that sickeningly adorable thing up there. That’s not a real animal – that’s basically Mort, Andy Richter’s character from the Madagascar movies. But the thing, of course, is that’s COMPLETELY REAL AND YOU CAN BUY IT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I KNOW YOU WANT TO (WHY ARE WE YELLING?!). Though be ready to drop down some serious cash if you’ve already fallen in love with this Australian possum and named him Sir Bushytail, because, well, Sugar Gliders are still exotic animals, which tend to be more expensive than regular animals (a rule which also applies to dancers).
But though they may not be cheap and cost even more to keep, their general high levels of fuzzy-wuzziness and a playful personality might convince you to skip a few dentist appointments for the joy of owning a Sugar Glider of your very own. And before you ask: yes, they actually can glide through the air.
Do you want a pet fox? Yes? Well then, good news: You can have one, and it’s all thanks to the Soviets (what a bunch of swell guys).
The thing we’ve been sort of tip-toeing around until now is that, well, any damn animal can make a pet as long as it’s been domesticated. Even the humble Chihuahua once started out as a mighty wolf which we’ve selectively bred into a pocket-sized rat-dog that knows its place and can thus be safely kept as a pet. So the question is: why can’t we domesticate foxes as well? Because “it would take hundreds, possibly thousands of years”? Please, you’re clearly underestimating the Soviets and their inability to give a single, solitary crap about “facts” or “logic.” Just take the Soviet geneticist Dmitry K. Belyaev who has been furiously trying to domesticate foxes in the Siberia since 1959… and reportedly succeeded recently.
Here’s what you have to understand: you can buy a crateful of “tame” foxes right now in most parts of the globe, but they’d still be wild animals that WILL attack your face and/or genitals you if you try to dress them up in Robin Hood costumes. Belyaev’s domesticated foxes however? These are actual pets which you can probably grab by the front paws and force them to dance with you… though you probably shouldn’t, not just because it would scare the poor creatures, but also because that’s not how you handle an animal that retails for roughly $8,000.