Non-traditional Pets

Sep 21, 2019

Two cute house rabbits!
Credit Countess Zarah [Flickr]

Non-traditional, alternative or uncommon pets can be a great addition to your family - but do your research before bringing one into your home!  Make sure you are prepared and can commit to caring for your new friend for its lifetime!


During Alabama Public Radio’s recent fund drive, a listener making a donation mentioned that her pets include a rabbit! When we hear the term “pet” most of us think of dogs or cats – or fish or birds. Rabbits are not as common but they can be a good choice for a non-traditional pet. Like cats, a rabbit can be trained to use a litter box, which makes it a good housepet. Rabbits have a calm demeanor, they like to sleep a lot during the day, and they are pretty easy to feed.

Other non-traditional pets include snakes, frogs and toads, tarantulas, iguanas, ferrets, hermit crabs, pot-bellied pigs, turtles, rodents, hedgehogs. Many of these are considered “alternative pets” - pets for people who cannot have (or do not want) a traditional pet, but who still have a desire to keep and care for a living creature.

But having acquired an alternative pet, some folks find that what started with a lot of enthusiasm and the best of intentions may become a problem. There is no such thing as a no-maintenance pet. Some of these animals have very special needs, and meeting those needs may prove difficult, or even distasteful.

Before getting a nontraditional pet, take some time to find out what is required to care for it. Visit a pet shop or pet supply store where the staff is knowledgeable about the specific type of animal in which you’re interested. If the sales person spends more time talking about low maintenance and less about meeting the animal’s needs, find another store.

Remember to ask about legal restrictions against keeping that kind of pet in your area. And if it doesn’t work out– for whatever reason - never just release it into the wild. Surrender it to your local animal shelter - of if you purchased it from a local pet store, ask if you can return it, even without a refund. 

There are valid reasons why someone might want an alternative pet. Just remember that what you’re taking home is a living creature, not a disposable one. So think carefully before you take any animal home – when you’re speaking of pets.