In my childhood, I adopted a puppy that changed my life and attitude towards animals—I have since become a lifelong animal lover.
Will exotic animals make great pets? You'll be surprised that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. The next question is this: are exotic mammals low maintenance pets? That should be on the top of your list if you are looking for exotic and best mammal pets.
Well, some exotic mammals are low maintenance while some are not. You just have to know which is which. And that is why we have this little guide. Of course, as a bit of a caveat it should be noted that exotic animals are not for everyone.
Strictly speaking, it depends on the owner. If the owner is willing to provide the specific and unique care for that exotic animal then everything will work well. However, if the owner has no time and unwilling to invest himself in the effort to care for exotic mammal then it would be better not to adopt one.
Note that the more exotic your pet is the more you should invest in vet care. And it will not just be any vet. You should find a vet that specializes in exotic animals.
What Makes a Mammal Exotic?
Here are some of the characteristics that will help you identify whether a mammal or any other animal is exotic or not:
- They are technically exotic - that means they have never been domesticated ever.
- There is very little change in their characteristics from their ancestors that can be found in the wild.
- They are classified as exotic-examples of which include chinchillas and hedgehogs. They may be domesticated, which means they were born or raised in captivity, but they are classified by law or some other guidelines as exotic. This may be due to the fact that they are uncommon as pets.
- Any animal that has not been domesticated is considered as exotic.
- Any animal that is not commonly kept as a pet is classified as exotic.
Commonly Desired Pet Qualities
Of course you wouldn't want to keep just any exotic mammal in the house. Here are some of the most desired qualities of exotic mammals that can be kept as pets:
- The smaller the size the better. You wouldn't want to keep a something as big as a hippo in the house, right?
- Nutritional needs are easier to provide - that means there are not special meals or hard to find feeds.
- You want the caging requirements to be reasonable - that would mean a pet that doesn't require a huge cage and if possible one that does not require any activities outdoors.
- Not too social and not one that requires a lot of attention - you don't want a pet that you need to baby sit. If you're way too busy then maybe an exotic mammal won't make a suitable pet for you.
- You want one that has little to no smell.
- A very low potential for making a mess in the house - some animals are more destructive than others. You want one that won't ruin your furniture and other stuff in case it gets out.
- You don't want an aggressive exotic mammal.
20 Best Exotic Mammal Pets
The following is our list of exotic and best mammal pets:
Chinchillas have a gentle nature yet they are pretty inquisitive. Nevertheless, they too have that spark of energy that makes them quite fun to watch. That is especially when they're playing with other chinchillas.
With proper care, a chinchilla will live more than a decade in captivity. They can grow up to 12 inches long.
They thrive in room temperature but no higher than 80°F. They prefer drafty areas or places where there is direct sunlight.
Chinchillas are herbivores. So basically their diet should have fruits and veggies - but feed them limited amounts only. There are chinchilla pellets that are well-rounded nutrition-wise.
You can say that a hedgehog is the cuter version of a porcupine. It is also easier to manage as well. But both animals, the hedgehog and the porcupine, belong to the same animal family.
- Hedgehogs are not social creatures. They live better when they are alone.
- They love enclosures rather than wide open spaces.
- They may get temperamental at first. But with proper handling they get used to how you handle them.
- Their diet consists of insects, fruits, veggies, and of course specially prepared pellets.
- The average lifespan of a hedgehog is from 5 to 7 years.
Chipmunks are just as active as their cousins - the squirrels. They also require a lot of space too. A bird cage that is big enough for mid-size birds to fly will work great.
They don't like to be handled or touched. But they will interact with you in their own way.
Chipmunk care tips:
- The recommended minimum size enclosure for the average chipmunk is 4' x 3' x 4'
- Chipmunks are forages. They like cereals, grubs, insects, berries, and nuts in wide varieties
- They need time to acclimate. When they do, you can let them run around in your apartment and they will even hang out on your shoulder.
Degus in general look like oversized gerbils. These creatures are closely related to guinea pigs and chinchillas. They're highly social so get at least 2 if you want degus as pets.
Degu pet care tips:
- Degus thrive in temperatures of 68° Fahrenheit or somewhere around that.
- They love to exercise so get them an exercise wheel that's about 25 cm in diameter.
- They also love sand baths like a chinchilla. Prepare a sandbox for these little critters.
- Degus love the company of other degus - but keep the males separate from females as boys and girls tend to fight.
- They can't metabolize carbs so no bread, cookies, or other carbs for these guys. Give them hay and leafy greens. And chinchilla or guinea pig feed is awesome too.
5. Spiny Mice
These are domesticated mice - and they can be quite cute too. So no, they're not filthy and they can be a bit cuddly sometimes.
How to care for your spiny mice:
- Spiny mice are omnivores. They can eat anything from corned beef to corn. However, a good diet for them is a combination of fruits, veggies, and seeds. If you want to feed them meat, then get them lean poultry. Make sure to give them enough water.
- Make a home for them either out of an unused aquarium or perhaps a wire cage. They don't need a lot of space though.
- These creatures require a slightly hotter environment than room temp. Their fur is heat resistant, which means they can freeze to death during winter.
6. Prairie Dogs
Prairie dogs can be quite the affectionate pet. They're native to the grass prairies of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They're actually a type of ground squirrel.
Prairie dog care tips:
- Feed your pet prairie dog with veggies, fresh fruit, and hay. You can also get them rodent blocks from the store too.
- The green parts of a potato are toxic to prairie dogs.
- Setup a multi-level housing for your pet prairie dogs. They love to roam around and climb. Line the floors with bedding material and hay. Watch them as they weave a neat nest in there.
- You have to enforce some strict discipline for these critters since they can be quite naughty. You can handle them like dogs and cats but always show them who is boss - never allow them to jump out of the cage on their own. Eventually they will learn to respect your authority as the alpha in the house.
7. Short-Tailed Opossum
Most people mistake the short-tailed opossum as a rodent - well, they look like one anyway. However, they are really marsupials—like a kangaroo. They have pockets where they carry their young.
Short tailed opossum facts:
- These critters tend to be loners and thrive by themselves
- They're active, curious, and downright entertaining
- Opossums are nocturnal - that means they're active at night
- Keep them in a 15 to 20 gallon aquarium (minus the water of course). Keep a tight fitting wire mesh on top since these guys are quite the escape artists.
- You can feed them commercially prepared opossum feed. However, some cat food and of course ferret food will also work. They like high protein and low fat diets but you can give them some fruits and veggies from time to time.
8. Fennec Fox
You know that a fennec fox loves you when it purrs at you like a cat. But they're more dog than cat, FYI. They also give off a musky scent when threatened but they don't smell as bad as skunks or even ferrets.
Fennec fox care tips:
- These guys are nocturnal, so let them sleep during the day.
- They will need a lot of space to run around on as an outlet for all the energy they build up during the day.
- They're pretty good diggers, which means the base of your fence (in case you let them out of the house) should be a feet or two deep so they can't dig their way out.
- Build an enclosure for them and make sure that it is in a warm spot. If the temperature drops below 68 degrees they start to shiver.
- Fennec foxes are omnivores. They can eat pretty much everything. You can give them dog food or cat food and they'll be happy.
9. Domesticated Fox
You can get either a red or an arctic fox as a pet. Remember that these guys are definitely beautiful creatures but they can be sneaky. That means you should get a really good enclosure for them.
Domesticated fox care facts:
- They're very territorial, which means they mark their territory with their urine and feces. It would be best to setup their enclosures outdoors.
- Minimum enclosure dimensions should be 8' (L) x 8' (W) x 6' (H).
- Make sure that the top of the enclosure is completely closed—you won't believe how high they can jump if they want to.
- Use a 14 gauge chain link to line the ground. Foxes are excellent diggers and they can dig their way out otherwise.
- Almost any kind of dog feed will be great for foxes. Make sure to supplement their diet to keep them healthy. Add taurine and other nutrients as well.
- Mix up their diets with carrot juice, oats, turkey, chicken, tilapia, and hardboiled eggs.
You can get skunks for pets? You better believe it. Here's how you care for them:
- The first thing you have to do is to de-scent a skunk. That means a trip to the vet - well, most of the time the breeder should have done that for you.
- Never capture a skunk from the wild (that's actually illegal)
- Make sure that your pet skunk has had all the necessary vaccines.
- Skunks eat pretty much anything. Just make sure that you put them on a low fat diet - they're prone to obesity FYI.
Savannahs are not your run off the mill cats. They're intelligent, physically active, and also emotional creatures. You need to provide it with mental stimulation and companionship.
This kind of pet will require a lot of space. You can also give your pet some toys to keep them stimulated. They'd love to play around and also hang out with you from time to time.
Savannah pet care:
- Make all the necessary vet visits and make sure that your pet has all the necessary vaccines.
- Your vet will also make recommendations about feeding and housing.
- Brush your savannah's fur at least once a week.
- Run your hands around your pet's fur - any signs of bumps, swelling, lumps, and/or bald spots. If you find any of that make sure to take your pet to the vet.
- Keep your pet's nails trimmed
- Clean and inspect the ears once a week. Look for signs of infection.
- Brush your pet cat's teeth regularly.
- Just like any cat, prepare a litter box for your pet savannah.
12. Bengal Cats
Bengal cats are great exotic mammals and they're a good choice if you want one that doesn't have a lot of destructive tendencies. They're basically wild cats that have been domesticated and tamed - they're a cross between Asian leopards and domesticated cats.
Bengal cat tips:
- You can feed Bengal cats with pretty much the same cat food as domesticated cats.
- They do not drink a lot of water so you will have to teach your pet to make water drinking a habit
- Make sure that your Bengal cat gets all the necessary vaccines.
Rabbits are of course a fluffy and cuddly pet, though they don't like being handled a lot. But they do follow you around and will love a little cuddle from time to time.
Bunny care tips:
- Let them out of their cages every now and then. However, make sure to setup some safe indoor housing. Bunny-proof your furniture and floors.
- Cover all wires with flex tubing - bunnies love to gnaw on power lines and wires. It's either that or make sure that all wires are raised 3 to 4 feet high off the floor, away from your bunny's reach.
- Make sure to supply your pet rabbit with fresh hay, pellets, and fresh greens
- Make drinking water readily accessible for your pet bunny.
- Setup a litter box.
- Schedule regular grooming time.
Ferrets are cute exotic mammals and they also give off a scent whenever they feel threatened. But they don't smell as bad as wild skunks. A lot of ferret owners have told how wonderful it is to see a ferret live a full life.
They're happy, lively, and funny critters. They're such a joy to have around the house. Here are a few ferret care tips to ensure you have a happy little furry friend at home:
- Play with your ferret every day.
- Ferret proof any room that your little guy can access. They're inquisitive and their curiosity might get them in trouble. Some ferrets have been reported to have drowned inside a washing machine.
- Ferrets are carnivores and their digestive systems can't handle fruits and veggies. In fact, they can't handle nachos or even soda. So don't give them any even if they beg.
- They're picky eaters, so just be patient.
- Ferrets can't tolerate temperatures above 90 degrees.
Now, there's more to caring for hamsters than making them run in a wheel. There are a few intricate details about hamster care that you should know about even though they are quite popular pets.
- Not all hamsters do well with company. For instance, Syrian hamsters tend to find over territory. On the other hand, Chinese, Russian, and dwarf hamsters do well with other hamsters around.
- Minimum cage size should be 15" x 12". Get something bigger if you have more hamsters to take care of.
- The best bedding for your pet hamsters are plant based paper fibers and/or cellulose.
- You can buy commercially sold hamster mix as feed, which makes feeding convenient. But you can also go all natural by feeding your pet hamster with grains, seeds, veggies, and fruits.
Gerbils are fascinating little creatures and caring for them will never be complicated. However, they're not the best pets for little children.
Gerbil care tips:
- Gerbils are omnivores; which means they eat pretty much anything you give them. However, make sure to give them a balanced diet to keep them healthy.
- Make sure they always have access to clean and fresh drinking water.
- Gerbils love quiet spots and safe enclosures. Place their enclosure in a part of the house that doesn't have a lot of foot traffic and away from noise—i.e. the garage doesn't count.
17. Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are small adorable creatures but hey they require a good amount of space since they can be pretty active during the day. Here are some important guinea pig care tips:
- Minimum cage size for one guinea pig is 7.5 square feet. If you have two then it can be from 8 to 10 square feet.
- Line the bottom of the cage with a few inches of paper to serve as bedding (this helps to get rid of the smell)
- Guinea pigs are very social creatures. Place them in areas of the house that people frequently visit. You should also get at least 2 guinea pigs at a time.
- Move them near the window from time to time since they need to get some sunshine.
- They need plenty of fresh clean water. Note that they are grazing animals, which means they need plenty of grass, hay, or any commercially sold grass or hay. Make sure to pat down the grass and hay since your pets can poke their eyes in them as they feed.
18. Sugar Gliders
Sugar gliders may be small domesticated mice like creatures but they need plenty of space. However, note that in their case, the height of the cage matters more than floor space (0.9 m (H) x 0.6 m (W) will do). Case in point—they like to climb.
The "sugar" part of their names is due to the fact that they love sweet foods. You can feed them prepared meals for sugar gliders or you can just go all natural. Give them applesauce, pine nuts, yogurt drops, papaya, and other fresh fruit.
Capybaras are probably the largest pet rodents you can ever own. The average full grown capybara can grow up to 1.2 meters (about 4 feet). They can weigh more than 100 pounds.
Note that capybaras are never fully domesticated. That means they need a lot of human handling so they can get settled at home. They are semi aquatic so they appreciate a good swim. They eat a steady diet of grass so have some in hand always.
You don't have to be Shrek to enjoy the company of a donkey. Nevertheless, owning one will make you realize just how affectionate they really are. Caring for them will be like caring for a horse.
They need steady access to fresh water, hay, grain, and plenty of open space. They love human interaction so be there for them plenty of times each day.