Nearly two-thirds of Americans own a cat or dog, but what if you'd rather have a more exotic creature in your home? Despite the laws against having wild animals outside of a zoo, there is a list of exotic pets you can legally own in the U.S. In fact, more exotic animals live in people's homes than in zoos, according to National Geographic. So why follow the pet herd, when there’s a whole menagerie of weird and wonderful animals to choose from? Whoa! Not so fast. Before you start dreaming about a pet jaguar, there are a few things you need to know.

“Exotic” refers to a species that is neither native nor indigenous to its owner’s location. Laws cover issues such as danger of extinction; the risk of escape; and health concerns and they differ widely by state and locality across the U.S. Some states (Alaska and California, for instance) completely ban ownership of exotic pets. Other states enforce a partial ban, and several states, such as Arizona and Delaware, allow citizens to keep exotic pets as long as the animal is registered and a permit is obtained.  

Here are five (surprisingly legal) exotic pets that caught our attention. You'll need more than money to keep most of these creatures safe at home.

Sloth: $4,500  

Native to the rainforests of South and Central America, the sloth is officially the world’s slowest moving mammal. And sloths as pets are becoming all the exotic rage, partly due to their docile nature. They like warm, humid conditions and will want things to swing from (other than chandeliers). A pet sloth may sound like the ultimate easygoing pet companion. However, they are known to be extremely difficult to care for, so research this pet carefully before you invite one home (or leave it to the experts). 

Macaw: $1K-$10K 

This largest and arguably most flamboyant of parrots is native to the rainforests of Mexico, the Caribbean, and South and Central America. Macaws are smart, amusing, social and also very loud. In fact they make great karaoke companions. With training, a macaw can learn up to a dozen words by the time the bird is two years old. With dedicated training, your macaw can get his vocabulary up to 100 words. Many macaw species are endangered, so be prepared to pay a lot for your feathered friend and to take extra good care of him.

Wallaroo: $1K - $4K 

Native to Australia, the wallaroo is somewhere between a kangaroo and a wallaby, and super cute to boot. Wallaroos can jump up to 6 feet and love to dig, so indoors is not the best place to keep one. Although they hail from remote areas of Australia, that hasn’t stopped Americans from breeding them as exotic pets. And no – you can’t ride them to work.

Skunk: $300

Fans of forever-suave Pepé Le Pew will be delighted to know it is legal to own your very own skunk companion.

But first, make sure you can find a vet who knows how to care for and treat skunks. Then there's the matter of cost. Skunk kits, as the babies are called, can cost up to $500 and spaying and/or neutering can run up a bill of $250. That's on top of the food, daily diet supplements, cage and litter box.

If you've ever been around a dog who's been skunked, you're familiar with that funky skunk. smell The good news is that pet skunks have their sweat glands removed. But there are other factors. Besides needing a lot of training, they can be on the destructive side, so you never know what you might come home to, especially at night, when these nocturnal creatures are most active.

And if you don't want to pay the earth for an exotic pet, but crave serious street cred for bravery, there's always a....

Scorpion: $20 

If patting your pet isn't a prerequisite, scorpions add an instant Indiana Jones “je ne sais quoi” to any home, and they’re actually pretty easy to care for, as long as you have a terrarium and plenty of bark. If you’re a squeamish type, then a scorpion might not be for you. These creatures are carnivores so you’ll have to feed them live food proteins, such as crickets, king worms and cockroaches – oh, my! Oh, and it’s recommended that you don’t handle your scorpion (for obvious reasons). 

Or you could just get a pit bull – except that they're not exotic. You can, however, pet them.

The Bottom Line

Before you rush out and acquire an exotic creature to wow your neighbors, be sure to examine your state and locality's laws about owning an exotic pet. Certain animals may be legal in your state, but you may require a license to own one. Also consider carefully how much you really want an exotic animal in your personal possession. After all, isn’t that what the zoo is for?





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