Choosing a Pet: Off the Beaten Track

Most people tend to restrict their thoughts to the nine-lives variety or man's (or woman's) best friend when it comes to pets.  Of course, we all know about various other options which, arguably also fall into the "commonplace" category, e.g., rats, mice, guinea pigs and even snakes, spiders and lizards (the latter three being something that typically the more discerning pet-keeper would be interesting in).

It turns out though that when it comes to natures smorgasbord of choice, there are very few limits.

Here are five lesser-known potential domestic friends which have been adopted by adventurous animal lovers around the world.

 

1. Binturong

"Bin ... what?" you may ask.  The Binturong is an asian bearcat, and provided this little beasty is kept well-fed with an adequately diverse range of foods (it's an omnivore), its natural intelligence and curious nature make it a viable replacement for something between a cat and a dog.  Of course, although some die-hards have been known to keep Binturongs as pets, their observed behavior in captivity has bordered on irrationally agressive, so embarking on this journey of companionship comes with the requisite disclaimer.

 

The Curious Binturong

Binturongs smell like buttered popcorn to humans so may serve as great movie companions, depending on how you look at it.

2. Sugar Glider

This little guy is definitely top-of-the-pops on the cuteness scale.  A native to Australia, the Sugar Glider is actually a type of possum which has the ability to glide from tree-top to tree-top, as its name implies.  Of course, it's unlikely that you'll be exposed to much gliding in your home unless you're up to recreating this little critters native environment, tropical foliage and all.

 

Sugar Gliders Mid-Meal
Credit: OberonNightSeer at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sugar Gliders like to eat all kinds of flora and fauna---in your home though, they'll be more than happy with a regular dish of mealworms.

3. Capybara

If you like the idea of keeping a rodent as a pet but would like to be a little "different", why not scale up from the Jones' and get yourself one of these chaps.  The Capybara is a dinkum cousin to the cheese-loving rodents with-whom we're all familiar, just a tad ... larger.  An adult Capybara can weigh in at over 60kg (130 pounds), so if you already have a feline at home you may need to prep yourself for some pet psychologist bills in anticipation of the inevitable inferiority complex.

Despite their size, Capybaras generally have a gentle nature and a good temperment which make them great pets.  They're herbivores, so if you're partial to keeping this furry guy at home you're going to need to bolster your fruit-and-veg budget.

Capybara
Credit: "Capybara male". Via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Capybara_male.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Capybara_male.jpg

Gentle and docile, Capybaras tend to sit at the bottom of the food chain in their native South America, so adopting one would guarantee that it doesn't become some anaconda's lunch.

4. Kinkajou

If you're not into large pets and would rather stick to small-and-manageable, then perhaps a Kinkajou fits the bill.  Hailing from the central and south-American forests, the Kinkajou can take any of its cuteness-factor rivals head-to-head.

Naturally nocturnal, the Kinkajou has been described as a "bear-monkey" hybrid.  Being naturally partial to night-time activity, this is a pet that will likely require attention at potentially inopportune times (like when you've finally settled down to watch the late-night flick).  On the flip-side be prepared for some grumpiness if you want to play during the daytime.

If you're interested in getting a Kinkajou, be aware that it is known to be a carrier of a worm-like parasite dangerous to humans, so get the little guy checked out by a veterinarian before taking him home.

Kinkajou
Credit: By Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada (Potos flavus) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kinkajous have a relatively long lifespan when it comes to pets (upwards of 2o years) so life insurance is a must to keep this little guy in good stead.

5. Squirrel Monkey

What would a list of exotic pet-candidates be without a cute monkey?  The Squirrel Monkey is a naturally social creature and, as monkeys tend to be, quite intelligent, making it a good fit as a pet.  Squirrel Monkeys aren't too fussy about what they eat since they're omnivores, so anything from fruit, nuts and a gamut of different insects will keep them more than happy.

Squirrel Monkey
Credit: "Saimiri sciureus-1 Luc Viatour" by Luc Viatour - Own work www.lucnix.beNikon case D80 optical Sigma 150mm F2,8 Macro. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saimiri_sciur

Squirrel monkeys are cute and effectionate; they're also quite energetic, so be prepared to be an engaged parent if you choose to adopt one.