Wild Animals Do Not Make Good Pets


© Melanie Crump, Maryland Zoo in Baltimore


Exotic animals like pythons, kinkajous and scarlet macaws have captured the hearts of animal-lovers looking for companions with pizzazz. Of course, nothing says "wow!" like a tiger; but keeping exotic animals as pets can come with a hidden cost.

What is a "wild" animal?

Wild animals have lived for thousands and thousands of years without the direct influence of humans. They have adaptations that help them survive in their own complex environments. They are not well adapted to living in your house!

What's wrong with having a wild animal as a pet?

You can't provide the right home for them.

Wild animals have complex behavioral, social, nutritional and psychological needs. Most people simply cannot meet the needs of wild animals kept as "pets". Wild animals need to be with members of their own species, not humans.

Taking them from the wild can endanger the species.

Parrots are the world's most endangered family of birds due to devastation from the international pet trade. The enormous global demand for exotic pets is fueling the illegal capture and trade of millions of birds, mammals and reptiles annually, most of which die while being captured or transported.

You could get hurt.

Keeping wild animals as pets can be dangerous. They can bite, scratch, attack their owners, and their owner's children and guests. Animal owners are legally responsible for any damage, injuries or illnesses caused by their animals. Finding new homes for large, hard-to-handle animals can be difficult, if not impossible, particularly since most zoos are unable to accept them.

You could get sick.

Wild animals carry diseases dangerous to humans. Some diseases are not curable and can be fatal. Diseases include rabies, distemper, herpes viruses, salmonella, polio, tuberculosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and bubonic plague. Wild animals also harbor parasites, such as ascarid worms, tape worms, flukes, and protozoa.

It would probably be illegal.

Many state, county and city ordinances prohibit the ownership of wild animals as pets.

What types of animals do make good pets?

  • Dogs, domestic cats, guinea pigs, domestic rats and mice, domestic gerbils, common hamsters, domestic ferrets, domestic rabbits, domestic chinchillas.
  • Interesting insects like African millipedes or Hissing cockroaches.
  • Responsibly captive-bred parakeets, canaries, cockatiels, doves, and pigeons.
  • Responsibly captive-bred reptiles and amphibians such as red-footed tortoises, lizards (bearded dragons, leopard geckos), snakes (corn snakes, king snakes, ball pythons) and frogs (White's tree frog, ornate horned frog, fire-bellied toad, red-eyed tree frog).
  • Tropical fish that are captive-raised or collected from sustainable wild populations make good pets. Look for certification from the Marine Aquarium Council when you buy tropical fish for your home aquarium.

Best Bets for Pets: Take the Personality Test!

Everyone knows that cats and dogs make good pets, but have you ever considered a Hissing cockroach or a Fire-bellied toad instead? They just might be perfect for you. The Philadelphia Zoo's Best Bets for Pets personality test is designed to help you make educated pet choices that are in the best interest of you and your pet. Take the test!

Visit a shelter

Millions of dogs and cats are destroyed each year because they don't have homes. Shelter directories such as the ASPCA or PetFinder are excellent places to find adoptable animals near you.