People and animals have long cohabitated with one another for both survival and friendship. While cats and dogs are what come to mind when we think of getting a new pet, many people are drawn to more exotic and unusual pets that might stretch the boundaries of typical pet expectations. From rodents and reptiles to mammals and marsupials, exotic animals often fetch a hefty price for pet owners with particular tastes.
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While the animals on this list are legal in some states, many of them require licenses and permits in specific states and are banned in others. Some of these animals are also typically considered “wild” animals and may have a harder time adapting to domestic life. Owners of these animals should be sure they can provide adequate habitat, food, medical care and love to keep these animals in pristine health and happiness. Here are the costs to acquire and keep 10 of the most unusual pets.
Last updated: April 16, 2021
It may be hard to believe that it’s legal to own an alligator, but it is in some states. In Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin, you don’t even need a permit or license. You can purchase a baby alligator for prices ranging from about $149 to $169 (not including shipping). However, remember that baby alligators turn into very large grown alligators, averaging 8 feet for females and 11 feet for males.
Care and feeding of alligators isn’t cheap, either. According to the Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center, they eat a lot: up to one-quarter of its body weight. In captivity, you can feed your alligator fish, certain insects and crawfish.
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For those who don’t run at the sight of a snake, boa constrictors are a unique pet. The cost to purchase these powerful, majestic reptiles is not terribly high, such as $25 or $50 for a rosy boa, and closer to $150 and $200 for a Columbian red tail boa, according to Oddly Cute Pets. However, remember that these animals live up to 30 years. You’ll also need to spend about $100 to $400 for its enclosure, depending on how fancy you like it. After that, you may spend about $30 a month on snake food.
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Not many people want a rodent for a pet, much less the world’s largest rodent, but this gentle giant, who is related to the guinea pig, captures some people’s attention. Originally from South America, capybaras grow to 4 feet long and can weigh more than 100 pounds, according to Animal Planet. It’s illegal to own one in California and Georgia but you can in Texas, Pennsylvania and New York. It will cost you between $1,000 and $3,000 to own one, according to The Spruce Pets, and you should make sure there’s an exotic animal veterinarian in your area. Their diet of grass and water isn’t costly but setting up their enclosure might be. They need a lot of outdoor space and water to swim in.
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Cougars are wild animals that are unlikely to be tamed, but a few do live as pets in captivity. To purchase a cougar kitten will cost around $900, according to Big Cat Rescue. Once you have one, the costs add up quickly. You’ll need a cage to transport them, which starts at $1,250 for a small one and can go up to $20,000. In some states, you need a minimum of 5 acres just to own a big cat. Food and vitamins to keep a mid-size cat such as a cougar in good health can run $7,500 per year, and then there are veterinary costs, detailed in the tiger slide. In short, owning a big cat is a costly enterprise. And many states are banning the practice of owning big cats anyway.
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The adorable, spiky creatures make good pets if you’re not concerned about cuddling. These prickly cuties are illegal to own in some states, and in Washington D.C. and New York City, according to Animal Planet, however, so check out your local and state laws.
The cost to purchase one runs between $100 and $300, depending on the type and age of your hedgehog, according to Hedgehog World. Cheaper ones are the “pinto” hedgehogs, and the more expensive ones are blonde, black or white. For supplies, you’ll expect to spend between $50 and $150 on such items as a cage, a water bottle, food bowl, bed and exercise wheel. Love to Know recommends a heating pad and thermometer, to keep the cage temperate, another $60 or so. A 5-pound bag of food will run you around $25 and last around six to seven weeks.
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If you live in the suburbs with a little patch of grass for a lawn, owning a llama is probably not right for you. These are farm animals that need a lot of space and prefer to graze in a pasture-like setting, according to The Spruce Pets. You need a safe, walled enclosure to keep them safe from predators or dogs, as well. These big animals, who can grow up to 5 or 6 feet tall and weigh up to 450 pounds, start at around $1,000 up to $20,000, depending on breed. Female llamas tend to be pricier. They can live between 15 and 25 years, and their fur makes a lovely wool that can be made into a number of textiles, according to Llama Seeker.
In addition to feeding and housing them, they need to be sheared, have their toenails clipped and other general care and maintenance.
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These adorable little marsupials, part of the possum family, make sweet pets so long as you don’t mind their nocturnal nature, according to Animal Planet. Native to Australia, they get their name from a special membrane on their front leg that extends to their hind leg and allows them to glide around trees. They are tiny, though, only about 3 ounces in weight and 7 inches long. Purchasing a baby sugar glider can cost you around $200 to $500, according to Embora Pets, with adults around $100 to $150. They are illegal in Arkansas and California and you need a permit to own one in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. These little guys need a lot of room to stretch their gliders and thrive when in pairs. You’ll spend about $45 to $60 setting up a habitat and accessories, and about $35 per month in food.
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The tamandua, a kind of anteater, native to South America, is a gentle, insectivore that is ultimately low-maintenance. They grow to somewhere between 21 and 31.5 inches and have a prehensile tail that is an additional 15 to 23 inches. They average at about 10 pounds in weight. These little guys rack up an expensive price: between $3,000–$8,000, and the cost of building them an enclosure fit for their needs can more than double that price, according to The Spruce Pets. They can also be difficult to potty train, so you may spend extra money on pee pads.
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This fuzzy arachnid is much maligned in films, but quite gentle in real life. Though they’re often shown crawling on people as though to bite, they’re introverts who prefer not to be handled, according to Business Insider. You can purchase one for anywhere from $20 to $200 depending on size and genus. Eating mostly other insects, the cost to feed your tarantula is only about $10 to $50 per year. The only other costs are setting up their habitat, which includes a tank and perhaps some moss and any accessories.
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Just like the cougar, a tiger, which is an even bigger big cat, comes with a host of costs. To purchase one you’re looking at around $7,500, according to Big Cat Rescue. If you need to move your tiger in its cage for any reason, you need to rent a forklift, for about $500 per day. On top of the $7,500 average yearly cost of food and vitamins, veterinary bills will run upwards of $250 per visit and that’s not counting vaccinations, flea and tick preventing and de-worming treatments, which can add up to more than $400 per year as well. Plus, you probably need liability insurance, which can run between $1,000 to $15,000 per year depending on your safety record. Suffice it to say that owning a big cat comes with a big cost.
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