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How to Pick the Perfect Family Pet That’s Not a Dog or Cat

Posted June 18, 2013

I grew up with animals all my life…from dogs and bunnies to turtles and fish.  I even had an ant farm at one point.  Nowadays, there are a huge number of animals that are available from breeders, shelters, and rescue groups across the country.  A new family member can even be just a click away at Petfinder.com.

My own daughter has been asking me repeatedly lately to add to our furry brood of 2 dogs.  But she doesn’t want another dog or cat. She wants a guinea pig.  I’m sure all my fellow parents out there have been harassed by your children for a new family pet that isn’t the typical pup or kitten. Perhaps even right at this moment!

So if you’re not quite ready for a dog or cat, or are finally giving in to your kids for a pet that isn’t “normal”, you could consider one of these.

But before going out to purchase or rescue a critter, use this guide to help choose the right one for your family.

Fuzzy - How about an Adorable Guinea Pig?
Fun Guinea Pigs

What they’re like: Believe it or not, these little guys really like getting your attention and love companionship.  They’re not as happy when they are alone, so if at all possible, you want to get two.  They will keep each other company.  But if you don’t want a bunch of baby guinea pigs showing up one day, get two of the same sex. 

Caring for them: Provide a cage that is at least 4 square feet for each guinea pig so they have enough space to make a nest, go to the bathroom, and eat/drink.  If your space is too small, your guinea pigs will not be happy and may end up getting sick if they can’t keep clean.  You can feed them store-bought pellets, along with other vegetarian foods like vegetables and fruit.  They don’t need any meat products.
Guinea Pig Home

This pet is good for: People who don’t have the time or inclination to commit to a dog or cat, yet are still looking for a pet that is soft, furry, playful and can be a lap-pet.  I’ve heard that you can train a guinea pig to fetch, but I never got mine to do that!  I did, however, train my guinea pig to cuddle with me in my bean bag chair when I was a kid – and she never pooped or peed in my bean bag!

Scaly – Incredible Iguanas!

What they’re like: Even though these critters are cold-blooded, they do like to interact.  They can actually recognize your voice and even your smell!

Caring for them: This pet is needs to have a heating lamp, to simulate the warmth and light of the sun.  They need a cage that is 12 feet long by 6 feet wide by 6 feet high – this is ideal.  Iguanas need plenty of room to live happily.  You will need to mist their cages daily to keep the humidity level up.

This pet is good for: NOT young kids!  Iguana can become aggressive if they feel threatened or otherwise frightened, so only older kids who are capable and responsible enough for this type of pet is an absolute must.

Feathery – Beautiful Big Birdies!
African Gray Parrot

What they’re like: Birds like African Grays and Amazon Parrots are really intelligent.  This means they thrive on and enjoy mental stimulation.  They enjoy learning games and tricks, like ringing bells for food or mimicking us!

Caring for them: We all know birds need to be in a cage, but you do need to let them out every once in a while so they can be stimulated.  Make sure you can catch them in whatever room you let them free in, if they decide they don’t want to go back in the cage when you want them to.  Birds come in all sizes, so choose a cage that is appropriately sized.  They need room to jump or fly around, eat/drink, and go to the bathroom.  It’s important that your bird cannot pass his head through the cage bars for safety.

This pet is good for:  People who don’t necessarily need to cuddle, but enjoy interaction and perhaps even a talking pet to welcome you home.

Shelled – Terrific Turtles!
What they’re like: Turtles can actually have unique personalities.  They can be shy or they can even enjoy playing and interacting with you.  My turtle was the cutest thing when he saw me, he would stick his head way out to greet me.

Caring for them: You need a cage/ aquarium that they cannot escape from.  Remember that they can dig under fences.   I found out that turtles are not as slow as you think when I left mine outside for a few minutes and couldn’t find him for hours.  Your cage should be an aquarium that is 30 to 50 gallons.  Too little space may result in unhygienic conditions and lead to disease.  Turtles need UV lamp light for 12 hours a day.  They need dry areas, and some need a water source for swimming or hanging out.  Turtles can be messy.  Salmonella can also be a issue.
Turtle tank

This pet is good for: Families that must leave their pets alone for long hours or are away from home a lot.   Only those responsible enough to keep them clean and to handle them properly should get a turtle.  I do not recommend taking one from its natural habitat into captivity.

Whatever pet you choose, please take into consideration their needs and happiness.

Do you have a pet that’s not typical?  What is it like?  Do they need special care?  Please share!

Yours truly, Jade

Jade is the founder and CEO of Ahh! Products. Find her on

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