Lots of pets are individually weird, such as the puppy who has a pathological fear of the vacuum cleaner, or the cat who turns its nose up at gourmet cat food and then drags in a smelly dead mouse as a present for its owner. Some pets, though, are intrinsically weird, breaking the traditional warm and fluffy pet mould in favour of insecty bug eyes, a naturally ugly face, or a sideways walk.
Giant African Land Snail
The Giant African Land Snail is a slimy character, who loves eating scraps of vegetation. Sometimes, an issue with a kid's pet is that it escapes, but this snail is at low-risk of escaping as it can only "run" at a speed of about 0.06km/h. Cheap to keep, the snail can live in a plastic box for up to 10 years and can even lay eggs to produce baby giants without a partner.
Chickens are traditional farm animals in the UK, but with their incredible ability to produce lots of useful eggs, and their polite, feathered ways, chickens as pets are actually quite reasonable. Although dad or mum has to sort out a coop, children can easily handle the responsibility of feeding and watering the chickens daily, and collecting eggs for breakfast. Chickens like walking around inside as much as outside, and can be petted just like a puppy.
One problem with the extraordinarily camouflaged stick insect as a pet is that kids will fairly often think that either the insect has run away, or it is hiding. Some stick insects are spiny, which are not suitable for little hands, but most are safe to handle and can provide a talking point for groups of schoolfriends.
Land Hermit Crab
Hermit crabs spend their lives looking for the ideal house to live in, and a safe and warm aquarium can be just the ticket for this crusty crustacean. The Land Hermit Crab lives partly in water and partly on ground, and moults its outer shell regularly. Surprisingly long-lived, the crab can provide tropical companionship for as long as 30 years.
A chunky and solid exotic insect such as the African Giant Millipede is an unusual alternative to a traditional furred pet. Growing as long as 24cm, almost as long as a school ruler, these armoured animals need only a humid aquarium and a carefully layered base of vegetation and soil to be comfortable. Although the millipede likes eating rotting or fresh vegetation, it also occasionally appreciates a small meal of meat once in a while.
Pigs are intelligent creatures that are too big usually to live in a normal sized gardens as a pet, but the advent of micropigs allows for more people to keep the animals. Fully-grown, a micropig is the same size as a typical Labrador dog, but without any allergenic potential, and it doesn't have to be taken for walks either. Initially expensive to buy, a micropig can eat up all the leftover food from the table and is quite clean inside the house.
The extreme spideriness of a hairy tarantula makes this massive spider one of the weirdest of all pets. Some species, like the Chile Rose Tarantula, are nicer to handle than others, but as with all spiders, this pet has potential to bite, so small children are not suitable owners. Older kids can freak out their more squeamish friends at feeding time, as tarantulas like eating things like live crickets.
The mud skipper, a cute fish with bulgy cartoon-like eyes, has the strange ability to walk out of the water and onto land with its specially adapted fins. Domesticated cats used to dozily swimming goldfish might get a fright if the tasty looking mud skipper walked out of the fishtank and stared the feline down with its intense googly eyes.
Very responsible kids with an extremely trusting parent are the only kids who should get a species of cockroach such as the Madagascan Hissing Cockroach as a pet. Big, noisy insects, these cockroaches can be handled easily, but also have a Houdini-like ability to escape their tank and meet a sticky end, squashed on the sole of a frightened person's shoe.
- Petsnails: Frequently asked questions
- My Pet Chicken: The My Pet Chicken guide to chicken care
- ExoticPets.co.uk: Stick Insects
- Unusual Pets: Land Hermit Crabs
- ExoticPets.co.uk: African Giant Black Milipedes
- Daily Mail; Tiny porkers with a big price tag; 06 October 2009
- ExoticPets.co.uk: Chile Rose Tarantula
- ExoticPets.co.uk: Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches