When I was 14, I had a friend who had a squirrel as a pet. He would eat out of her hand, sleep in the bed with her and ride around on her shoulder. It was the weirdest thing in the world. The first time I met the squirrel I walked into her house and saw this fuzzy blur run across the floor and then before I could say, “Geezus what is that!?” its sharp little squirrel claws were climbing up my pant leg and onto my chest where it proceeded to sniff my face with interest. This was one of my first experiences with not-so-normal pets and since then I've had a special affection for particularly odd animal companions. However, it's important to note that special pets often require special care. So here's a list of some of my favorite weird pets and things to take into consideration before jumping into the world of unique buddies.
Micro Pigs: Also known as miniature or “teacup” pigs, these guys were bred specifically for medical research but have become a widely desired pet-friend. They're super adorable and affectionate but can be pretty expensive (the cuter and smaller ones can go for about $2000 on some breeder websites). Also, they won’t stay that small forever, reaching between 75-150 pounds once fully grown. So if you're thinking about becoming a pig parent, think very long and hard about whether or not you're ready to spend the next 15 or so years caring for one of these “little” porkers.
Reptiles: Probably one of my favorite alternative pets, reptiles are often given a bad rap. People think snakes are slimy and mean which is total BS. They need to love and be loved just like every other buddy in the pet store. And being snuggled by a lizard is one of the coolest things in the world. While all scaly creatures need the proper heat lights, food and enclosures, some reptiles need a little extra care. Chameleons, for example, are very susceptible to illness if not maintained properly. They require a very specific level of humidity in their home and can contract respiratory infections if not monitored. The people at Clark's Pet Emporium (4914 Lomas NE) are incredibly knowledgeable, friendly and more than happy to hold your hand through your herpetology adventures
Rocks: Pet rocks are a classic friend that anyone can enjoy! They're virtually mess-free, hard to lose and can be used as an attack rock in case of home invasions. The hardest part is finding the right one for you. Personally, I prefer smooth ones that fit nicely in my pocket or in the palm of my hand. I also enjoy painting my rock companion to match his or her personality—so the smoother, the better. But what may be right for me could be totally wrong for you. I suggest taking your time while picking one out; look at a few, get to know them a little bit and choose the one for whom you can provide a forever home.
Hedgehogs: These guys are pretty simple and adorable unique pets. While they don't speed around like Sonic, they do ball up when uncomfortable or scared, so be careful of their pokeys! When handled with loving care, they will form a tight bond with their person and be pretty active and outgoing. These guys can be really cuddly when they are happy and feel at home, but beware: They can also carry some pretty bad diseases and fungal spores so it's really important to wash your hands before and after handling them and to refrain from giving them kisses. But if you can put up with a smooch-less relationship and a potentially noisy late-night critter, you can probably handle a hedgehog.
As with any new pet venture, it's important to do your research so you can be prepared to give your friend the care and attention that they'll need to be happy. Whether it's a squirrel or a rock, pets are family and deserved to be loved as such. You wouldn't forget to feed your grandma for a week would you? Right?