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8 of the Most Uncommon & Dangerous Exotic Pets 

This article doesn’t discuss your everyday already domesticated animals. Instead, we’re talking about dangerous exotic pets. These animals aren’t used to human interaction and are more comfortable in the wild. Scientifically, none of these animals can be considered domesticated. They are wild and should be treated as such. 

But humans have kept pets for thousands of years and are always pushing the boundaries of what should be kept as a pet and what shouldn’t. Domestication, or the intentional process of reducing a wild animal’s fear and threat to a person, began thousands of years ago with the ancestors of animals we keep as pets today. 

Early Egyptian hieroglyphics depicted cats as pets of honor. Sometimes they were even worshipped! Dogs, which are descendants of the wolf, were domesticated over about 10,000 years. They went from hunting companions to lapdogs thanks to generations of intentional breeding. 

Collage photo dangerous exotic pets

8 Dangerous Exotic Pets 

This article will inform you about a few of the most uncommon species of exotic ‘pets.’ No run-of-the-mill house dogs or cats here! 

1. Wolf Dogs 

Wolfdog in the grassland
Wolfdog in the grassland | image by Neal Mauldin via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Wolf dogs are some of the most common exotic and dangerous pets. They are hybrids between the domesticated dog (Canis familiaris) and a wild wolf species, usually the gray wolf (Canis lupus). Their physical characteristics strike a balance between the breed of parent dog and the imposing physical stature of a wolf. 

The most common crosses of wolf-dogs usually occur in areas where wolves and dogs have the opportunity to interact. The dog breeds present in these areas – such as Russia, Alaska, Canada, and the northwestern United States – are large dogs like huskies or malamutes. Intentional breeding efforts usually stem from the desire for a hardy guard dog. 

Wolf dogs have occasionally been domesticated and kept as pets in the last several centuries. Descendants of wolf-dogs with more domesticated canine blood, as opposed to wolf blood, can be put to work as sled dogs or working dogs. 

2. Alligators and Crocodiles

American alligator
American alligator resting on grass

Everybody knows you should be careful around gators, and the last place you’d want one is your backyard, right? Think again. Many individuals across the United States privately own alligators.

Unfortunate stories of alligator attacks occur even between captive gators who know their keepers. Ultimately, these powerful reptiles are dangerous and pose a high risk to their owners. 

The average American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) can grow over 14 feet long. A male has a bite force of almost 3,000 pounds per foot. That’s as heavy as a compact car! 

Alligators become acclimated to the presence of humans more quickly than other wild animals do. In warm areas like Florida and the Gulf Coast, they adjust to living in stream beds and retaining ponds. Humans, especially children, may seem like a tasty snack to gators. 

3. Bears 

Brown bear closeup photo
Brown bear closeup photo | Image by Dave Hostad from Pixabay

Black bears (Ursus americanus), brown bears (Ursus arctos), and the Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) have all been kept as pets at some point in history. Whether they were captured young and trained to ‘dance’ back in the Middle Ages, or kept as ‘entertainment’ for crowds in gladiatorial arenas, they have factored into human culture for hundreds of years. 

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Bears are quick-moving despite their lumbering, roly-poly appearance. A sow is extremely aggressive when threatened or separated from her cubs.

They can run up to 30 miles per hour and climb trees with ease. A male grizzly is a formidable beast who stands 8 feet tall on his hind legs. 

Don’t forget that you’ll never be able to cuddle with a bear. We recommend a teddy bear if you really want some TLC. Even tame bears are wild animals that are inherently unpredictable. 

4. Lions 

Lion sits on the ground
Lion sits on the ground

In the historical record, lions (Panthera leo) weren’t pets so much as they were an easy way to get rid of your enemies. Ancient kingdoms in the Middle East, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean regularly kept captive lions that would conveniently ‘dispose’ of prisoners. Until several decades ago, a lion was kept as the pièce de resistance in circus shows.  

Lions are one of the largest species of big cats; only tigers are bigger. They have not been domesticated even though royalty and wealthy individuals have kept them as captive pets for thousands of years. This is due to the fact that they are strong, aggressive, and can easily overpower their trainers.

Today, lions are occasionally kept as pets, but it grows less common each year, especially in North America. Lions are a massive time and budgetary commitment.

They require fresh meat, extensive territories, and intellectual challenge. The best place to see them is in a zoo where they have proper care, feeding, and socialization with other lions. 

5. Owls 

Eurasian eagle-owl perched
Eurasian eagle owl | image by Imran Shah via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

You might not think of an owl (Order: Strigiformes) as a very dangerous pet, but think again. Owls are raptors, a type of bird of prey, and they are entirely carnivorous. If you plan to keep a pet owl, dedicate a freezer shelf to frozen mice and rats. 

Pet owls are rare because they are difficult to retrieve and tame and it also depends on the country they are being kept in. Owls’ territories can be vast. Most owls spend their entire lives high in trees, only descending to the ground to snatch prey.

Most are active at night when they hunt silently. The captive owls seen in media and videos today are usually rescued from injuries, endangerment, and other difficult situations. 

If you encounter an adult owl or owlet in the wild, we recommend calling a wildlife rehabilitation organization. They will know how to assess and treat the owl. In the case that it can’t be reintroduced to the wild, they may even be able to take care of it. 

6. Tigers 

A tiger roaring
A tiger roaring

Many big cats have been kept as pets for hundreds of years. Tigers (Panthera tigris), which are native to southeast Asia, are one of the most common species to be held in captivity.

Sometimes, tiger cubs are separated from their mothers due to poaching for fur or claws. Other times, the theft of a baby tiger is intentional. 

Most people who own pet tigers do not have a clear idea of just how lethal these animals are. Tigers are the largest species of cat alive on Earth today.

Males weigh between 200 and 550 pounds on average and measure between 7 to 10 feet long, including the tail. 

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A tiger kept in captivity is more likely to be a rare color variety than not. Along with the normal orange and black coloration, there are white and black striped tigers, golden tigers, and snow white tigers. The latter two varieties have been eliminated from the wild because of poaching and habitat encroachment.

7. Certain Snakes 

Boa constrictor slithering
Boa constrictor slithering | image by Eduardo Santos via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Most snakes don’t pose any risk to humans and dozens of species are commonly kept as pets. However, the ones that do pose a risk can cause some nasty damage. Make sure you investigate the regulations in your area if you choose a dangerous snake.

Many states have laws regarding which snakes are legal to be kept as pets. It’s a measure created for the safety of pet owners as well as their communities.

A smaller boa can be a common pet for many people and relatively harmless, but these snakes can reach 15-20 feet in length and easily eat small pets if given the chance. 

You will need to watch out for the fangs if you choose to keep a venomous snake. Even non-venomous snakes can pose a risk. Large tropical boas, which subdue their prey by constriction, have been known to attempt to eat cats and small dogs as mentioned. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the care needs of your pet snake, do not release it into the wild. South Florida is dealing with the fallout of many people doing this over the years. 

It may live and decimate your backyard habitat. Contact a wildlife center or ask your vet for recommendations on how to surrender your pet instead. 

8. Monkeys

Macaque monkey by Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr

Genetically speaking, primates are the most closely related animals to humans. That doesn’t mean we can live alongside monkeys with ease, however. We include a wide variety of monkeys in this category of dangerous pets, from tiny marmosets the size of a fist to wild and gregarious chimpanzees. 

The more socially complex an animal is, the more territory, stimulation, and social activity it requires to stay happy and healthy. Monkeys have elaborate dietary requirements that are expensive and difficult to accommodate.

Secondly, they usually live in colonies. A single monkey may pine for companionship it can’t get even from its human owner. It may become destructive, aggressive, and difficult to take care of. 

This is why it’s best to visit monkeys at your local nature preserve or zoo. Only well-funded zoos have the resources to keep multiple species of wild monkeys in captivity.