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Top 10 Unusual Pets

By: Alex Lieber

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An exotic or unusual pet is like a small part of untamed Nature. For some people, exotics remind them that the world contains millions of species that have evolved free from human intervention.

Take the Madagascar hissing cockroach, for instance. The very name sends chills up the spines of some people. Others, however, will be fascinated at the elaborate rituals these creatures have developed to defend territory, produce offspring, or simply to identify themselves.

You don't need to own a Bengal tiger to own an unusual pet. Unless a person has the right training, time, temperament, finances and home, owning such an animal is extremely ill advised.

The following unusual and exotic pets can be owned throughout the United States, though regulations governing some may be more strict in some areas than others.

Piranhas live up to their Hollywood reputation as vicious fish that will not hesitate to chew off the hand that feeds it. This isn't a pet for the faint of heart – only experienced aquarists should take on the piranha.

Tarantulas, contrary to popular belief, are not usually dangerous or even aggressive. These large, hairy, and frequently beautiful animals are gaining popularity as interesting, low-maintenance pets.

The wallaby is a miniature version of the kangaroo. The Latin name for the wallaby is macropod, which means "Big Foot." They are affectionate, playful and mischievous pets.

The Madagascar hissing cockroach is no ordinary roach. For one thing, it can grow to up to 3 inches long and over an inch wide – not something you would swat with a rolled-up magazine! They are hardy creatures that do not bite, and in fact make great exotic pets for children.

The skunk was once the Rodney Dangerfield of the animal world. But the perception of the skunk is improving as more people adopt these native-born animals as pets.

Sugar gliders are marsupials native to Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia that have been blessed with the ability to glide through the trees in their natural habitats. From a good height, they can take "flights" of more than 150 feet.

The "Pac Man" frog is an apt nickname for the ornery ornate horned frog. Legend says that once it bites, it won't let go until sundown. Just like the computer icon, this frog is ready to gobble everything in its path, and will bite cage mates, siblings, even its human handler.

The hermit crab is, curiously, neither a hermit nor a crab. As a pet, he's quite sociable and does well in groups of his own species. There are about 800 species of hermit crabs and can be found all over the world. However, there are only two species usually found in the pet trade: the purple claw crab and the Ecuadorian crab.

Potbellied pigs were first introduced to the United States from Asia 15 years ago. They are easily trained and have an alert curiosity and affectionate nature. They're smarter than the smartest dogs, and just as appreciative of a good belly-scratch. But prospective owners should be aware that cute piglets can grow to be quite large pigs.

Stick insects are one of the most popular insects to keep as pets. They can hide in plain sight with camouflage that is so perfect they are nearly indistinguishable from the branches of the plants on which they feed.

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