3 Cute Exotic Pets You'll Actually Love to Own

Donna Cosmato Author

Is a dog man's best friend? Many pet owners think so. However, there are other pets as friendly and adorable. Here's the scoop on three cute exotic pets that score high on the best friend meter.

As with any exotic animal, it's important to verify the legality of owning one of these cuties. Laws vary from state to state, so do your homework before you buy.

Pet Hedgehog

Pet Hedgehogs

These African natives are like porcupines. So, what makes the hedgehog a better pet? Both have sharp spines for protection. Porcupines can use their quills for defense; hedgehogs cannot. Hedgehogs curl into tight balls for protection. Both have spines that can hurt their humans.

So, what makes the hedgehog a better pet? In terms of cuteness, these adorable prickly balls score higher than the slow-moving porkies. Here's why.

Lovable TraitsPet Hedgehog

Hedgehogs love to play* so they are good companions. Because they have no dander, they won't trigger your allergies. Once they bond with you, they are easy to tame. The key is to spend lots of time socializing and interacting with them because they are shy.

*Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they sleep in the day and party at night. This is perfect if you are a night person as they'll be ready to play. If you're not, you will have to be patient with their squeals, squeaks, snuffles, and high energy levels.

Unpleasant Traits

Okay, they're cute. With the proper socialization, they can be semi-cuddly. They do have some unpleasant behaviors that might turn you off. They sometimes form spit balls, which they spew over their spines. This adaptive trait makes them less attractive to predators. Unfortunately, it could make them less appealing to you as well.

They are prone to obesity. They need exercise both in and outside their cage to keep an appropriate, healthy weight.

Verdict: Hedgehogs can be good pets. They are the best match for adults who can commit to their daily care and interaction. They are not the best choice for families with children or for the elderly. While they are not aggressive, they might bite if frightened.

Flying Squirrels as Pets

Flying squirrels are cute, furry members of the rodent family. But, don't let their name mislead you. Rather than fly, they glide with the help of a membrane between their ankle and wrist.

Their diminutive size and weight means you won't need a lot of space for their habitat. They live for about 10 to 12 years in captivity, so you'll have years of companionship.

Appealing FeaturesFlying Squirrel

They are relatively easy to feed and to house. They eat and enjoy foods like nuts, seeds and fruits, so you can feed them most of the same foods you might eat. Work with your vet for advice on vitamins and minerals to supplement their diet.

They need room to be active and glide, so a vertical cage suits their needs better than a horizontal one. Include some branches to climb, a nesting box, and some bedding. Add in an exercise wheel or small toys for enrichment to keep them from getting bored. They also need time out of their housing for play and exploration.

Remember, these clever little guys chew as well as they glide. So, you'll want a secure cage to keep your little Houdini from escaping. Consider squirrel proofing your house to protect your furniture, shoes and other belongings.

Although well bonded flying squirrels can be affectionate with their humans, bonding is difficult. It helps to keep them in a pocket or sleeping pouch on your body every day for a few hours until they have imprinted with you.

Flying SquirrelUnappealing Features

If you want a pet you can cuddle and play with, a flying squirrel is not the best choice. They will cuddle and sleep with you when they are young but are more independent and aloof as they mature. As nocturnal creatures, they come alive at night and are active, which could become annoying.

Remember the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Flying squirrels can be aggressive and bite or scratch when sexually mature. When breeding season passes, your pet will revert to his or her former behaviors.

They thrive best with a companion. Are you willing to commit to the costs of raising and caring for at least two exotic pets for a lifetime?

Verdict: Flying squirrels are a good, small pet choice if you are willing to work with their quirks. Their care and socialization call for time and money. On the downside, they are tiny creatures, which are easily injured, so they aren't the best choice for families with small children Sugar Gliders Pros and Cons.

How are sugar gliders and flying squirrels different? In size and behaviors, they seem alike. Most biologists think the two are only slightly related. Both are mammals. The similarity ends there.

Sugar Gliders

Like kangaroos or koalas, sugar gliders are marsupial. They carry their young in pouches. Like a dog or a cat, flying squirrels are placental mammals. Both sugar gliders and flying squirrels nourish their young via the placenta. But, the flying squirrel's plays a more vital role in the development of its young than the sugar glider's does.

Favorable Traits

While they are not odor free, sugar gliders tend to have little odor when fed a proper diet. You won't have to worry about giving them a bath or having them groomed because they have good hygiene habits.

Sugar gliders are not rodents. They exhibit fewer destructive traits, like incessant chewing, then some other pets. Their small size, which is about 5 to 7 inches, mean you won't have to invest in an expensive habitat to house them. They have an established track record as pets. Once bonded, your furry friend will love spending time with you and your family.

Sugar GlidersUnfavorable Traits

Their tiny size, which makes them cute and irresistible, makes them vulnerable to harm. Because of this, they are not an appropriate pet for young children. While they are inexpensive to feed, an improper diet can be dangerous. You'll need to work with an exotic pet veterinarian to make sure your sugar glider gets a balanced diet.

Once bonded, they'll enjoy spending time with you. However, the bonding process is time consuming and needs patience. You'll have to clean up after them because they can't be litter trained.

Sugar Gliders

Like hedgehogs and flying squirrels, they are nocturnal. So, when you come home from work exhausted and ready to chill out, they will be awake and ready to play.

Verdict: All three of these cute exotic pets have potential. The key to success is proper care and handling. As mentioned earlier, it may or may not be legal to own one in the state where you live. It's up to you to make sure you can offer them a safe forever home.