Updated: Oct 13, 2020
In the past 10 years, memes have skyrocketed certain exotic pets into internet fame, for better or for worse. The internet (particularly YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram) highlights the charms of certain animals, but a picture or a short video can’t give you the full picture of what it’s like to have them as pets.
Here is a selection of exotic pets who, despite their delightful internet presence, might not actually make the best pets.
You might have seen this picture of a hedgehog circulating online circa 2014. Nala the Hedgehog belonged to a YouTuber named Taylor Nicole Dean. She captioned this picture, “This hedgehog is cheering for you because you can do anything.”
Nala died about a year later of cancer, which is a common cause of death for hedgehogs. In fact, hedgehogs are prone to a variety of health issues, including kidney problems, and a disease that’s similar to multiple sclerosis called “wobbly hedgehog syndrome.” In this video, Dean recommends you only buy hedgehogs from breeders who have a Wobbly Hedgehog certificate. This certificate guarantees that the breeder maintains healthy breeding practices, reducing the likelihood of serious illness.
It’s also not possible to always provide hedgehogs with proper care. Hedgehogs are illegal in many US states, including New York, Maine, Hawaii, California, and Georgia, due to the fact that they’re considered wild animals. And as many hedgehog owners have had to learn the hard way, hedgehogs don’t usually have friendly temperaments, despite what that photo of Nala might suggest. They’re solitary animals and generally prefer to be left alone.
Axolotls are a type of salamander, native to just one complex of lakes outside of Mexico City. Its distinctive feathery gills stick out from its head, and its limbs give it the nickname of “Mexican walking fish.”
They have inspired the squishy plush called a “Squishmallow,” and a search for “axolotl plush” returns over a million results. Plenty of Etsy stores have cute felt, crocheted, and plushie axolotl pals.
There are currently more axolotls in pet stores than in the wild, due to invasive predators like tilapia and pollution. For an exotic animal, axolotls are considered fairly hardy and are relatively easy to care for. They are so hardy, in fact, that they can regenerate missing limbs, eyeballs, and even organs. That said, they are not considered a beginner’s pet. Owners need to look out for temperature fluctuations, and regularly monitor their tank