While cats and dogs are the most common critters found in American households there are a host of other two legged, four-legged, eight legged and no-legged possibilities. Many of these however, are high maintenance animals that do not make good pets for the majority of people, and may even be illegal in Arizona. In addition to biting, some exotic animals harbor dangerous diseases that can be easily passed on to children who may not be careful regarding hand washing. Some of these animals require almost constant attention and do not travel well, not a good match for a family with wanderlust. If these pets are birds or reptiles, they’ll need a veterinarian who specializes in avian or exotic medicine. But if you do venture out beyond the cat/dog realm of companion animals, some choices are better than others:
Snakes - if there’s a budding herpetologist at your house a corn snake may be a good choice since it is small and docile, rather than a python or boa constrictor that can grow very large, become dangerous and have a diet of cute, small furry creatures.
Pocket pets, etc. - Prairie dogs and skunks are illegal to keep as pets in Arizona. Sugar gliders are legal but they are messy, smelly, expensive, high maintenance animals with an exacting diet that needs to be prepared fresh daily. Hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and rabbits may be better choices. But speaking of rabbits..with Easter just around the corner do NOT buy bunnies or baby chicks and ducklings that will only end up beings discarded or let loose (to die) soon after the novelty wears off. A stuffed animal or a trip to a petting zoo is a better option.
Turtles - The sale or distribution of turtles with a shell under 4 inches in length is a violation of a 1975 federal law created to protect consumers, especially children, from the threat of reptile-associated salmonella.
Birds - A parakeet or cockatiel can be a good pet as long as the children are gentle – I would caution against the large parrots, macaws and cockatoos. They are emotionally demanding, very messy, extremely loud and can deliver a nasty bite. And your family may not be willing to make a potential 50+ year commitment to a pet that acts forever like a two year old.
Lizards – geckos or bearded dragons are relatively small and non-aggressive compared with monitors and iguanas.
So read up on the animal you are considering. Information is available on line, in pamphlets at pet stores and books at the library. Make sure you can provide the correct diet and habitat and have the time to do so. Find out if the critter is compatible with your lifestyle and existing pets. Know what you, and your family, are getting into.