5 Unique Pets to Make You Smile & Bring You Joy

It’s not a total exaggeration to say Mr. Pokee’s hedgehog smile on Instagram got me through the worst of quarantine last year. Here is the smiling hedgehog as a pineapple! Holding a tiny guitar! Wearing socks and a tiny mask! Mr. Pokee’s smile made me smile--and isn’t smiling the point of a pet? Here are a handful of other pets, outside the traditional cats and dogs, that might make you smile.

(Special note: this article barely scratches the surface on what each pet needs. Please do a TON of research before you bring home any kind of new family member. Animals need lots of careful planning and attention if they’re going to be in our care!)

1. Pet Lizards

If you find yourself fascinated by the gecko living outside your doorway (just me?), you may love having a lizard as a pet. Lizards come in some truly phenomenal rainbow colors.

While some species can be difficult to care for, either because they grow very large (Caimans), need very specific habits (Green Basilisks), or become easily stressed (Chameleons), herpetologists say there are many fantastic choices for beginners.

Bearded Dragons make one of the best lizard pets, as they’re easy to take care of, don’t grow very large, and don’t mind being handled. Plus, they look like dragons. Need I say more?

Pet Lizards for Beginners

2. Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are native to England, and got their name because they like to hang out in hedges, and they make grunting noises, like small pigs. They are prickly, apparently, but nothing like a porcupine. When they’re happy, you can hold or stroke them just fine.

They are lovely companions for the right owners (here’s a first-hand account from an owner), though they are illegal to own in some states and cities, so make sure you check first.

Unique pets for Kids

3. Tortoises

Tortoises make lovely pets (they love to eat flowers!). They live almost as long as a human and need to be kept outdoors. They’re also escape artists (folks are always losing their turtles and tortoises in my neighborhood) and remarkably fast, much quicker than you’d expect for a slow-moving, lumbering animal that’s older than the dinosaurs.

I loved this moving essay about a pet tortoise: “A tortoise knows how to wait. It is another piece of wisdom that comes from being a member of a species that is so very old.”

Turtles as a uniqe pet

4. Snails

A few months ago, my kids brought home handfuls of snails they’d found at the park (it’s a type of snail that’s non-native and invasive in our area). We didn’t keep them, but it was fun watching them ooze and slide around our back porch for a few hours.

As it turns out, I’m not alone in my snail fascination. The Strategist declared snails the pet of the pandemic! You can learn a little more about their upkeep here.

Pet Snails for KidsPhoto by adam hles

5. Frogs

As pets, frogs are a bit of a mix between a lizard and a snail. They’re low-maintenance like a snail (they only need to be fed a few times a week, and apparently if you set up their enclosures correctly, you can go years before you need to clean out the substrate). But they’re just as eye-stopping as a lizard, without the dinosaur/dragon overtones.

White’s Tree Frogs are a great species to start with: Lou tells us more in this video.

Frogs for Kid PetsPhoto by David Clode

These five pets are by means the only unique pets out there, but it’s so much fun to think about which might be a great fit for you in your home.

Sarah Guerrero

Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.