If you think you know someone with an odd pet, think again. We bet these 20 people have them beat! They’re best buds with some of the wildest creatures imaginable. If you’ve ever wanted to see someone hug a hippo or cuddle a kangaroo, then read on. Just don’t try this at home…
20. Gary the capybara
Yep, you heard us right ‒ a capybara. That’s the world’s largest rodent for those of you who aren’t in the know. Although capybaras are indigenous to South America, Gary’s owner couldn’t look after him any longer. So he went to live in Melanie and Richard Typaldos’ Texas home. They went so far as to get the water-loving rodent his own swimming pool!
In 2013 Melanie told British newspaper The Sun, “Although some people might find it strange, it’s really no different than having a dog or a cat. Gary is really very smart and he’s very affectionate.” Apparently he gets along with the other pets in the family’s menagerie, too. Except the tortoise, who apparently has a penchant for invading Gary’s “personal space.”
19. Filé and Gumbo the rat snake(s)
We’ll grant you that snakes, and rat snakes in particular, are a fairly common pet. But stay with us here. You see, Filé and Gumbo aren’t your average reptiles. It’s hard to say whether you’d even count them as a pair of snakes or a single one, because they share the same body.
Tanee Janusz took Filé and Gumbo in after their neighbor found them in a Louisiana backyard. Apparently, their unique appearance is probably the result of their embryos not splitting properly, leaving them with separate brains in a single body. What’s more, snakes such as this don’t usually live long in the wild either. At least the serpent siblings are in good hands with Janusz.
18. Juniper the fox
Juniper, who also goes by “The Happiest Fox,” is the most famous face in Jessica Coker’s rescued exotics home. She isn’t the only one, though. You see, Juniper shares her humans with a group of rescue animals, some of which were saved from fur farms. That means they were bred for their pelts and differ genetically from wild foxes: they wouldn’t survive on their own.
Juniper is now living happily with her fellow foxes and adopted doggie family. “Juniper is sassy,” her humans wrote on their website in 2017. “I’ve never met anyone, human or animal, more sassy than she is. She will always let me know exactly how she feels about something. If she dislikes what’s going on she’ll walk over, ears back, and scream at me, then casually walk away. (Yes, foxes can scream).”
17. Jack and Mila the meerkats
If you’re looking for meerkats, you’d probably think South Africa, not Hampshire, England. Still, that’s where Jack and Mila live with their human parents, Laura Gilbert and Tom Dawson. They raised the meerkats from babies and the critters have been part of the family ever since. All the same, the couple don’t recommend you take meerkats into your home lightly, though.
Gilbert and Dawson explained that meerkats require a lot of care. And even so, both genders react very differently to humans. Jack, for example, loves people, including visitors. Yet while Mila is affectionate with her family, if she sees strangers she tends to go on the offensive, often targeting unsuspecting wellwishers’ necks. Meerkats may be small, but they have comparatively big teeth.
16. Loki the wolfdog
When outdoor enthusiast Kelly Lund sought out a companion with similar interests, he found his match in Loki. Kelly’s best pal is in large part husky and malamute, but one of Loki’s recent ancestors is a wolf. That makes Loki a hybrid wolfdog, and their adventurous exploits have made them both social media celebrities.
Since Kelly first uploaded a photograph of himself sleeping with Loki on a hammock, their fame has skyrocketed. Kelly even resigned from his former employment in 2016 in favor of acting as the wolfdog’s full-time photographer and manager! He attributes Loki’s success entirely to the wolfdog, though. “Loki’s this really special dog in that you can see his spirit through his eyes,” he told website Alpha Universe in 2018.
15. Pumpkin the raccoon
Back in 2014 Laura Young of the Bahamas found an injured baby raccoon: it had suffered a broken leg. Without an animal rescue center nearby, she felt she had no choice but to take the critter in herself. Young called the little girl Pumpkin, but even after nursing it back to health, she couldn’t find Pumpkin’s mother.
Pumpkin stayed with Young, becoming a social media star and charity fundraiser with 1.4 million followers. Sadly, Pumpkin passed away at age four and her adoptive owner paid her a heart-breaking tribute. In 2019 she wrote on Instagram, “Pumpkin would lick the tears from my face and it would make me laugh and smile. She did this so many times.” This is one mammal that will be sorely missed.
14. Pasqualina the wild boar
Talk about bringing home the bacon! Doriana Giustozzi and Raffaele Petterini found piglet Pasqualina injured in Italian woodlands. Naturally, they took her in and decided to keep the little porker. However, Pasqualina was no teacup pig. She grew into a massive boar, and we don’t mean that as an insult.
Giustozzi’s and Petterini’s porcine pal developed a liking for the indoor life. Pasqualina loved to climb on the furniture and sleep on the bed. Petterini also told The Sun in 2015 that their pig snuggled like a dog. “She loves cuddling,” she described. “She likes physical contact, she communicates a lot with us, she is very affectionate and we are like her parents.”
13. Big Bird the pelican
Jeffrey Condon of Tanzania’s Greystoke Mahale camp became birds of a feather with a pelican separated from its flock during a storm. Staff named the orphan Big Bird and taught him everything a pelican should know. They gave him swimming, fishing and even flying lessons. In fact, camp staff recorded Big Bird’s progress for millions of internet watchers.
The animal rescuers hoped to one day release Big Bird into the wild, but upsettingly he died in a boating accident in 2016. Staff wrote on their blog NomadTanzania, “He was taken too early but had a very loving and exciting life with us all here. To the ones who got to know our friendly pelican: you will have the greatest memories to treasure forever.”
12. Stella the kinkajou
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of a kinkajou. They’re adorable little mammals that usually live in rainforests, but Stella is different. Her home is in Florida with Justin and Samantha Powell, who have had Stella since she was a baby. Although the little critter’s tiny, she’s packed with personality.
Justin told British newspaper the Daily Mail in 2017, “She’s very rambunctious and energetic; we call her ‘our royal highness.’ Kinkajous don’t train very well, it’s a matter of letting her do what she wants.” Incidentally, Paris Hilton also owned a kinkajou called Baby Luv. Paris hit the headlines in 2006 when it bit her, though thankfully the wound wasn’t serious.
11. Craig Foster’s octopus
In 2020 a touching documentary featuring filmmaker Craig Foster called My Octopus Teacher hit Netflix. It chronicles the year in Craig’s life when he made friends with a wild female octopus. The footage shows the intelligent species in a new light and left Craig changed from his interactions with her.
“The octopus showed me many behaviors that were completely new to science, because this animal trusted me,” Foster told CNN that year. Nor is he the only person to make a connection with octopuses (or octopi, if you prefer). Actor Nicolas Cage reportedly also owned an octopus that apparently helped improve his acting. Though what that means is anyone’s guess.
10. Damien the kangaroo
If you want something to put a spring in your step, check out Damien the kangaroo. Jackson O’Doherty, an Australian comedian, rescued Damien from the roadside where her mother had abandoned her. After that Damien never wanted to leave her human daddy – yes, Damien really is a Sheila – as a 2016 video on his YouTube channel proves.
The footage shows Damien chasing the comedian along the beach, to the store and all around town. The pair even stop to get some attention from passers-by. Watching the little joey bounce after her rescuer is truly heart-warming. See? Not all the Australian wildlife wants to kill you. Just most of it.
9. Dindim the penguin
When you think of love stories, they don’t usually involve humans and birds. But that’s exactly what the tale between Dindim the penguin and Joao Pereira de Souza is, in the purest sense. Retired bricklayer de Souza discovered Dindim in 2011 soaked in oil and immobilized, so he rushed to the penguin’s aid.
De Souza spent days cleaning the oil off Dindim and feeding him until the penguin was well enough to leave. Dindim did just that ‒ he was free, after all ‒ but it wasn’t the last time they met. Every year since then Dindim has returned to visit the man who saved his life.
8. Rambo the alligator
Back in 2019 Rambo the alligator went viral thanks to some candid pics on social media. He was a celebrity in Lakeland, Florida, well before that, though. Former professional wrestler Mary Thorn recounted to YouTube channel Beastly how she had rescued Rambo from animal cruelty. Unfortunately the alligator’s four years in captivity had already left him immunocompromised.
Thorn treated Rambo like her baby in the subsequent years, claiming that he would die if released back into the wild. Still, 11 years after Rambo’s rescue the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) tried to separate them. Ultimately, the animal-lover was awarded custody of Rambo ‒ on the condition she doesn’t exhibit him. Needless to say, she snapped up the offer.
7. Aatu the reindeer
Poor old Aatu the reindeer didn’t have the best start in life. His mother abandoned him in a forest in Lapland. Aatu’s fortunes turned around when Pia Tuukkanen took him in. She raised the reindeer herself and now he’s somewhat domesticated and enjoys the company of humans.
Tuukkanen spoke to YouTube channel Zoomin Local Heroes on the subject in 2013. She said, “Normally, reindeers don’t want to hang out with people. They don’t want to be touched, they don’t want to be around people. This one thinks he’s a dog.” Aatu spends most of his time outside, but likes to visit his mom indoors on special occasions.
6. Jake the hyena
This story doesn’t exactly start like a Disney special, but stay with us, it has a happy ending. Exotic-animal-lover Bryan Hawn purchased a hyena called Jake from a private zoo under false pretenses. Unsurprisingly, Jake didn’t like his Miami Beach apartment. In 2011 Bryan told newspaper the Miami New Times, “The first three months were hell.”
Jake’s owner did the right thing and handed the hyena over to Mario Tabraue’s Zoological Wildlife Foundation. Bryan can visit Jake any time he wishes, and the experience has made him realize he wants to work with animals. “The bond I have with this wild animal is absolutely priceless,” Bryan recounted. “The love Jake and I share is unbreakable.”
5. Wild Thing the buffalo
Where else would you find someone with a pet buffalo but in Texas? The beefcake belongs to Ronnie and Sherron Bridges, who are former buffalo ranchers. Medical expenses caused them to sell the herd, but there was one they couldn’t part with. That was a big boy called Wild Thing.
The Bridges have raised Wild Thing from a three-month-old calf and say his house manners are impeccable. In 2017 Ronnie informed Inside Edition, “He’s a house pet. Outside, he plays really rough but inside the house, he’s really a gentleman.” They also reported that Wild Thing is house-trained. Can you imagine if he wasn’t? Yikes.
4. Stepan and Brutus the grizzly bear
We know what you’re thinking: who looked at grizzly bears and decided they would make great pets? Well, more than one person, actually. The first is Casey Anderson, a professional wildlife trainer and keeper. His best buddy is a grizzly called Brutus who he rescued from euthanasia at a wildlife park which had more animals than it could safely accommodate. Anderson raised Brutus from a cub in his own bear sanctuary and regularly wrestles with the gentle giant.
Meanwhile, Moscow couple Svetlana and Yury Panteleenko also raised the softie Stepan from a cub. In his case, Stepan’s biological mother abandoned him at three months old. Both Brutus and Stepan work in movies, while Stepan is also a renowned Russian model. In 2020 the bear’s photographer, Mila Zhdanova, discussed her client with The Moscow Times newspaper. She revealed, “Stepan is so friendly thanks to his trainers’ care and love.”
3. Agee the polar bear
Let’s not split hairs here, polar bears are dangerous. There are recorded cases of them attacking and killing humans. That’s why animal trainer Mark Dumas is the only man to survive swimming with one. And that polar bear is none other than his best friend Agee, the star of the 1996 movie Alaska. Oh, we should mention Charlton Heston also appeared in the flick, of course.
Dumas trained Agee using positive reinforcement methods and intended to make her a family member. The bear-lover describes Agee as a bit of a diva on set, though. Indeed, Dumas’ wife Dawn is the only other person Agee tolerates. Agee apparently sees Dawn like a sister and she sometimes joins the odd couple’s swimming sessions.
2. Pocho the crocodile
Costa Rican Gilberto Shedden ‒ also known as Chito ‒ always loved crocodiles, but they never let him get too close. That is, until he found an injured one with a bullet wound in its head. Chito couldn’t resist nursing it back to health despite the fears of his friends and family. But that’s how he met Pocho.
Chito and Pocho grew close over the years, and the croc proved very docile. Chito could put his hand in Pocho’s mouth and the two began to put on public shows. The pair developed an unbreakable bond and Pocho became quite the celebrity. It’s no wonder that when the crocodile passed away in 2011 his local town held a touching funeral for him. RIP, Pocho.
1. Jessica the hippo
Despite their somewhat comical looks, hippopotami are among the deadliest animals in the world. They’re territorial, aggressive and according to a 2016 BBC News feature, they kill about 500 people in their native Africa annually. But you wouldn’t think so to look at Jessica, the loveable hippo who lives near Hoedspruit, South Africa.
Tonie and Shirley Joubert rescued a baby Jessica from the African floods in 2000. Her mother had abandoned the little hippo so recently that she still had her umbilical cord attached. Now as an adult, she lives with other hippos but loves to visit her human parents. In fact, she adores all humans and acts as an ambassador between our species.