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10 Frequently Kept Animals That Often Make Nightmarish Pets

by Alex Miller
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Many of us own and love our pets, even with the occasional moment of mischief, perhaps a scratched piece of furniture or ruined rug every now and then, we’re able to look past that and relish the keeping of various animals, typically dogs or cats, though sometimes more exotic or niche choices, as companions.

While the animals on this list can be very lovable and none of them are evil by any means, even possibly kept properly without many problems by the right, experienced and well-researched keeper, for an average, perhaps impulsive and uninformed pet owner, through no fault of any of these animals but simply due to their instincts or difficulty of care, they frequently end up becoming a living nightmare.

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10 Chameleons

Chameleons are fascinating animals to most people and it’s no surprise that they’d be a beloved animal in the pet trade, their reputation among keepers, however, isn’t as bright as their charming, expressive colouration and cute looks would suggest.

While not dangerous to the owner, they’re considered an advanced pet, and frankly, not ideal pets to begin with due to their specialised needs that vary wildly from species to species, they require a unique and difficult to maintain environment, most don’t enjoy being handled and may be distressed from interactive keeping, and even the most social, healthy, and least demanding individuals, a keeper must deal with the problems of them being fragile animals with complex lighting and nutritional requirements that may become ill and die in one’s care very suddenly.

Beautiful and mesmerising, chameleons should only be kept, if at all, by advanced keepers who don’t mind observing a pet rather than playing with one, though, as is the case with nearly all of the animals on this list, if one doesn’t know all of the information listed here about a specific animal off the top of their head already, they’re not ready to keep one and likely won’t be for years.

9 Parrots

Highly social and intelligent, in fact, one of the smartest and most social animals on the planet, parrots generally require a ton of time and attention, and, contrary to popular belief, are incredibly affectionate and must not be kept in cages for an extended period of time, not display pets, their social needs often exceed that of cats or dogs.

While many of their traits sound wonderful and may very well be that, the truth is that keeping a parrot can be very difficult and the main problem is that most go into it without knowing that. Complex diets with plenty of foods that may harm or kill the bird, a huge time investment for most species that may only be plausible to someone working from home, incredible intelligence and vastly varied personalities that need to be understood, a generally high level of noise, and a need for space, playtime, attention, and the minimising of stress means that these wonderful birds sadly often only live to half of their generally multiple decades long lifespan due to owner neglect and being kept in a cage. If you can find a way around these issues, however, parrots may make wonderful, though still somewhat difficult pets.

8 Old World Tarantulas

While to some, or, let’s be honest, many people, the notion of keeping a spider as a pet would already be enough to land them on this list, the fact is that, for someone who’s not afraid of them, many spiders make excellent and incredibly reasonable pets, easy to take care of, fun to interact with even if most can’t be handled, and usually met with excited, terrified, and other extreme but ultimately fun reactions by friends, many, such as jumping spiders or New World tarantulas are fantastic pets.

Old World tarantulas, however, that is, tarantulas that are native to places other than the Americas, as opposed to their New World cousins from the Americas, are incredibly different and much less reasonable. While New World species are often calm, even calm enough to be handled with some behavioural knowledge without even risking a bite, these spiders aren’t so friendly when they come from elsewhere. While Old World species can’t kick irritating hairs, they’re generally much faster, a lot more defensive, and may even have more dangerous venom, which, while not typically deadly, is sure to keep most people away from these hairy giants that aren’t as gentle as their American relatives.

7 Highly Venomous and Constrictor Snakes

Keeping a lethally venomous snake or a constrictor snake may obviously be a bad idea to most readers here, similar to reading about someone advising you against keeping a shark or a lion, the shocking truth is that many people apparently don’t instinctively feel this way, as these animals, especially in the 20th century but, to an extent, even today, have been popular impulse-bought pets for a lot of people around the globe.

While the idea of bragging about keeping a snake that could easily kill a person may sound impressive for a moment, the reality has been a lot grimmer to many who have attempted it, or, surprisingly, sometimes to the animals themselves. Aside from fatalities brought about by misinformed keeping of these animals with either a lethal bite or the size and muscle strength to strangle an adult respectively, many have also been de-fanged or barely interacted with or even fed due to fear of the animal. A common practice in the past that has thankfully been disappearing, these are pets no one aside from licenced experts should attempt keeping.

6 Goldfish

After defensive spiders and potentially lethal snakes, goldfish may seem like extremely mundane pet choices, often gifted to children as easy first pets, but the sad reality is unfortunately that most goldfish given to children really do end up with the fate of being flushed down the toilet way before it was natural for them, even ignoring the fact that a properly kept goldfish would be far too large for a toilet to begin with.

While they’re considered rewarding animals in the fish-keeping hobby, goldfish are difficult to take care of, have fairly specific water requirements, certainly need a proper tank rather than a bowl, and may keep growing pretty much indefinitely in the right conditions, also one of the longest-living fish species that’s kept, they may live to be decades old when cared for properly, a condition which sadly isn’t met by most adult keepers and certainly not the children they’re irresponsibly given to.

5 Giant Centipedes

The same thought that many felt with tarantulas may very well rise up again with giant centipedes, and, fittingly, the two are quite similar, except for the fact that giant centipedes are like Old World tarantulas with every potentially bad aspect multiplied.

The description “giant centipede” is enough to make many people shudder, yet these interesting yet terrifying creatures are, regardless, fairly popular in the exotic pet trade, and while they can be taken care of and kept relatively easily if someone’s careful enough, they’re massive with sizes going above a typical human hand, incredibly strong for their size, possess an incredibly painful and potentially dangerous venom that they deliver through legs modified into fang-like appendages called toxicognaths, with incredible speed and terrifying aggression that puts all tarantulas to shame alongside it.

Never to be handled, these are purely display pets for the most extreme arachnid keepers, though, if you follow their care guide properly, purchase a suitable and escape-proof container to keep them in, and make sure they don’t dry out, they may make decent albeit still terrifying pets.

4 Reptiles

Certainly a very broad category of animals, reptiles as a whole certainly deserve a spot on this list, though, before reptile lovers gasp in horror, it’s not that they can’t be kept properly, it’s that, most of the time, they’re not. While incredibly exciting and beautiful animals, many keepers fail to give them a happy life in captivity, and, even worse, a study finds that three out of four keepers fail to keep them alive for more than a fraction of their potential lifespan.

Frequently mistreated and not too hardy, with many specimens also wild-caught and riddled with health and temperamental issues alongside the potential threatening of the species in the wild, lizards have complex care requirements, require special bulbs to give them proper heat and lighting, and they’re another pet people get without proper research beforehand, often for their children, that sadly fail to live long or happily.

3 Ferrets

Adorable, intelligent, curious, highly social, and an animal that’s sometimes trained, bred, and used specifically for hunting, these wonderful creatures may live to be a decade old and are actually the domesticated form of polecats, also related to weasels. Certainly unique and with a massive number of good qualities, they also come with equally massive challenges that keepers sadly fail to account for a lot of the time.

They require a degree of time investment comparable to parrots, training, frequent exercise and playtime that may take up hours of your day everyday, with a demanding, carnivorous diet, extremely high expenses, large space requirement, and a potentially aggressive temperament if not trained or interacted with properly, these animals can be wonderful in the right hands and live a very happy life as highly rewarding pets, but their cuteness and exotic and approachable nature frequently fools people into getting something they’re simply not ready for.

2 Birds of Prey

The dream of having a pet owl, eagle, or falcon has captivated many who rightly find them to be quite incredible, but, they are one of the worst pets one could keep not really because the animal is necessarily a danger to the owner, but because they should not be kept as pets and will not thrive or even survive.

Aside from claws that may still potentially harm you, these animals require the most space out of any animal on this list, they’re incredibly difficult or perhaps impossible to keep properly, require frequent and incredibly intensive care, expenses that most people could never afford, may suddenly die even when their keeper somehow, miraculously manages to do everything right from a variety of relatively unavoidable causes, and simply will not be happy in captivity.

There’s a reason these animals require permits and may only be kept by the most knowledgeable experts, as incredible as they seem, they’re best to admire from afar.

1 Iguanas

Iguanas, particularly green iguanas, are another example of frequently kept animals that simply should not be kept by most people. While reptiles, and chameleons specifically were already covered, iguanas deserve the spot the most out of any for being incredibly popular, yet incredibly problematic and generally a horrible experience both for the keeper and the animal.

While some describe keeping perfectly calm iguanas, exotic angel pets, the majority of the time, iguanas are antisocial, aggressive, refuse to be handled or even interacted with due to the amount of stress it causes for them, while they have access to tools that leave very serious marks on anyone they wish to lash out on, which happens to be anyone in their vicinity whenever they feel stressed, so, a lot of the time, combined with the fact that they live for decades, are so large that they’ll often take up a room in a house that one will specially need to have others construct or do it by themselves, and if all of that, even the risk of frequent hospital visits, haven’t deterred a potential keeper, the massive costs of care and keeping just might.

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About The Author: Just a curious person with a passion for all things scientific, mysterious, and strange.

fact checked by Jamie Frater