Unique pets add variety

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Brenda Miller, Columnist

Whenever anyone asks if I have pets, I get a lot of reactions, ranging from enthusiastic interest to slight disgust.

My house is a miniature zoo.  Along with a golden retriever, we have a box turtle, a painted turtle, a skink (a type of lizard), a bearded dragon and, of course, our giant sulcata tortoise.  Needless to say, they’re not your typical household animals.

When people think of owning a pet, most immediately jump to a dog, cat or fish.  While these make great companions, they’re not for everyone.

For one, potential pet owners have their options limited if they live in an apartment, as many apartments don’t allow dogs or cats due to the small space.

Despite these limitations, keeping a pet is still a possibility.  Many people keep fish, as most are easy to care for and take up little space – even our dorms allow them.

On the other hand, there are more options besides fish.  As I mentioned before, my pets are primarily of the scaled type.  They may not be the traditional definition of what most people consider ‘adorable,’ but I find them just as lovable as others find their cat or dog.

My sister’s bearded dragon, named Raptor, tends to frighten people.  She’s actually quite friendly.

Bearded dragons, unlike other reptiles, actually enjoy being handled.  Raptor loves laying on our arms and sitting in our laps.  Their docile nature has even earned them the nickname “velcro lizards.”

Reptiles and amphibians are a viable option for people living in an apartment.  Small animals such as frogs and toads can be content in a 10-gallon terrarium.  With water, a UV lamp, and an appropriate supply of food, maintenance is simple.

It always makes me happy when I’m home and my painted turtle swims up to the glass, anxiously anticipating a treat, or when I hear the sulcata tortoise crunching away at a head of lettuce.

I know reptiles aren’t as fitting for others as they are for me.  Most reptiles have specific living requirements, can be rather finicky and, with the exception of bearded dragons, most prefer to be handled minimally.

For those who instead want fluffy animals, there are some you can still fit in a limited space.  You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t find rabbits adorable, and the inquisitive nature of ferrets makes them endearing.

If even these take up more space than is available, mice, rats and dwarf hamsters are fun to watch as they eagerly gobble up a treat and run around their enclosure.

Birds are another possibility.  Parakeets, though not exactly quiet, can be affectionate and are a beautiful sight.  Since many birds are social, it may be necessary to keep two to maintain their well-being.

Some animals sound great but don’t necessarily make good pets.  For instance, I would not recommend a large tortoise to most people because they are so difficult to keep.  Nor would it be wise to keep a noisy bird in an apartment.

Regardless of whether your preference is a friendly puppy, a fluffy bunny, or a slithering snake, if you decide to own a pet, the most important thing is to do research first.  Every animal has its own needs, and it isn’t a good idea to purchase an animal you cannot properly maintain.

Keeping pets isn’t for everyone, but if it is a desirable possibility for you, consider your options.  You may just find yourself a new scaly friend.