Raising the most unusual pets

By Alex Potter

These animals are anything but your average pet!

When most people say they have a pet, your mind will jump to the obvious contenders: dogs, cats, birds, fish, maybe a rabbit or guinea pig.

For a few select people, however, when they refer to their “pet”, they are talking about their tiger, their warthog, and their baby hippo. To celebrate our animal companions, we’re taking a look at some of the more unusual pets and the special ways they’re being cared for.

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Teaching your pet not to bite is a normal part of training for most owners; but for a couple raising a pair of tiger cubs, a playful nip with their new ‘meat-tearing’ teeth can feel a little more painful. Without their mother to learn from, Giles Clark steps in to teach the cubs how to use their new carnassial teeth. By hand-feeding them thick cuts of meat, Clark can guide the piece of meat to the side of the cub’s mouth, encouraging it to use all the teeth along the side and back of the jaw, instead of swallowing the meat whole. Teaching the cubs how to use their teeth properly helps them to practice effectively pulling the meat off their prey in the wild so they know how to give themselves a good feed once they have been released from care.


At the Wild Is Life animal sanctuary in Zimbabwe, many of the animals that come seeking treatment are raised back to health and released back into the wild. However, for a small number of the animals, returning to the wild was not an option, so they have instead become permanent residents on the property. The cheekiest resident, Pickles, is a one-year-old warthog who brings all of the typical toddler traits into the family home. Damaging furniture, demanding attention and keeping everyone on their toes, this warthog is not a pet for the faint-hearted, or furniture-loving among us.


Notoriously unpredictable and weighing over a tonne, a baby hippo is not the normal indoor pet you would want, but for retired couple Tonie and Shirley Joubert, that’s just what they share their living room with! Known as the world’s only tame hippo, the Joubert’s pet Jessica, loves nothing more than an afternoon of cuddling with Shirley on Jessica’s own full-sized mattress. While considered tame, Jessica is still very wary of strangers and willing to lunge at any that come too close (including the BBC Earth cameraman), making her the most terrifying guard-pet around!

While these connections between animal and human may look like that of the traditional owner/pet relationship, they are anything but. Wild animals are just that, wild, and the experts raising them have one major goal in mind – to eventually return the animals in their care to the wild. In cases where this isn’t possible, these dedicated carers make every effort to create a home that is as close to their natural habitat as possible.