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Looking for a family pet? Here are some interesting choices…

A pet is for life, whatever kind it is, so getting one is always a big decision. With space in Hong Kong at a premium and some neighbourhoods lacking good places for “walkies”, it might be worth thinking outside the box (excuse the pun!) when choosing pets for your .

We asked Dr Gail Cochrane of Tai Wai Small Animal Exotic Hospital and Island Exotics for her recommendations of some of the more unusual animals that work well as pets and can easily be cared for in your home. (They’re also exceptionally cute!) Children can benefit from the opportunity to bond with and help look after these kinds of creatures, too – and it takes them away from their electronic gadgets.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs


These are wonderful pets for apartment life as they are quiet, don’t smell, and need no additional exercise or bathing. They do need a good size cage, though, of at least a metre in length, with a running wheel and hide box, and additional heat supplied over the winter (they should be kept at 20 to 27 degrees Celsius). They live an average of five years. Handling them can be difficult because of their quills, but you can easily cover them with a towel for this.

Leopard Geckos


These charming lizards are ideal for apartment life as they can be kept in a large glass aquarium, do not grow much past 20cm, and only need a heat source (in comparison with most lizards that need ultraviolet lights that must be regularly replaced). They’re easy to handle and always have a smile. The main downside is that they need to be fed on either insects or young mice. Birds Large parrots are very beautiful, but they can be noisy, destructive, require a large cage (or even an entire Hong Kong bedroom!), and need hours of social interaction every day. We suggest that smaller parrots such as cockatiels or conures make lovely pets that require less time and space, and will not result in so many neighbour complaints. Their lifespans are also shorter than the bigger parrots (who can live over 80 years), which means less worries about who to pass them to in your will!

“Fancy” Rats


Rats are often feared and considered to be dirty or disease spreaders, however they do make lovely pets and many of our staff are fans. Wild rats can spread disease but pet rats are no more risky than a dog or cat. They are low maintenance and quiet pets with life spans of only two years. They’re also smart and can be trained to do all sorts of clever tricks – check out YouTube for a demonstration of what rats can easily be trained to do.

Tai Wai Small Animal and Exotic Hospital is at 69-75 Chik Shun Street, Lap Wo Building, Sha Tin. Island Exotics is at 2/F, Hing Tai Building, 139-140 Connaught Road West, Sai Ying Pun. Call 2687 1030 or 2858 9388 to discuss the best pet to suit your lifestyle. taiwaiexotic.com

For more like this see our Living in Hong Kong section.

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This article first appeared in the December/January 2017 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.