From bearded dragons to frogs: the popularity of alternative pets

Wildlife advocate Ben Dessen writes about the rising popularity of alternative pets, and the upcoming The Pet Show in Brisbane.

wildlife advocate Ben Dessen holds his book The Ultimate Pet Handbook for our interview about alternative pets

Estimated reading time: 1 minute

There’s no hiding the fact that Australia is a nation of animal lovers. In fact, 69% of Australian households have a pet of some sort, up from 61% before the COVID-19 pandemic*. 

While dogs and cats top the list, there has also been a significant increase in interest around some of the more unusual pets. 

These alternative pets range from bearded dragons to stick insects and pythons (large and small).

While frogs, turtles, and geckos have also become quite popular.

Even scorpions and giant burrowing cockroaches are becoming family pets.

Recent statistics show that these days almost one million Australian households care for a reptile, or another alternative pet. 

One of the biggest reasons alternative pets have such a wide appeal is due to their compact size. Their relative ease of maintenance is also a major factor, and not least because they are incredibly fascinating to watch. 

With no noise, nasty odours, or messy fur to worry about, people with allergies to pet dander are particularly well suited to a scaly or creepy-crawly companion. 

With many of these unique creatures being interactive but lacking the need for constant affection and exercise like a mammal, they make great pets for both children and adults alike.

Living in an apartment or home without a large backyard can make meeting the more demanding care needs of a pet such as a dog less practical.

Due to their smaller size and relatively low daily fuss-factor, alternative pets such as bearded dragons, insects or pythons can be comfortably housed in a stunning, naturally furnished enclosure inside the home.

Sharing the home with an alternative pet connects people with nature by bringing a small slice of that animal’s natural habitat into the living room.

A greater respect and appreciation for some of the more misunderstood creatures, such as snakes, can also be gained by educating family and friends about these remarkable and gentle creatures. 

Whilst many alternative pets have less maintenance requirements than more traditional pets (no grooming or brushing required for a blue-tongue lizard!), they do have a very specific set of requirements that need to be met for them to live a happy, healthy and enriched life.

Reptiles, amphibians and insects require controlled environments with special heating, lighting, and dietary needs.

If cared for correctly, some reptile species can live for a very long time. Pythons can live for 20 years or longer, while turtles can live for an amazing 50-60 years! 

So, it’s critical to get things right from the start. 

Bringing any pet into your life is a big responsibility and something that must be carefully considered.  

The Pet Show – coming to Brisbane on 22 to 23 June 2024 – provides the perfect platform to connect people with animals and promote responsible pet care on a national level in an entertaining and engaging way.

I could not be more excited to be involved. And I’m looking forward to meeting many current and future pet parents around the country!

Australia’s first national Pet Show will be taking place in Brisbane from June 22 – 23 (10AM – 4PM). Tickets are available online now at The Pet Show’s website.

After Brisbane, The Pet Show will hold an additional two shows this year:

• Brisbane | 22nd – 23rd June 2024

• Sydney | 16th – 17th November 2024

• Melbourne | 29th – 30th March 2025

The entire family needs to be involved in the planning process to ensure everyone is willing to play their part in caring for whichever pet you may choose. 

The Ultimate Pet Handbook provides the perfect overview of the many considerations to be made before committing to a new pet.

With over 25 ‘pet profiles’, covering a wide range of alternative pets (as well as the more traditional furry, feathered and aquatic pets), any young person will be able to pitch the perfect ‘pet proposal’ to the adults in their life using the handbook as a guide. The one thing we can all agree on, is that life is better with pets!  

Ben Dessen cannot remember a time when he wasn’t fascinated by animals. Pets make great companions and loyal friends. They love and accept us just the way we are. Growing up with pets teaches us how to be more gentle, patient and kinder to others. Opening our homes and hearts to pets can also help us care more about wildlife and the environment.

Bringing a pet into your life can be the best experience ever. But it is one you need to take very seriously and carefully plan for.

Whether you’re looking to get, or thinking about getting, your first pet, this is the book for you. You’ll find everything you need to plan the perfect Pet Proposal to pitch to the adults in your life.

Learn about awesome animals for you and your family to love in the Pet Profiles.

From cats, dogs and guinea pigs to lizards, snakes and turtles. By understanding what an animal needs, you’ll be able to give your special friend a safe, happy and healthy life.

Head to to learn more!

*Animal Medicines Australia, 2021