Love at first snort: Meet these unusual pets

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jun 24, 2017 in Rat News | Subscribe

Sometimes human company just isn’t enough.

But for these households, the standard pet such as a cat or a dog isn’t enough, either. And while every animal is unique and special, there are some pets you don’t expect to find in a household.

We talked to three local families about their unusual pets. What’s so unusual is how normal the pets actually seem.

This little piggy

Amy Brown said she always wanted a pet pig.

That wish came true last year when her husband, Tim, took her to Sandy Creek Farms in DeFuniak Springs to pick out a piglet. That’s when she met Lily.

It was love at first snort.

“She very affectionate,” Amy said. “She’ll sit with you in the chair. She’s like a puppy.”

Lily has easily adapted to the family, which includes Amy’s granddaughters, Alissa and Taylor, who gave Lily her full name: Lily Margaret Brown. Lily also gets along with the family’s Chihuahua, Chico.

She roams freely around the house during the day, snorting as her hooves tap on the floor. Amy said there’s a different snort for each mood.

Pigs often get a bad reputation for being, well, piggy. But Amy said Lily is a clean and low-maintenance animal.

“She’s litter-box trained, she doesn’t shed,” Amy said.

Lily’s favorite food is Cheerios, which Alissa and Taylor like to feed her. She also eats special feeding pellets, fruits and regularly has a “big kale salad,” Amy said.

Amy said she highly recommends pigs as a pet. The only slightly disappointing thing is that Lily doesn’t take to pet clothes as much as she had hoped.

“She’s just a joy,” Amy said. “She’s been a great addition to our family.”

A different dog

Friends lovingly refer to Brandy and Ricky Heuer’s home in Mary Esther as a zoo. 

At the least, it seems like a pet sanctuary with three gerbils, three rabbits, two dogs, one cat and perhaps the most unusual of the bunch: two prairie dogs.

Tazz and June are year-old female prairie dogs. Although they are not related, Brandy said the two girls bonded right away.

“When we put them together, they started making noises we never heard before,” Brandy said with a laugh.

Tazz is outgoing while June is reserved. They love to play with one another and the cat, Daisy, on the screened-in porch.

Brandy said her husband, who grew up in the Midwest where prairie dogs thrive in the wild, was open to having them, but she said they did a lot of research before taking them in.

“They are pretty low maintenance but a little expensive in the beginning,”she said. “If done correctly, you have to get the right cage and home for them. We believe they should be able to live in a similar habitat if they were in the wild.”

Tazz and June’s home consists of a metal tub filled with cedar so they can dig around and create little tunnels. Brandy said she would like to have a big pen for them in the backyard so they can dig around in “real dirt.” Their meals are a mixture of fresh vegetables and food pellets.

Although they can be moody occasionally, the prairie dogs get along with the rest of the brood. Daisy the cat likes to sit on top of their cage and wag her tail at them. Brandy captures the daily lives of Tazz and June on an Instagram account, tazz_and_june_heuer.

Brandy said she would recommend prairie dogs as pets as long as families do their research.

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“They do crave attention — well, Tazz and June do,” she said. “They can also get mad if you bother them when they don’t want to be bothered. But I believe if you love on them, they will be just as loving on you. They are really sweet and playful.”


Some people would be freaked out with a rat in their house, but to Tara Sindelar, pet rats are what make her house a home.

“They’re so cute,” she squealed.

Tara and her husband, Daniel, have had a total of seven feeder rats over the years in their Fort Walton Beach home. Her love for the little rodents began when her sister’s pet snake wouldn’t eat one of his meals.

“I’ve always been a bleeding heart for animals,” she said. “She looked like a little, gray sewer rat and for some reason the snake wouldn’t eat her. My parents wouldn’t keep her, so I took it home. Her name was Pepper. She put her head in the crook of my arm and I was hooked.”

Feeder rats only live two to three years, but Tara said she likes being able to save them from their fate. Her two current rats are 5-month-old Po and 3-year-old Ohm, who live in a large, elaborate cage full of toys. “They need a lot of space,” Tara said.

The rats eat typical food pellets, which Po and Ohm hold in their tiny, rat paws as they nibble. Sometimes they’re treated to foods such as fruit or unsalted french fries — Wendy’s seems to be their favorite, Tara said.

“One night Daniel was making spaghetti and he actually made Po and Ohm little plates of spaghetti,” she added.

Tara said many people would be surprised to find how intelligent and clean rats can be.

“They have about the intelligence of a dog,” she said. “Most rats can also be (litter box) trained. Sometimes they piddle where they go; they don’t have very good eyesight. They also groom themselves. They’re very clean animals.”

Tara and Daniel often refer to YouTube videos or rat forums for research, which they urge anyone interested in pet rats should do.

“My favorite part about having pet rats is watching them learn. It’s like watching a 2-year-old learn, essentially,” she said. “I love how smart they are and how much they feel. Most of my personal Instagram is pictures of my ratties.”

Do you own a cool pet that deserves to be in the newspaper? Submit digital photos to or mail prints to Pet of the Day, c/o the Daily News, P.O. Box 2949, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549. Be sure to include your name and city of residence. Photos cannot be returned. Pets must be living at the time of submission.


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