If you're anything like me, if something catches even your slight interest, you need to find out anything and everything about it that you can. Who was that band who does that song? I must find everything that they've ever done. Who invented that thing? Wow, I must know how they invent that, and anything else that they've invented. I can get lost in Wikipedia for hours. My latest obsession is a bit of a strange one. For once, I decided to write down as much as I can about this obsession before I veer away from it. At least then it'll serve a purpose for others. What was it this time?
Owning a pet wallaby.
Yeah, that's basically it. A wallaby is a mini-kangaroo. And yes, that really is almost all there is to it. The definition of wallaby is kind of hazy, and can mean pretty much any medium-sized macropod (or Macropodidae, a family under the infraclass Marsupialia, biologically speaking). There are about thirty known species of wallaby.
"Now when you say 'medium-sized'..."
The biggest wallaby can get to be six feet long, though half of that would be tail. That's about a third the size of a big kangaroo. That big wallaby would also weigh between thirty and fifty pounds, far smaller than a big dog. The most common wallaby to have as a pet is the Bennett's Wallaby, which is one of the bigger species.
"What do wallabies eat?"
Other smaller wallabies.
Kidding. No, they just eat wallaby food. They're herbivores, so they mostly eat grass and leaves. That brings me to the biggest reason behind their rise in pet popularity: they mow your lawn for you. Of course, they can't JUST eat the grass in the yard; they need other stuff too. Happy Hopper brand Kangaroo and Wallaby food is a popular one, though obviously you can't go down to PetCo and buy it. You probably need to order it, and ordering 40lb bags of food can be expensive. You can use a mix of horse and rabbit feed. You can also feed them various fruits and veggies (though broccoli and lettuce/cabbage give them horrible belly-aches and gas).
"Sooo....after they eat all these plants...."
Allegedly, wallabies can be housetrained, or at the least paper-trained. Here's where my "simple researcherness" comes to light. MOST things I've read say that wallabies can be housetrained. A few say not so much. All seem to agree that if you want it done, start early. No different than a dog or cat though. Good news is, wallaby poop comes in small easy-to-clean-up pellets!
"...and where do these things sleep?"
Once they're adults, they pretty much lounge around wherever they want during the day. At night, they prefer a pouch. And that's another great thing about wallabies, they can be put in a handy carrying case/tote bag! Just make (or have made, for you non-crafty Etsy customer types) a warm snuggly thick fleece pouch. You can hang it on a wall, and they'll hop right in and go to sleep.
"...but you carry them around?"
Early on in life, they need to be socialized, just like any other animal. You carry them around in a pouch with you to meet your friends and neighbors and all. When they're adults, they'll hop next to you on a harness and leash if you don't feel like carrying a forty pound animal around. Plus, let's face it, you wouldn't be interested in owning a wallaby if you didn't want people to stare and ask you about it...which they will.
"So these things live in Australia, right? I live in [insert name of geographical area with climate dissimilar to Australia here]..."
Wallabies are pretty adaptive, if you don't live in barren sunny Australia. Bennett's Wallabies are more likely to be effected by extreme heat than extreme cold. They can even stand freezing winters, as long as they get enough outside time in the fall. This way, they can adapt and grow a winter coat. Having said all that, they are still furry animals. If there's weather you wouldn't want a dog to stay out in, chances are your wallaby doesn't want to be left out in it either.
"â€¦and these things are legal?"
I don't know; I'm not a lawyer. Generally, though, yes. State laws are usually quite open to wallaby ownership. City laws can be a different story though. Always check local laws. This site might be a good start.
"Okay, fine, I know more than I've ever wanted to know about taking care of them. Why would I want one as a pet?"
Besides the "pet lawnmower" thing, they're just cool pets. They have good pet personalities. Pet personalities are important. Chimps, for example, have been known to eat people's faces off. In case you were wondering: that qualifies as a bad pet personality. Wallabies won't chew on your face so much as lick your hands and arms for minutes at a time. And before anyone in the back of the room raises their hand, no, they don't have some crazy alien acid spit, so: a rather good pet personality. They're social creatures, and will do well with other animals and people. They have big goofy feet, and tiny little t-rex arms, both bonuses.
"Yeah, okay, if they were such dream-boats, we would all have one..."
And we should!
OKay, yeah. You're right; every pet has its drawbacks. Wallabies are no different. Assuming you don't mind being "those people that have the kangaroo thing in their yard, that can't be legal, I'm calling animal control," we'll start with the biggest barrier of entry to Wallaby World: these suckers are expensive. In the USA, it averages about $1000 just for the animal, and, depending on your breeder, a starter kit (in some parts of the world they've caught on a little faster and are much less pricey). Cheaper than some dogs, but not some-mutt-from-the-pound-cheap, either. That's another issue. You can't just run down to the local shelter and pick one out. There are a lot of exotic animal breeders, and more are starting up all the time, but there's still no telling how far you'll have to travel to find one.
Next is the biggest inconvenience: you'll need a fence, like a five to six foot fence to keep your wallaby from becoming possibly your runaway wallaby. Plus, they need a yard to hop around in, so they're not the pet for apartment dwellers. On the subject of hopping, like a dog, you'll want to teach them to stay off of certain things. They'll hop up on sofas and beds (not a huge problem), as well as tables and countertops (kind of a huge problem). Add to that the fact that half of the length of a wallaby is tail, which is sure to be swinging into whatever fragile and easily knocked over thing it can find, and you could have a little Australian wrecking ball on your hands.
There's also some behavior unique to wallabies and kangaroos. They like to play-box. Like Muhammad Ali boxing. You'll want to teach them not to do that as well. It's cute when they're little, but not when your fifty-pound adult wallaby wants your welterweight title while you're trying to watch Big Bang Theory. Also, they like water. They'll hop around in kiddie pools and things. If you happen to be taking a bath with the bathroom door not shut all the way, don't be surprised when you're quite suddenly joined by a hairy Australian...and I don't mean Russell Crowe. Unless of course you named your wallaby Russell Crowe...in which case, I don't want to know about it.
One more thing--and not necessarily a drawback. You're best raising your wallaby while they're still being bottle-fed. This is the best way to bond with it and teach it that humans are awesome. You won't need to bottle feed it for a long time; you can typically get bottle and marsupial nipples (*don't giggle, don't giggle, don't giggle...*) from your breeder, and they can be fed Esbilac puppy formula. Still, it's something most people won't want to do, and understandably so.
So, that is wallaby ownership in a rather small nutshell. If you're looking for a unique, cuddly, adorable, and useful pet, this one might just be for you. As always, check local laws, search the phone book for vets that deal with "exotics," and find yourself a reputable breeder. For more information, contact your local library or just use Google like you were going to anyway.