Critter Culture
The Wallaby: An Exotic Australian Companion
Small PetsExotic

The Wallaby: An Exotic Australian Companion

Theo, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Sep 10, 2020

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For Americans,  a pet wallaby is a chance to experience firsthand one of the wonderful creatures unique to the other side of the world. Classified as macropods, wallabies are similar to kangaroos but generally smaller. They're classified as exotic pets in the U.S. and require special attention to their living requirements. For people who live outside the city and have the space and dedication to accommodate them, wallabies can be endearing pets.

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1

Wallaby legal status and local requirements in the USA

A Tammar wallaby eating from a tree CraigRJD / Getty Images

Wallabies are exotic wildlife not native to the US, and state laws vary regarding their status. Some states ban all or nearly all exotic animals and wildlife as pets, while few states have no issues with wallaby ownership. Potential wallaby owners need to check with local authorities for specific information. Ironically, in Australia, owning a wallaby as a pet is illegal. The reason, apparently, is because they require such specific care.

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Wallabies need a special diet and living environment

Wallaby macropod found during sunset in Kangaroo Island. Ignacio Palacios / Getty Images

Wallabies are herbivores, so the bulk of their diet should be grass and plants. Ideally, your wallaby should have space to freely graze outdoors, as long as they're kept away from food and plants that are harmful to them, such as birdseed and red maple leaves. Pet wallabies are also fed special wallaby pellets, for which few substitutions are possible.

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Dealing with a wallaby breeder or ranch

"A Red-necked wallaby, Mount William National Park, Launceston, Tasmania,Related images:" keiichihiki / Getty Images

It's not necessary to import a pet wallaby, as they are bred in the U.S. Breeders will typically require potential owners to meet a set of strict criteria. This ensures they understand the special requirements for feeding and accommodating wallabies, and have the space and resources to do so. Until wallabies are weaned, they must be frequently bottle-fed. New owners must be ready to do so if they bring home a very young joey, as young wallabies are called. Asking a local exotic animal vet is an excellent way to find a reputable breeder.

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4

Wallaby longevity and care

A Rock wallaby

Wallabies can live nearly two decades in captivity with proper care and quality food. In addition to selenium and other supplements, periodic treatment for worm control and other infection prevention is necessary. The grass they eat from their pen must be chemical-free. In addition to pellets, they can eat some varieties of hay.

Wallabies' food and care need to meet their needs as creatures from a very different land. They need a climate with temperatures of 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a small shed available with heating or cooling (water spray, for instance) if needed.

Julien Viry / Getty Images

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5

Wallaby trainability

Man interacting with young wallaby, hand out

Wallabies are not typical house pets. They cannot be house trained, they're nocturnal, and their temperament can vary. Bennett's wallabies tend to be the most docile variety, and starting at a young age, wallabies can travel in a sling or relax at home with their owner.

Wallaby behaviors can be surprising: they can get quite slobbery when they bathe and cool themselves down, and their eating habits aren't great for indoors as they regurgitate and re-eat their food. Having a great exotic pet veterinarian who is ready for questions is essential.

4FR / Getty Images

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Wallabies are friendly but still wild animals

Wallaby at Edinburgh Zoo Jamie Fordyce / Getty Images

Wallabies are friendly and social, but they are essentially wild animals. In the wild and in zoos, they are often approachable, so it may be seem like a wallaby would naturally make a good pet, and, in most cases, a wallaby can be a good companion if cared for in the right way.

However, despite their sociability, always exercise caution with wallabies. Like kangaroos, one of their strongest defenses is kicks from their powerful legs. Since males can grow as big as 60 pounds and three feet fall, they can put some power into their defenses, too.

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7

Grooming your wallaby

Two wallabies, look like they're grooming each other

Wallabies usually take care of their own grooming, but ask your exotic animal vet if brushing your wallaby is appropriate as part of care when it cannot care for itself due to illness. Otherwise, you may enjoy the spectacle of a wallaby grooming itself, especially. Some owners prefer to keep several wallabies, which does require significantly more space but allows them to socialize and assist each other in self-care such as grooming.

AYImages / Getty Images

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8

Wallaby health issues

Heavy-looking wallaby

Wallabies have several typical but preventable heath problems. For example, selenium and vitamin E deficiency are common in wallabies but can be remedied with appropriate supplementation.

A bacterial mouth infection called lumpy jaw is both painful and persistent. A key element in preventing this jaw condition is avoiding food which contains whole seeds that stick between the teeth. Keeping the pen clean is important, as is taking your wallaby for regular vet exams.

julian40 / Getty Images

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9

Wallaby adaptability in family life

Wallaby Kangaroo Island sitting up macca236 / Getty Images

Recommendations for wallaby care are designed around their habits and needs. Wallabies need space, the right food, the ability to exercise their powerful muscles and, if possible, to socialize with other wallabies. Wallabies can be flexible, going along for a ride or hanging out in the house, but need a pen to call home that provides enough space for exercising and grazing.

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A place to jump: wallaby exercise needs

Wallaby jumping

While not quite like watching a gazelle, seeing a wallaby running free in the wild is an inspiring sight. It has powerful legs and speed, even able to both run and kick an opponent at the same time. In captivity, they need enough space to move around and use their energy freely, hence the 50 by 50-foot requirement for each wallaby. Wallabies can be prone to stress. Pens should be designed for room to move as well as to safely access rest, food, and water. They need to avoid conflict with others who are sharing the space. Along with exercise, a varying environment provides much-needed psychological stimulation as well.

jordieasy / Getty Images

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