Between the famed lost bird flooding local social media and claims of seeing an iguana on Court Street, Athens is becoming a petting zoo. It is home to pet lovers, but alongside the cats on leashes, friendly dogs and dorm room fish, there are plenty of other, less traditional pets in Athens.
Dog may be a man’s best friend, but for Carly Getter, a junior studying communication sciences and disorders, it is her pet rabbit who really makes her feel at home. Named Keeto, the bunny is litter-box trained and spends most of her time roaming around freely, only entering her kennel when Getter is not home.
Getter explained Keeto is the second rabbit she has owned and only seven months old. She said she got Keeto after her first rabbit passed away, a pet she had adopted because of their immediate bond.
“Almost a year ago, I went to the pet store, and I just had a soul connection with a rabbit,” Getter said. “I fell in love with it.”
After the passing of her first bunny, Getter decided she needed to continue to have rabbits in her life.
“I just fell in love with having a rabbit, they're kind of cool,” Getter said. “They're fun. They're very cat-like with a little bit of extra ‘fun-ness’ because they're a little bit weird. They're a really good pet because they love you, but they're also a little bit easier to take care of.”
Despite being a slightly easier pet, rabbits still certainly have a personality, as Keeto loves toys and will even pick them up at times. Getter said Keeto has strong emotions and is unafraid to hide them.
“If she's upset with me, and she wants me to know, she'll turn around and slam her feet on the floor as hard as she possibly can,” Getter said. “It'll make a really loud noise, like somebody punched a wall. She has her opinions about everything.”
Getter’s roommates also love Keeto, and she is well known among friends.
“If people bring their friends over, they're always coming to my room to meet Keeto,” Getter said. “So she's kind of like a little celebrity in our home.”
Chloe Mason, a senior studying music therapy, explained she wanted a rabbit, but her apartment would not allow it. Instead, she settled on rats. Mason has four of them: a father, Stolas; two brothers, Jake and Baby Boy, and a fourth rat, Nibbles.
Mason said each rat has a distinct personality. Jake is feisty and will chew on Mason’s things, Baby Boy is shy, Nibbles enjoys chewing on peoples’ toes, especially when they have socks on, and Stolas has a huge appetite.
“He (Stolas) is chunky,” Mason said. “He likes to eat all day every day, and he gets super feral. If you try to take a treat away, he'll just start squeaking and running away.”
Mason explained rats are simpler to take care of than many other animals, making them a great fit for her situation.
“Rats are a lot easier,” Mason said. “I just have to keep them entertained most of the time because they're really intelligent.”
Mason said her roommates enjoy her rats, although they do have to be careful. One roommate dabbles with unusual pets as well, and they must make sure the rats are never out at the same time as his snakes to ensure they are not eaten. Mason said both she and her roommate enjoy taking care of less typical pets.
Unusual pets extend outside of the home and into Court Street businesses, too. Silver Serpent Exotic Gifts, 55 N. Court St., is home to seven exotic pet snakes: one permanent Argentine Red Tail Boa, Circe, who measures about seven feet, and six temporary baby boas and ball pythons, three with scales and three without. The snakes are in the store courtesy of the shop owner, who is a wildlife rehabilitationist and an avid snake breeder in his free time.
Alex Stone, a store clerk, explained the snakes are taken care of by the shop employees.
“We all kind of collectively take care of the snakes,” Stone said. “The interesting part of working here is that we all play a part.”
Margo Roof, a store manager, explained working at the shop has completely changed her view of snakes.
“Before I started working here, I don't even think I held a snake,” Roof said. “I was terrified of them. It took me about two months to even hold Circe, the Argentine up there. When I got her on me, it was kind of like the whole weight of my fear just fell because she is so sweet.”
Enjoying the snakes is not limited to employees, as Roof explained. Customers are welcome to come in and handle the snakes anytime before 7 p.m., with the cut off time ensuring the snakes are not handled by intoxicated visitors.
Snakes are also available for purchase through the store owner, although Roof explained buyers must complete a lengthy snake-owning test to prove they are capable of ownership.
“He does want to make sure you know everything about these snakes and that nothing is gonna happen to it because they are very expensive, and they are very precious little things,” Roof said. “So it takes a lot of work to even be able to buy one, but if you qualify, you'll get the best thing that you can.”
Untraditional pets can be difficult to take care of, as people often have had less exposure to how they should be handled, but they can be incredibly rewarding.
Mason said any potential pet owner should consider their options and find what will truly be best for them.
“Every animal has a pro and con,” Mason said. “You should find an animal that fits you and your environment the best.”