Can You Own A Pet Quokka?

Do quokkas make good pets? No, definitely not. I know, they are the cutest little creatures on earth but it’s impossible to keep one as a pet. It’s not only that they are very difficult to care for. Quokkas are also illegal to keep in every country of the world.

Smiling quokka looking into the camera

Not everyone who is reading this article has ever heard of quokkas so I’m going to describe the animal in a few general sentences in the next section.

What Is A Quokka?

Quokkas are marsupials like kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, possums and koalas with the size of a house cat. The term “marsupial” describes species where the mother carries her offspring in an abdominal pouch.

Even if the first explorers who discovered quokkas thought they were giant rats (that’s why the island with the largest population is called Rottnest) they look like miniature kangaroos and have also similarities with groundhogs and capybaras.

People are referring to quokkas as the happiest animal on earth as it seems they are always smiling. Visitors from all over the world visit Rottnest to take a selfie with one of the little critters. They are curious and will even look into the camera.

Woman making selfie with quokka

All the funny and cute selfies around social media arouse the desire in many people to own a quokka as a pet.

#1 Pet Quokkas Are Illegal

Sadly quokkas are endangered. Experts estimate that only 12,000 individuals roam through southwest Australia, the majority at Rottnest island. The main threats are habitat loss and invasive predators like foxes.

The Rottnest Island Authority Act from 1987 regulates how humans are allowed to interact with quokkas. And let me say, the law is very strict in this case. You are not even allowed to touch a quokka in the wild.

If someone from the legislative would catch you doing it, you are fined $300. And it gets more expensive if you take one from the wild or even try to transport it to another country.

Even if most western countries like the USA and Canada have their own laws to protect endangered species around the world from poaching, the Australian laws are enough to make it impossible to own a quokka as a pet.

But what if they were legal? Would they actually make good pets?

#2 Quokkas Aren’t Domesticated

Two curious quokkas coming towards at me

After all the legal aspects, domestication is one of the major concerns in exotic pets of any kind. And it’s not different with quokkas.

Most people think of cats and dogs when they hear the word domestication. However, other animals can be domesticated too. Surprisingly some ostrich species are domesticated for example. It’s also the same with some other kinds of poultry.

However, quokkas aren’t domesticated and they will never be. Of course, they can be tame, are accustomed to humans and can be docile. But domestication means the process of selective breeding over many generations.

The problem with wild animals like quokkas is, that they can show bad behavior when kept by humans. They seem to smile all day but they can become aggressive and destructive little beasts.

Often this is out of frustration because they are kept the wrong way and are bored.

Additionally, quokkas use their urine to mark their territory. It’s nearly impossible to litter train them. A potential owner would have to clean up all the mess after them.

#3 Quokkas Aren’t Always Friendly

Happy quokka looking into the camera

Even though they are considered the happiest animal on earth that doesn’t mean you could catch them on the wrong foot. Their “smile” doesn’t have anything to do with their real mood.

Ok, most of the time they are friendly and curious. In all the pictures it looks like they have fun hanging around with humans.

But if they feel threatened or provoked they can turn into attacking monsters. This is especially true when quokkas are cornered or have babies (which are called joeys) with them.

Their sharp claws might not kill a human but they can be very painful nonetheless.

#4 It’s Hard To Care For A Pet Quokka

Quokkas are native to a very special region. They need warm temperatures, sometimes it’s not raining for months. Pet owners who adopt a quokka would have a hard time mimicking their natural habitat unless they live in Australia.

Another thing that needs much attention is the diet of quokkas. They are mostly herbivores but eat small animals like snails and lizards from time to time. 

You would have a hard time feeding a quokka what it knows from Australia in America. Many plants just don’t grow in other places.

#5 You Won’t Find A Veterinarian

As there are no pet quokkas you would have a hard time finding a vet who has the experience to treat your furry friend. While there might be some vets who rescued and treated quokkas in Australia there is no one in America or Canada.

Ok, perhaps it’s enough if you can find someone who has experience in marsupials in general. But I bet it’s not very different. Typically vets who are able to treat rare species work full-time in zoos, animal parks or sanctuaries.

Additionally, all the legal aspects kick in here as well. A veterinarian who treats a pet which is illegal to keep would have to report that to the legislative. Often these people want to protect both the individual animal as well as the species in general.

#6 Pet Quokkas Do Cost A Lot Of Money

There are no quokkas for sale. So you would have a hard time finding a baby quokka you can buy at the local pet store or from a breeder.

Perhaps you can find one at the black market. But you would have to pay very high prices that likely exceed the amount of tenth of thousands of dollars. The trader would carry an enormous risk which must be compensated with the sales price.