Animal Bucket List
It’s sometimes easy as humans to forget that we share this planet with so many other living creatures – and that those creatures have their own lives beyond us eating and wearing them.
When you engage with the world’s animals, you engage better with the world around you. Animals teach you empathy, kindness, curiosity, and the transient, fleeting nature of life itself. Once you go swimming with piggies, you might rethink that bacon sandwich. After a splash with some elephants, you might not be so keen on that ivory piano.
It’s easy dissociate the products we consume from the animals they’re made of when we never come into contact with them. We’re not saying you should go full vegan, but awareness and mindfulness is key. And it doesn’t hurt that some of them are just SO CUTE.
Can you imagine yourself zooming across snow-white open plains, with just your pack of trusty dogs for company? Nothing is more rugged than that!
A zoo keepers’ life is hard work – it’s not just about hugging all the animals! A lot of time goes into preparing their food, keeping their enclosures clean, and generally making sure they’re okay. You’ll have a good nights’ sleep knowing that all the animals in your care are happy and well-fed, though.
Isn’t it disgusting how we treat creatures on this earth? We eat them, trap them in cages, shoot them for fun, make them produce things for us, test things on them, wear their skins… the list is endless. Our belief that we are somehow inherently better than animals, that we have more right to live here than they do, is misguided and destructive. Find somewhere that treats animals badly and call it out – protest, boycott, don’t let them get away with it!
Baby elephants are dependent on their mothers for the first three or so years of their lives, as there’s a lot they need to learn before they can look after themselves. They are playful, friendly, and very intelligent, so you must be respectful if you come into contact with an elephant family. There are elephant sanctuaries in Thailand where you can meet these beautiful animals and give them a cuddle.
When you buy eggs from the supermarket, it’s easy to forget where they come from. That they aren’t produced the way that all our other packaged goods are, but that they are often forced out of chickens trapped in cages for that sole purpose. Owning and caring for your own chickens means that they’ll have a better quality of life, and that each time you eat an egg you know it was made sustainably and with love.
The easiest way to do this is to get a puppy and train them from there, but just because it’s easier doesn’t mean it’s easy. Some breeds are much better at learning and listening to commands than others, so keep that in mind if you want a buddy that will do tricks at your beck and call. It is absolutely worth it though, as dogs that are mentally stimulated are ultimately much happier, and you’ll never get a better friend.
These days milking a cow is a bit of a lost art – even people who live on farms tend to get machines to do it. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth learning, as any process that helps you bond with an animal that’s providing food for you is very much worth doing. Appreciate where milk and dairy products come from by squeezing out the milk yourself, and it will be all the more delicious.
Sure, those cute fluffy puppies at the pet store are adorable, but if you’ve got a home to share and some extra love in your heart, rescuing a dog will be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. A rescue dog knows what life is like outside of your house, so it will be thankful for every dinner, every walk, every cuddle on the couch. It’s hard sometimes as they can take a bit of time to settle in, but everyone deserves a second chance and a bit of tenderness – especially dogs.
They say that if you want something that will worship you, get a dog; but if you want something who’s love you have to earn, get a cat. Cats are easier pets to manage because they don’t demand much of your time – you don’t have to walk them, they keep themselves clean, and they will keep your house mouse-free. Once you’ve earned a cat’s affection, you will have a best friend for life – they actually prefer human interaction to food!
Be careful if you choose to do this – starfish need to be underwater to breathe so if you must touch them, leave them underwater. Be very gentle and don’t bend them, as starfish are delicate and can break quite easily. And if it’s attached to any rocks, be careful when you pick it up as you might damage their little tube feet. The general rule with things from the ocean is that they are beautiful to look at, but you probably shouldn’t touch them.
How many hugs can a koala bear? Find out by visiting Australia and giving one a cuddle! Koalas typically sleep most of the day, so they won’t mind clinging on to you instead of a tree branch. Share some eucalyptus leaves with your new mate and you’ll have a friend for life!
If you’ve been single for a while, this can’t hurt, right? Actually, it can hurt the frog as their skin is very sensitive and humans have oils and salts on their hands that can irritate or even kill it. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get up close with one – just be careful about touching them.
Fireflies are actually a type of nocturnal beetle, and they tend to live in warm environments and come out on summer evenings. Their little bodies flash in a bright luminescent glow to attract mates. When you look out across a swarm of them blinking and flashing, it’s like your own personal light show – something that you really must see at least once.
While you may not have thought it, pigs actually love swimming – and are surprisingly good at it! Head to the Bahamas where one island is uninhabited except for dozens of feral pigs, and go for a dip in the crystal clear waters with them. It’s an unbearably cute yet tropical experience!
Being there the minute an animal gives birth is the perfect way to experience the miracle of life. Watch as the mother begins to bond with their new offspring and the tentative first steps of the brand-new baby. No matter how many times you see it happen, it will still amaze you.
Cats are a great pet if you live in an apartment and work full time, or if you have a family with young kids. They fit into your lifestyle much more easily than dogs as they are far less demanding of your time and tend to look after themselves. That doesn’t mean they’re not loving and affectionate – nothing better than curling up on the couch after a long day’s work with a kitten on your belly!
Owning a turtle is expensive to get started, but they actually make really cool pets. In most countries you will need to have a reptile license in order to own one, and this involves making sure they have an appropriate enclosure to live in. They’re not as cuddly as a cat or dog, but it’s fun to watch them pop their little noses out of the water to see what’s going on.
Ducks are surprisingly sassy and loyal pets – they’re much smarter than people give them credit for. They are friendly and affectionate, and love following you around in the sun. If you get a pet duck, make sure you have a backyard with space for a paddling pool and plenty of grass. Do some research about the different kinds of duck – like dogs, you want to get one that will suit your lifestyle.
It takes a fair amount of time since they have to slowly swallow it whole. Snakes have teeth for killing their prey, but not for chewing it, so they have to get the whole animal in at once and let their stomach juices digest it slowly. This means they don’t have to eat all that often, which is good because the whole process sounds horrendous.
It is scientifically proven that kittens are the cutest thing ever to exist (puppies are obviously great too, but kittens are so little!). Give a sleepy kitten a cuddle and a little kiss on its head – and then another one from me.
Kids tend to be obsessed with butterflies, and when you think about it, it makes sense. Butterflies are gentle, friendly, delicate, and colourful, and the metamorphosis they go through from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly is fascinating. Maybe we should all take a note out of kids’ books and appreciate the gentle, fleeting beauty of the butterfly.
Spider webs are truly magnificent pieces of art when you look at them up close – they’re intricate, delicate, and finely detailed. If you’ve ever seen one sprawled between two trees, you’ve probably wondered how on earth a spider did that – next time you get the chance, actually watch one do it. It’s slow-going, but the end result is spectacular.
Butterflies are gentle and delicate, and once they emerge from their cocoon, they last only a few weeks before passing on. So if a butterfly lands on you, it is quite the privilege that they’ve chosen to spend their very limited time clinging to your shirt.
Nothing signals the beginning of summer like the loud hum of cicadas. Cicadas are winged insects that live in swarms, or broods, and each species has a different song which they use as a mating call. You’ll know they’re around by the shells of their old skins that they leave behind as they grow bigger. While they may look a little scary, cicadas don’t sting or bite, and when you hold them up to the light their wings have a rainbow hue.
You don’t give the coolest sounding name to just any old insect – dragonflies are awesome. One of the first winged insects to evolve, fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet! They can fly up straight up and down and hover like a helicopter, and can see in almost every direction at once. While they can’t sting you, they’ve got pretty sharp teeth and can give you a solid bite.
Rats are intelligent and easily tamed, and love to be handled and played with, which makes them excellent pets. While wild rats have all sorts of diseases due to living in our sewers, pet rats are actually very clean. They’re also very social, so you’re best off getting at least a pair – just make sure they’re the same sex, or you’ll have a huge rat family in no time!
Hamsters are considered a starter pet for a reason – they are small, inexpensive to buy and look after, can amuse themselves and love to play with you. They also come in a wide range of colors and shapes, so you can find one that suits you. They’re good company and won’t bite the mailman, which makes them a pretty great pet all round!
Monkeys are our closest animal cousin, and when you get up close with one you can see why. They’re intelligent, quick, and do everything with their tiny little hands – just like us! Visit India to meet wild monkeys who have made the cities their homes. Just be careful they don’t steal anything else from you – they’ve been known to take wallets and mobile phones…
Mush with your own team of huskies through a European winter wonderland. Crossing frozen lakes and rivers, you might spot a moose or reindeer from the back of your sled. If you do an overnight expedition, you might even get to witness the magnificent Northern Lights! A perfect way to experience the winter wilderness.
Is there anything more romantic than riding a horse down a beach at sunset? If there is, I’d love to hear it. Clip-clop them down the wet sand and into the shallow waves or gallop down the long beach – either way, the freedom of riding a horse on the beach must be experienced at least once.
There are places all over the world where you can get up close and personal with dolphins, usually either on the beach or off a boat with a snorkel. Dolphins are very intelligent and very curious, so if you’re swimming in their space they’ll probably come up to check you out. Remember you’re in their environment, so let them come to you on their own.
Magnificent, wise old owls are actually birds of prey, which is why they are not commonly found in pet stores (wizarding pet stores, maybe). Head to a wildlife sanctuary where specially trained staff will let you hold an owl – or more accurately, let one perch on you. Depending on their disposition and whether they like you, you can give them a little pat. You can ask one to deliver a letter for you, but you’ll probably just get a withering stare – owls don’t have time for your jokes.
It looks cool as hell. Not as effective as a regular scarf though, as snakes are cold-blooded. You can head to a reptile park where one of the keepers will let you play with a python or some sort of non-venomous snake – they’re surprisingly soft and not at all slimy or scaly as you might expect.
Orangutans are beautiful, intelligent, cheeky, curious, and remarkably similar to us humans. While it’s not recommended that you hug them when you meet them (it can interfere with their rehabilitation and expose them to disease), visiting an orangutan sanctuary is a great chance to see them up close. As they are an endangered species, meeting them in person will show you just how important it is to protect them and keep their habitats intact.
If you’ve ever wanted to get over your fear of spiders, this saturation technique just might work. Tarantulas are known to be fairly docile creatures that will sit on your hand or wander up your arm. You don’t have to be too worried about them biting you, but of course if the legs freak you out then it’s going to be a struggle…
If you’ve seen Jaws you probably have a healthy fear of the ocean due to sharks. While sharks do attack people, overall they tend not to – we’re not their preferred prey. Hop in a cage so you can get up close and personal with these marine beasts – you’ll find their power and beauty much more impressive than scary.
Take a swamp tour in New Orleans or hop on an airboat in Florida to see how gators live out in the wild. Once you have a healthy appreciation of just how big and powerful they are, giving a baby one a cuddle will be a much weirder experience. They’re great for selfies coz they always look like they’re grinning cheekily, even if they’re actually thinking about how they can’t wait to chomp you when they get a bit bigger.
Bathing an elephant is a nicer way to experience and play with one up close than hopping on its back for a ride – a practice that has been mostly discontinued for its cruelty. Head to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where you can visit an elephant reserve and meet them up close. Elephants are very playful and love water, so hopping in a river with them for a splash is something you’ll both enjoy!