The Unusual Pets Society has a network around the world and meets online once a month. TUPS has a convention every second year, each time in a different country. The next meeting will be in September 2017 in Palermo. An unusual pet is defined as one that can be either transported around the world without disobeying any quarantine laws or one that can be smuggled in and out without any detrimental effect on the local population.

Unusual pets include wood lice, but not lice, house bricks but not house sparrows, sticks but not stick insects, and grass but not grass snakes. In other words, most of these pets are inanimate objects, but some are small insects whose appeal is not generally shared by the public.

At the monthly meetings, people take it in turns to talk about the appeal of their pets. For example, at the most recent meeting, Ronald Edwards of Wichita talked about the reasons why he preferred Timothy grass over Fescue and how he used to take his grass for walks in a small cart. Most people assumed he was a mobile gardener rather than a pet owner taking his grass for a walk around town.

People seek advice about what constitutes an unusual pet as opposed to an exotic pet. Exotic pets tend to be large, wild animals who don’t know they’re being kept as pets and are in no sense tame. Unusual pets are tame already and don’t have to be house-trained.  

The chair of TUPS for 2016, Andy Lynch says: “TUPS is usually viewed as a bunch of weirdoes, who have house bricks for pets, but in one way it is very practical. Bricks don’t consume food or drink and are cheap to keep, no licence required. It’s the same with grass, for example. And they’re a lifelong companion who won’t die or become temperamental and require enormous vet bills in later life. Even a real live creature, such as a wood louse, can be fed on some old wood and kept in a matchbox on long journeys. It doesn’t have to have a pet passport for international travel.”