Some people do weird stuff. Others just own weird pets. And by weird I mean not your usual run-of-the-mill Labrador, Siamese cat, Guinea pig, etc. Take a look below at some of the pets we found that celebrities have shared their homes with…
Michael Jackson – Bubbles the chimpanzee
Bubbles, Michael Jackson’s chimpanzee, is probably the most famous bizaare pet, since Jackson took Bubbles with him almost everywhere in the 1980s – even when, during his Bad World Tour, he had tea with the mayor of Osaka, Japan.
Bubbles was born in 1983 in an Austin (Texas) research facility, but it’s unclear exactly how Jackson came to own him. Once he got Bubbles though, he quickly went over the top… having the chimp sleep in a crib in his room, dressing him in matching outfits and feeding him at the dinner table. In fact, it was this eccentric behaviour that first led the media to call Jackson ‘Wacko Jacko’.
Eventually, Bubbles matured into an aggressive adult and had to be moved to an animal sanctuary in California, where some sources say Michael and his young children visited him. The sanctuary closed in 2004 and since then Bubbles has been living at the Center for Great Apes in Florida.
In a suitably strange ending to the story, it was reported that in 2003 Bubbles tried to commit suicide, though no details were released. It seems he has recovered, however, as employees at the Florida sanctuary report that he enjoys painting, listening to flute music and sitting around with his best friend Sam, a 40 year old chimp.
Mike Tyson – racing pigeons
There are a lot of things associated with Mike Tyson these days – face tattoos, ear biting but originally of course – boxing. But did you know that Tyson has a soft spot for racing pigeons? Neither did I until I started doing research for this blog post. He even kept pigeons as pets when he was a child.
And in a roundabout way, they got him into boxing in the first place. When Tyson was nine, an older boy from the estate he grew up allegedly snatched one of his beloved pets away from him, then made Tyson watch as he broke its neck. Tyson flew into a rage and severely beat the other boy and was then recruited into a gang. He got sent to juvenile prison many times, eventually being sent to Tryon School for Boys, the prison where he met his first boxing coach, Bobby Stewart, who worked there at the time.
Now Tyson is set to star in a TV show on Animal Planet called “Taking on Tyson”, where he’ll get involved in competitive pigeon racing. Though it’s not clear if he’ll be using one of the 1700 birds he already owns.
Hugh Hefner – exotic birds and monkeys
Though you may only associate him with “bunnies”, Hugh Hefner is actually quite the animal lover. The Playboy Mansion has an official zoo permit, and it is home to more than 100 species of birds. There are also a large number of monkeys, with red handed tamarins (image below), squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys and capuchins all in residence.
Some rather conservative estimates suggest he has paid around £163k for his family of monkeys. Woh.
Nicolas Cage – two albino king cobras
Like most of the people in this list, one bizarre pet is not enough for Nicolas Cage. He is in one of my top five favourite films of all time which I can watch every single time its on TV or Sky, namley Con Air: “Put the Bunny back in the box” is a classic line, but I digress… So, he has owned an octopus, a lizard, sharks and a crocodile.
His neighbours finally drew the line when he admitted on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he kept two albino king cobras in a specially constructed cell.
He claimed that he liked to watch them with a glass of wine in one hand and a bottle of antidote within reach, saying it was “kinda like driving 190 miles per hour in a sportscar with a scotch – the adrenalin levels go up.” When his neighbours heard this, they campaigned to have the animals removed, and Cage soon donated them to a local zoo.
John Quincy Adams – an alligator in the White House
Modern-day celebrities aren’t the only people with strange pets. John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States (who says this blog isn’t a source of education!), kept an alligator in the White House for several months. Holding office from 1825 to 1829, he was given the alligator by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1826. Adams was known as a great diplomat and negotiator, but I’m sure the threat of an alligator in the East Wing didn’t hurt negotiations!
That’s not the only strange animal kept at the White House during his presidential terms. His wife, Louisa, raised silkworms, though not as pets so much as a steady source of silk for her many, many dresses. The Obamas are not as adventurous, owning one pet – a Portuguese water dog named Bo.
Salvador Dali – anteater and ants
One of my favourite artists of all time, Salvador Dali was shot for a pretty famous 1969 issue of Paris Match walking his pet giant anteater. Though we don’t have the rights to show the image, you can find it in Google search fairly easily. We do know that Dali was fascinated by anteaters, which was largely the influence of Andre Breton, who was call the le tamanoir (the anteater) by other artists. Dali dedicated a sketch of an anteater-inspired figure to Breton, and that sketch was made into bookplates which Breton used in his own books. (More on Dali here.)
He also included ants in many of his artworks and this fascination with ants has a rather strange explanation. When Dali was a young boy he had a pet bat. One day he found it dead and covered in ants. He then developed a fascination with, and fear of, ants which is perhaps (?) another reason to explain his love of anteaters.
What we don’t know for certain is if Dali actually owned the anteater that is portrayed as the pet in the photograph. Anteaters are incredibly smelly, and they are fairly difficult to feed. When in captivity, they can eat mushed-up dog food and some vegetation, though it is hard to get the nutritional balance just right. Still, they are wild animals, so he would have needed special training and licences just to keep one.
Other weird pests pets owned by celebrities
Are there any other weird ones you have heard of, or really obvious ones we have missed out? Answers on a postcard. No, not really – just let us know here in the comments section.