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Nocturnal Pets

The Martha Stewart Show, October 2010

Some of the most popular animals at Marc Morrone's Parrots of the World pet shop are nocturnal animals that stay awake during the night.

Animals become nocturnal to avoid daytime predators or take advantage of a nighttime habitat or food source. Every order of animals -- mammals, reptiles, amphibians, even fish -- has nocturnal members known for their advanced senses of smell and hearing. Here are some that make great pets.

Hamster
A low-maintenance pet, hamsters sleep during the day in the wild but once domesticated, they will happily wake to play. They are grain eaters, and their eyes appear black because the iris is extra-large to allow the maximum amount of light inside.

Hedgehog
The friendly hedgehog is an insectivore that requires relatively little care and eats dry cat food. Native to Africa, hedgehogs became popular as pets in the United States about 30 years ago.

African Spiny Mice
Hailing from Egypt, African spiny mice are extremely gentle creatures with textured hair that feels like the quill of a hedgehog mixed with a piece of fur. As an added bonus, these desert animals drink very little water, which means they urinate rarely and are odor-free.

West African Fruit Bat
Bats are popular as pets in countries such as Japan, but their winged charms have not yet become mainstream in the U.S. Though they look like rodents, they are actually in a class by themselves (chiroptera), and are the only mammals capable of true flight.

Leopard Gecko
Native to the desert of Pakistan, leopard geckos store fat in their large tails and can go weeks between feedings. When kept as pets, they will go to the bathroom in only one corner of their cage, similar to a cat.

Sugar Glider
These marsupials from Southeast Asia require lots of care. Their diet consists largely of fruit, which can result in a sticky and smelly cage that needs cleaning regularly.