Heard any strange animal noises lately? Like chattering chimps, hissing snakes, grunting pigs, squawking parrots and snapping turtles?
You may think your ears are deceiving you, but many suburban back gardens and kitchen conservatories are becoming second homes to a host of weird and wonderful exotic pets – from royal pythons, iguanas and chipmunks to chinchillas and raccoons.
Garden sheds are rattling with ring-tailed lemurs, kitchens are chattering with cockatoos and sofas heaving with curly tailed micro-pigs.
Fortunately, many of these animals have found wonderful homes with Irish pet enthusiasts and herpetologists (who study amphibians) who are committed to giving them a fulfilling life in a healthy environment.
We tracked down some of Ireland's most unique pet owners and met their amazing creatures.
These little piggies
I came across teacup pigs on the internet five years ago. I was immediately smitten. I just had to have one of those gorgeous little pigs, so I contacted Rob Rose, who is a micro-pig breeder in England. I travelled over to the UK to see them.
My husband, Cormac, and our two sons, Barry and Sean, discussed it and we decided to get not one but two pregnant sows, who are called Lottie and Polly. Later on, we got a male boar known as Wilburt.
They were adorable when they came home. A few months later, they gave birth to eight piglets – four girls and four boys. I kept the females for breeding and then sold on the little fellas to friends who also love micro-pigs.
The level of interest in these loveable pets encouraged me to continue breeding them, and I set up my own website with the help of my brother called micropigfarm.ie.
Lottie and Polly sometimes potter around the kitchen when they aren't mucking around in the yard. In the summer, they love a big hose down with cool water and they dry off in the sunshine.
In fact, contrary to perceptions, these pigs are very clean, intelligent and easily toilet trained. They love to curl up on the big bean bag here and snuggle under a large fluffy blanket beside us in the evening.
It's lovely to sit back and hear them give the odd contented 'oink, oink'. They get on great with my three dogs. You can see them smiling with their little snouts.
To really get to know the pig, you must first earn the piglet's trust and win them over emotionally. They won't go with anyone and don't like it if strangers pick them up. They will squeal – just like any child, I guess.
But once you win them over, they will love you unconditionally and shower you with affection. One little piggy follows me around the kitchen all day long.
I always had a certain fascination with pigs. I used to collect memorabilia, from little ornaments to teacups decorated with pigs, when I was younger and when I used to run a flower shop in Dundalk. It's great to have the real thing snuggling up beside me now.