Should I get one?
Many people choose to keep exotic and unconventional pets. An exotic pet is generally defined as animal that hasn't been domesticated and isn't routinely seen in the pet trade. From reptiles like Iguanas to Umbrella Cockatoos, these pets require special attention that some people just can't provide. Many end up abaondonded in shelters or left at zoos.
Should you purchase an exotic pet? Some exotic pets, like parrots, will be very happy with a proper human companion. However many should NEVER be purchased by an indivdual to keep as a "pet". Tigers and lions are not pets. These are wild and dangerous animals.
How do you know if an exotic is right for you? Research the animal. Exotics require a lot of research before your purchase. There are several questions you should ask yourself before a purchase:
How big will the animal get? Can you house it?
As with tigers, baby anythings are cute and cuddly. When that bear you bought weighs more than you, is it really going to have the same appeal? If you're not going to have the space, don't get it. If it's going to get too big for you to manage, don't get it. Go visit one in a zoo instead.
Is it legal?
Many pets are illegal in some states. California has banned most exotic pets. If you are caught with an exotic and it's illegal, you can be fined and your pet can be taken away. The laws are so different in every state that this is another point you'll have to research.
Is there a vet?
All animals need veternary care at some point. If the nearest certified vet is 3 states away, don't purchase that reptile! Most veterniarians are not certified to treat exotics. Birds and reptiles qualify. A doctor must be certified to treat them. Find a vet before you buy the pet. Don't wait until there is an emergency to find out that there is nobody who's even heard of a Fennec Fox in your area.
Will my kids and other pets be safe? Will my exotic be safe with my dog?
An animal as common as a ferret can be deadly to other pets. Others, like sugar gliders, can be stressed to death or killed by the family dog. Be sure your house is compatiable.
Some exotics are unsafe for children as they have sharp claws and/or teeth, nervous tendancies and agression and are prone to bite. Kids often press pets past their breaking points. You don't want an animal that is quick to attack around your five-year-old son, especially if that animal can do some real damage. Don't trust, "My child will isten to me and leave the pet alone." It's not worth hurting your child to test his curiosity levels.
You should also consider that some exotics carry disease. Reptiles, for example, are often carriers of salmonella. Be sure you know the proper disinfective measure and teach your kids to respect that! A turtle is a perfectly safe pet and you won't get anything from it if you disinfect.
Do you have the time?
Some exotics, like snakes, will be fine if left alone. Others, like parrots, need constant attention. They are like little kids and if you leave them alone bad things will happen. Pets aren't just pretty things to look at and cart out in front of your friends. They are living things that need attention. Some exotics will even mutilate themselves without the proper care.
Is information available?
Many exotics don't have much available information about their care. I found this out when I tried to raise sugar gliders many years ago (more info is available now) and I couldn't find anything about their proper diets. Mine eventually died from malnutrition despite my efforts to reproduce their wild diets in captivity and mine were better fed than most at the time. It used to be advised to feed Pygmy Hedgehogs "just cat food". Chichilla feed requirements have came a long way since their introduction to the pet trade too. Point being, there is a lot we don't know about "new" pet animals. As they are cared for by more and more people, we learn more about them.
An experienced animal caregiver can monitor the diet and the animal and perhaps find out more about the species's requirements however I would highly recommend that someone just starting in exotic pets (and I assue you are or you wouldn't be reading this article) start with a well documented pet where you have a chance for success!
Can I afford it?
Many exotic pets have exotic food with exotic prices. It's been my experience that exotic pet health care is also a bit pricey. Combine this with the fact that most exotics are a bit more destructive than your average dog (exotics are wild animals after all, they don't understand houses) and you have a money pit. If you're not sure if you can afford it, you should wait until you can to buy your pet.
If you follow this adive and you still want an exotic, you're more than likely off to a beautiful relationship. Be sure you pick a reptuable breeder and ask any questions you might have. Information is the key to keeping a happy, healthy exotic.
Choosing an Exotic | Exotic Pet Info (from the Austin Zoo) | National Alternative Pet Association | Exotic Pet Links
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Content on this site is for information purposes only and not meant to replace veterinary care. Please consult your veterinarian for specific advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet.
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