So you want to own a pet that isn’t a cat or a dog? Some words of wisdom before you jump forlorn into the “great unknown!”
Owning an exotic pet can be a rewarding experience, however, the truth is that most people are not prepared for the responsibilities or expenses that are tied with these animals. What is an exotic animal you might be asking? The short answer is anything that is not a cat or a dog is unique and “exotic.” The longer, more technical answer can be found throughout this website.
Exotic pets typically need special caging, specialized diets, and forms of enrichment that can all become quite expensive and time consuming, especially in regards to larger animals. A hard and fast rule to follow is if you haven’t owned it before, contact a pet specialist before making a commitment to any pet you are unsure of having.
If your heart is set on having an animal like a cute little ALLIGATOR or hoppy little KANGAROO or a pretty little HORSE, you will need to follow some legal and precautionary rules to ensure that you and your new pet stay healthy and happy. There are all kinds of websites (including this one) that can provide a great resource for finding special requirements for certain animals as well as proper feeding and handling techniques. Legal research is also extremely important to see if your state and local laws even allow the animal to be kept as a pet.
Before buying an exotic pet, research everything you can about them. You must ask the important questions like:
Where does this animal come from?
What is its diet requirements?
If they climb, how do you handle that?
What is the animal’s social ability?
How big will the animal get as an adult?
What diseases they are prone to?
How do long they live?
How much money is involved daily, monthly, annually?
Is it legal in my state/country to keep this animal?
Is this animal on the endangered list or federally protected?
These are essential questions to ask before purchasing a pet, especially if it is not a cat or dog! “Exotic” in this case refers to birds, fish, horses, ferrets, non-domestic (wild) cats, wolves, reptiles, amphibians, etc. Even purchasing a hamster or rabbit should be done with great care.
If you decide you are ready to acquire this kind of an animal, it is imperative to find a veterinarian close to your home or location that is knowledgeable, responsible and that will see the pet for routine exams and especially for emergencies.
Another important step before purchasing your exotic pet is to estimate the total cost of the animal. While the pet itself may seem to be inexpensive, the cost of things such as housing, food, supplies, and veterinary care can quickly add up. This research is crucial beforehand to ensure that you can provide everything your pet will need to keep it healthy.
Remember. Costs are dependent on species. A rabbit cage, enrichment, and diet are not that much more or less than a dog, but a large parrot will need a large cage which can be a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Veterinary care for exotic pets is also high. For example, a healthy bird exam can be several hundred dollars, and a sick bird exam can be a couple thousand dollars. It’s important to note that most exotic pets have to be sedated or anesthetized for any handling, so even a physical exam with anesthesia and monitoring can be expensive.
Making sure you prepare your home for exotic animal life is also a significant step before bringing home your new pet. Setting up the animals housing beforehand and making sure that their habitat’s temperature is right is essential to ensure that your pet is immediately placed into an appropriate environment upon arrival.
Preparing your home, yard or domicile means you have the ability to set up an appropriate cage or structure that is the right size for this kind of a pet. It has to be large enough to properly house the animal, escape-proof, and the animal must have protection from cold, heat, rain and other elements, especially if housed outdoors.
If the animal will be indoors, and potentially out of the cage, animal proofing a room can be similar to “childproofing” a room. This means covering electrical cords and outlets, covering sharp objects and edges, etc. When buying a cage, you must prepare for the adult size of the animal. For example, a baby iguana can be 6 to 8 inches long, but an adult can be 5 feet long!
Finally, the most important step before bringing home any exotic pet is to think of how owning one will affect your life in the long run. Knowing what you will do with your pet in case of moves, marriages, and other life events is crucial before making any purchases to make sure that your pet can accompany you throughout its entire life.
Some exotic pets are great with their owners and families, but not with other people on the outside. Many exotic pets are NOT good with children. Furthermore, your new girlfriend or boyfriend may not like your large macaw who wants to bite them, or they may be afraid of your pet monitor lizard who hisses with a vengeance!
Various exotic pets are also not welcome in apartments or rental properties so it affects where you can live. The other fact is that it’s not easy to find a good replacement home for an exotic pet should you decide you can’t keep it anymore.
Remember. Animals, like us humans (we are animals, too), have feelings and emotions. Many of these animals are not meant to be held in captivity. They are not “toys on a shelf,” which means if you commit to the animal, you had better be serious about it. Otherwise, you are harming the animal, which is wrong.
Please think before acting on getting an exotic pet. If you are really serious, have the love, finances and time to dedicate to such an endeavor, it can be a very rewarding experience.