Things to Consider Before Getting an Exotic Pet
Exotic Pets Are a Big Responsibility
- s? Do you know the vet's fee schedule, and can you afford it? Veterinary care for exotic animals can cost more than twice as much as for a traditional pet. Exotic pets are a significant financial commitment. Don't wait until your pet is sick to visit a veterinarian and learn about expenses.
- Exotic pets, especially birds and reptiles, have longer natural life spans than do dogs or cats. Some birds and reptiles can outlive humans. Be sure that you are ready for this lifetime commitment, and that you can provide for your pet after your death. Many people acquire exotic pets with the belief that in the event they no longer want their pet, it will be welcomed at a zoo. In truth, zoos regularly turn down such "donations" and the animals in question usually end up in shelters, where they are euthanized.
- Most exotic pets need special habitats. This might be a large cage, or an entire room, it could even mean pet-proofing your entire house and yard, as in the case of potbellied pigs. In the case of most reptiles, special lighting and heating are necessary for health. Most exotic pets cannot be litter trained, so you will have to clean the habitat often. Are you prepared, financially and emotionally, to provide correct habitat for an exotic pet?
- Many exotic pets, especially reptiles and potbellied pigs, grow to large sizes. That four-inch baby iguana is cute now, but will you still want it when it is six feet long from nose to tail? As exotic animals reach adulthood, their personalities can change. A cute baby animal can become a biting, clawing terror, and a large animal is generally more dangerous, and harder to handle, than a small one. Sexual maturity can make exotic pets difficult to manage, especially when combined with large size. Once a pet has become large and unruly, it is almost impossible to find it a new home. Be sure of your pet's eventual, adult size before you acquire it, and plan ahead for space.
- Exotic pets have exotic diets. No store-bought diet is as good as a natural diet prepared at home, and some animals won't even eat store-bought pet foods. That cuddly little sugar glider eats insects and fresh fruit; are you alright with touching mealworms and crickets every day? Snakes and many lizards require prey animals such as rodents and fish: are you willing to kill or defrost another animal for your pet to eat? Exotic pets that are herbivorous will need fresh salads prepared for them every few days.
- Safety is also an issue. Unlike dogs and cats, most exotic pet species have not been domesticated. They do not have centuries of selective breeding to give them an instinctive understanding of humans. This means they can be dangerous. Reptiles and rodents can give dangerous bites, not out of malice, but out of fear and misunderstanding. These bites can be quite painful initially and can become infected. Children, especially, do not do well with exotic pets, because they are usually oblivious to the warning signals that such a pet will give before attacking. If you have children or are not willing to take a bite without harming or abandoning your pet afterward, an exotic pet is not for you.
How to make the right decision? Before bringing home an exotic pet, read several books about your proposed pet, and do more research on the Internet. Be sure that you know a lot about your chosen species before taking the final step. When it is time to get a pet, buy from a breeder instead of a pet store; animals from breeders are usually in better health and most exotic animal breeders will offer some kind of health guarantee. Better yet, adopt from a reputable shelter. Talk to other exotic pet lovers about where they got their pets and what their experiences have been.
Bottom line: exotic pets are fascinating, but they are not for everyone. They may seem cool, but in reality they are complicated animals with special needs. Most people will be happier and better off with a dog, cat, or other more traditional pet. Instead of adopting an exotic pet, visit a zoo, shelter, or nature center and get involved in their education department. This will give you the experience of interacting with exotic animals, without the extreme responsibility of owning one yourself.
Published by Priscilla Lane
Priscilla Lane is an artist and writer living on the Texas Gulf Coast. She has a background in HIV education and care, but her true calling is as a Maker. She loves reptiles, gardening, fantastic foods,... View profile
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