Many people love exotic pets for a variety of reasons. They often have fun personalities and make fascinating companions. But before you run out and buy an exotic pet for you or your family, be sure you choose a species that you can provide the right environment for.
To help you make the best decision, here are five questions to ask about your pet's future care.
1. What Time Commitment Is Involved?
Any pet takes a commitment of some kind, but some animals have longer lifespans than others and, therefore, require a longer commitment. Chinchillas and hermit crabs, for instance, have a roughly similar lifespan to dogs and cats, but some reptiles and birds may live 50 years or more.
Larger pets tend to have longer lifespans than smaller ones, especially in birds. Of course, if you try to avoid a commitment by opting for a pet with a shorter lifespan — like hamsters or rats — you may have to explain the natural life cycle to your heartbroken little one sooner than you'd like.
2. What Living Needs Does the Pet Have?
Exotic pets are much more likely to need a special home and care than more normal pets like cats and dogs. For example, saltwater fish are a calm, beautiful pet that enhances any room in which they live, but they're not a particularly low-maintenance pet. You must spend time checking and maintaining their water, adjusting temperatures, and cleaning equipment regularly. Lizards are another fun pet that has very specific requirements for temperature, location, and lighting.
Some exotics — such as parrots and sugar gliders — are social and need to be with others of their kind or among the family often. Others like to be by themselves much of the time. Some are nocturnal and may be boring for young children.
3. How Much Space Is Necessary?
Keep in mind that baby animals are small and cute, but they do grow up. If unprepared for the full size of a mature animal, some owners may not be in a good position to care for an exotic animal during its normal lifespan. This can often happen with pet pigs, exotic birds, and reptiles. Iguanas are popular reptile pets, but depending on the type of iguana you have, they can grow up to several feet long.
4. Is the Pet Safe for the Family?
Not all exotic pets are well suited to life with a bustling family. Some are grouchy or they bite or scratch. Rabbits, although often friendly and social, may also not react well to some handling by inexperienced kids. And families that already have cats or dogs can have a hard time getting all pets to transition to life together.
You should learn about potential health problems some exotics may pose for humans or other animals as well. Reptiles, for instance, may carry salmonella and should be handled carefully. Hedgehogs can even give Bordetella (kennel cough) to family dogs.
5. What Diet and Medical Needs Are There?
Talk with your veterinarian about the medical and dietary needs of the species before purchasing one. While simple and commercially-prepared pet food is available for dogs, cats, and birds, you may need to put more work into properly feeding your exotic pet. Snakes and other reptiles, for instance, often need live prey to feed on. Sugar glider owners may find themselves blending homemade nectar, feeding live insects, and slicing fruits and vegetables.
An exotic pet is certainly a challenge for new owners, but it can be a very rewarding challenge. The best way to approach exotic pet ownership is to learn as much as you can before becoming a pet owner. At Pet Medical Center of Vero Beach, we can help you understand the needs of small exotics and what you can do to give them an enjoyable home among your family. Call for an appointment today.