While some people are content to have a domesticated cat or a dog as a pet, others are more interested in exotic pets such as alligators, large cats, monkeys, and reptiles.
While the appeal of exotic pets can be strong, it is important to know before acquiring an animal that their proper care can be quite different from that of common domesticated pets. It is also important to look into your state or country’s laws regarding exotic pets before you commit to purchasing one.
While dogs and cats may need to be trained or housebroken before being fully adapted into the family, for the most part they and other common pet animals are easy to keep in the house without much second thought. Exotic pets usually require specialized living conditions for a variety of reasons that are outlined below:
- Most animals, especially birds or reptiles, require secure housing that ensures that the animal cannot escape loose into your home or – even worse – the outside environment. This point has been highlighted by some recent cases of exotic pets escaping their enclosures and frightening or injuring people.
- It is important to put care into designing the animal’s enclosure such that they feel at home. Examples include platforms or ledges for climbing animals, piping or a soft dirt substrate for burrowing animals, or plenty of space with tree branches for flying animals.
- Make sure that the environment is properly controlled for temperature. Many exotic pets come from tropical climates such as Central and South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia. These animals are typically acclimated to temperatures much warmer than those at which we normally keep our houses, and they will not thrive in cooler temperatures. Therefore it is important to have climate-controlled enclosures to make them feel more at home.
Although exotic pets have become increasingly common in recent years and the pet food market has expanded to include many species, it is important to realize that you can’t just feed your exotic pet generic canned food or kibble like you might with a dog or a cat. The most important part about feeding is that you do sufficient research before purchasing your pet to make sure that all of its nutritional needs will be met.
One of the most common forms of exotic pet food is frozen, whether its in the form of frozen rodents, insects, etc. This is particularly common for the feeding of snakes and other exotic reptiles and amphibians.
Livefood for exotic pets is mainly in the form of live insects, which can be used to feed a variety of animals including lizards, predatory insects, and amphibians. Different live insects have different requirements as how to reproduce them and keep them alive so that there is a constant source of live food for the pet.
Finally, other types of food for exotic pets include dried food – dried insects and pellets are examples of this – and fresh food such as fresh vegetables and fruits for iguanas or monkeys or tortoises.
When caring for an exotic pet long-term it is important to establish a routine to ensure that their environment is kept clean and safe and that the pet itself is properly fed and healthy. Some of these requirements include the following.
- Research the specific feeding needs of your exotic pet species. Some need to be fed every day, multiple times a day, or every few days
- Every day, check the animal’s enclosure for excess waste, dead vegetation, sharp objects that could injure the animal, etc. Keeping the enclosure tidy on a day-to-day basis means less work on deep cleans.
Inspect the animal for signs of illness such as dull or cloudy eyes, lethargy, unwillingness to feed, or scale or hair loss. Make sure to take the animal in for regular veterinary checkups to ensure that it remains in the best health.