Why you have to think twice before getting an exotic pet

Caring for and homing an exotic pet is something that requires responsible knowledge, dedication, energy and staying power. Small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and all sorts are available nowadays as pets. A spontaneous decision, not well thought through, can cause a lot of heartache and very sad, neglected existences for these beautiful creatures.


Before taking on this responsibility, it is best to educate yourself about the particular animal you wish to own. Do as much research as you can. Ascertain if you may own this pet legally, what permit may be required, and where to obtain it. There will be specific dietary needs and habitat requirements to learn about. Educate yourself on good health markets. This will indicate care necessities and concerns – for some animals even temperature control may be your responsibility to provide. Be sure that you will have a regular year-round supply of appropriate food, so that you can keep this pet on the correct diet and his survival is guaranteed.

Once you know the specific needs, make sure that you have the space and the means to provide a comfortable, safe home environment. Do not allow a temporary accommodation arrangement to go on indefinitely. Ideally, have the permanent living space and equipment required set up before purchasing an exotic pet from a reputable person. Do not support backyard or illegal trade of any exotic pets.

Specific needs

Some exotic pets have unpredictable natures and all animals have unique needs. Arm yourself with an understanding of the body language and stress and illness signals of your pet, so that unintentional neglect cannot happen. Some exotics are fine and docile until they reach sexual maturity, and then behaviour changes can occur and the pet’s character is no longer the same. The pet may become difficult to handle as he develops naturally to be what he was designed to be. Knowledge of territorial behaviours and good health markers assist you to provide the best lifestyle for your pet. Sometimes an exotic may bond and identify incorrectly with the owner as a life mate, especially if the pet has been raised from a very young age by the owner, and this may cause unpredictable and jealous behaviours. Cruelty might result simply because the pet is misunderstood. Anxiety on the part of the pet may set in, and this can deepen into stress that may bring on illness and other behaviour problems.

Exotic pets can be very good at escaping, especially if in an unsuitable environment. Survival instinct for correct habitat location and cruelty can be contributing factors. If the escape is successful and they survive in the new environment, this can cause the displacement of local indigenous fauna, so please be very careful.

Medical and day-to-day care

Before purchasing your non-traditional pet companion, check with your local veterinarian if he has experience and knowledge of general and medical care of the particular exotic you wish to buy, and if he would be prepared to give support and emergency care if needed.

There are numerous health problems that can occur in creatures in captivity: pneumonia, incomplete shedding, illnesses related to temperature control and self-mutilation are just a few examples.

Good health markers

Knowledge of normal characteristics of droppings for individual species is very important in order to monitor the health of a pet daily. There should be no unusual discharge from the eyes, nose, ears or anus. Know the healthy skin/coat/scales texture and look, so that any irregularity can be noticed immediately and a solution found quickly. Be familiar with the usual, well-adjusted behaviour of the animals, so that any changes and odd activities will raise a red flag to you, the owner.

Staying power

The novelty of owning a different pet can wear off quickly. The day-to-day care becomes a burden and there is risk of neglect. An owner may become overwhelmed by the care requirements of an exotic pet. What do you do then? Where can this animal continue a quality life? The owner now has to find a new responsible home for the animal. Pet shops, exotic dealers and zoos are not always keen to take your pet, neither are they always the best option. It is sad that the pet might simply end up being caged for breeding and monetary gain, leading a denied existence. All animals have natural needs for a lifestyle designed for them. Dangerous exotics require skilled handling and have very special needs.

If you are intent on owning an unusual companion, please make an informed decision and commit to providing the best ‘ever after’ home an exotic pet could live in.

Animaltalk does not recommend the keeping of exotic pets. If you already have one in your care, take the responsibility to give him the life you can.


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