With the right conscientious household preparation, adopting an exotic pet can be an exciting and rewarding challenge. The colorful presence that accompanies birds, reptiles, rodents, large mammals and other exceptional pets demands exceptional care for often-unique needs no responsible owner can afford to take lightly. Many exotic pets can lead long and happy lives in the right homes, but failure to respect their comfort and distinctive quirks risks endangering both the animal and the humans in contact with it. Before adopting an exotic animal, evaluate your existing environment carefully, starting with these criteria.
While traditional pets like cats and dogs are more domesticated, “exotic” pets have very specific metabolic needs in order to remain healthy. Reptiles and birds especially are sensitive to cold and dry environments. This means that you may need to dedicate a space that has heat and humidity that is unpleasant to humans, but healthy for the animal in question. You will need to take into account special maintenance requirements for these areas, as well. High humidity and heat is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, making it essential that you clean frequently and thoroughly. Even animals that may not seem to require much care can suffer greatly when removed from these specialized environments. Hermit crabs, for example, require extraordinarily high humidity to mimic living near a constant ocean spray, otherwise their gills dry up and they suffocate.
Before taking in an exotic pet, any animals already calling a household their home deserve substantial consideration. If you already own a cat, your home may not be the safest environment for a small parrot or sugar glider. Dogs, while generally gentle and well-meaning, can cause incredible amounts of stress to exotic pets with their size and volume. If you’re going to get an exotic pet and you want to ensure that it isn’t unnecessarily exposed to unhealthy levels of stress, it would be best to ensure that you are able to properly seclude that pet from the rest of the household. This also is important for maintaining the animal’s natural day and night cycles, where many exotic pets sleep during the day and are active at night.
Chances are, your exotic pet should not roam quite as freely as the average dog or cat. Housing needs vary greatly among exotics. Many reptiles need incredibly tall enclosures for climbing, whereas others need lots of floor space for running. Among mammals, owners must account for whether the specific species favors burrowing or climbing. A macaw is bound to need a considerably more spacious environment than a smaller cockatiel, though both will need lots of space to fly and perch. If you are getting a bird that you intend to let fly free for significant parts of the day, it may be in your best interests to work with a locksmith to install door and window sensors so that neither are left open. Birds, unlike dogs and cats, cannot be trained to stay indoors when the opportunity to escape is presented, and will fly out the first chance they get.
Above all else, abide strictly by the letter of all local, state and federal laws when adopting an exotic pet. What might be a perfectly legal exotic pet in one jurisdiction might be strictly prohibited in the next state or even city over. Do not necessarily trust that an animal is permitted for private ownership just because you find it for sale in a pet store. For example, despite their growing popularity in 48 other states, it is illegal to own a ferret in both Hawaii and California. Homeowner’s insurance policies also often prohibit housing potentially dangerous exotic animals. For your own safety and legal protection and that of your prospective exotic animal friend, do your homework before committing to adoption.
Whether your exotic pet is a mammal, a reptile, bird or other creature, you’ll want to take the time to examine your home before you get one. Exotic pets are meant to live in the wild, and unless you’re prepared to alter your home to match that type of environment, you may not be ready for an exotic pet. To help mitigate your costs, consider getting an exotic pet that is native to your area, or at least thrives in an environment similar to the human home.