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Selecting an Exotic Pet

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Ferrets

The relationship between a pet and it's owner should be a special one.  Unfortunately, this relationship can go terribly wrong if a pet and owner are mismatched.  All too often, exotic pets are acquired on a whim or while the species is popular as part of a "fad."  However, any pet is more likely to become a cherished family member if a few simple precautions are taken before deciding on a pet.  The key to choosing the right exotic pet is education.

When selecting an exotic pet, consider the following:

  • Activity level - for proper health maintenance, some exotics require lots of exercise and/or are very active, while others will be quieter.

  • Compatibility with children - some exotics are ill-suited to live with small children, as they may have sharp claws and teeth combined with an aggressive or overactive nature.  Some may be inclined to nip if handled roughly or frightened by boisterous children.  Contact with young boisterous children can stress some of the more timid or delicate species.  Consider whether the exotic could be hazardous to children, or vice versa.

  • Compatibility with other pets - will the exotic get along with other pets in the home, or will it be stressed out by other pets living in close proximity to itself?

  • Cost - consider your budget.  After the initial outlay, consider the ongoing costs of food, bedding, accessories and medical care for your exotic.

  • Destructive tendencies - a curious, active exotic can wreak a lot of havoc in the home.

  • Feeding requirements - for some exotic pet species commercially prepared foods are available but other species may require a variety of fresh foods prepared daily, or even mice or insects as a staple in their diets.  Be sure to research the feeding requirements and food supply availability.

  • Health concerns - consider if there are family members with vulnerable immune systems (young children, elderly people) as some exotics can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans (e.g. Reptiles & Salmonella)  Also consider the potential for allergies, especially if you, or a family member, has a history of allergies.  

  • Housing - Consider the size and type of housing that will be necessary.  For exotics that run free in the home, can the appropriate type of pet proofing be provided?  For exotics that need an enclosure, can the appropriate amount of space be provided?  Some exotics are also messier than others, so try to find out how often/how thoroughly you will need to clean up after your exotic.     

  • Legality - find out which kinds of exotic pets are legal in your area.  Laws pertaining to exotic pets range from local city by-laws to federal regulations.  Many cities/towns and counties have laws regarding the number of pets, types of pets, and conditions under which certain pets can be kept.  Exotic species are often prone to more restrictive laws and it is the obligation of the pet owner to be aware of such laws.

  • Pet sitters - consider who will look after your exotic if you go away.  Some exotics require such unique care that finding a qualified pet sitter can prove to be a challenge.

  • Potential danger - some exotics can be very aggressive or downright dangerous, and some can even be potentially deadly.

  • Social needs - consider the social needs of your exotic.  Some need to have lots of attention, cuddling, and playtime with their owners, while others are not very social.  (e.g. ferrets and pot bellied pigs need lots of attention, whereas many amphibians and reptiles are perfectly happy not to be handled at all)  Keep in mind that some exotics are too territorial to be kept in the same enclosure.  Some exotics are happily independent, but others will be much more content with a companion of the same species.  If multiple exotics will be kept, consider same sex pairs (often female) if preventing reproduction is a goal. 

  • Size - keep in mind that the larger the exotic the larger it's home will have to be, and the more space and/or exercise it will need.

  • Veterinarians - locate a qualified exotic pet veterinarian to care for your exotic beforehand.  Exotic pets usually require specialized care and knowledge on the part of the veterinarian.  For some of the more unusual exotics, it may be difficult to find a vet willing to treat it.  Veterinary care is not inexpensive and some species are hardier than others.  If you are just starting out with an exotic pet, try to pick one that is not prone to medical problems.  

The required feeding, housing, cleaning, medical care, and social interaction all need to be considered, as well as the associated costs.  With the proper education and research, a relationship with your exotic pet can be a very rewarding one.  Do your homework!

 

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