What should go into your exotic pet decision

I know this has nothing to do with pampering pets, but I want to take a minute to explore exotic animals. I hear all the time about exotic pets that people want, and I won’t lie, I want a two toed sloth more than I can express in words, but getting an exotic pet requires more thought and research than having a child. Working in zoos and recue facilities I have seen plenty of abandoned pets, because people didn’t know what they were getting into. That’s not to say that it should be forbidden, but I think the time, money, and research that goes into obtaining one of these animals is worth mentioning. Exotic pets can be an exciting addition to your home, and for the right family, a great fit. But how do you know if an exotic pet is a good choice for you? As a general rule, I would say consider the pet for two years; if you can accommodate all of the things below and still want the pet after waiting that long, then look into it. Here are some things you need to consider.

P.S. – I will be doing an entire post about where exotics come from and how to go about buying one responsibly. I didn’t include that information here, because it really deserves its own book.


Is it legal?

The first thing you need to find out before you set your heart on a certain pet is, is it even legal to own. The animal you’re interested in could be a threatened or endangered species, in which case buying one as a pet may be against many laws. Do your research on this one; I would like to say that if it’s not legal you won’t find one for sale, but we all know that’s not the case. (Like I said I will be doing a whole post about where exotics come from)

Can you get the permits?

Many exotic pets require a permit, and there are certain rules as to who can obtain these permits. To figure out what you need, the best place to go is your local Fish and Wildlife. Every state is different, so you need to know what your state allows and what type of permit your desired pet needs.

Is it allowed where you live?

Just like dog restrictions in an apartment complex, you should check that your neighborhood allows your pet. Even if you own your home, the association may have rules against certain animals. For example, my neighborhood association does not allow chickens, even though they are legal house pets in my county (super annoying).


Can you provide the housing?

Most exotic pets are going to require some specific housing. Your local Fish and Wildlife is another great recourse for this, but take a look around. Before you get an exotic pet, research about food and housing should be your top priority. You may need to build an outdoor enclosure; you may need a small pool or lots of plants. Think about a modern day zoo. You want to provide your pet with a home that is similar to their natural environment, as this will encourage them to practice some natural behaviors, which will make for a healthier happier pet. Furthermore, you want to consider the animal’s native environment; is it tropical, dessert, artic. It’s not impossible to bring an animal into a new part of the world, but if you’re climate is not similar and you cannot create it your pet will not be happy or healthy.  You cannot expect a dessert animal to be happy where it’s cold and rainy.


Can you provide food?

Like I said above, food and housing are going to be your top priorities when caring for your pet. It should go without saying, but exotic pets eat exotic foods. Sometimes you can find something comparable, but not always. Additionally, there is a “chow” for just about every type of animal you can think of. These pelleted foods provide a balanced nutrition, but giving your pet the ability to eat foods they would eat in the wild will provide enrichment and satisfaction. The more exotic pellets can get expensive (example 10lb bag of monkey show $59.50 VS 15lb bag of cat food $38.99) and the natural food you will either have to buy or grow.

Can you find/ afford a vet?

After feeding and housing, veterinary care is your next priority. Vets are not doctors of all species; your favorite doggie doctor probably has no experience caring for porcupines. To find a vet I would recommend calling the zoo. All of their animals are cared for by someone, whether it is an on staff vet or an outside source, and you can either use their person or they can help you find your own.

Do you have time for your pet?

Some exotic pets are going to require a lot of your time and attention. This goes not only for setting up a habitat and preparing food every day, but also for bonding and social time.  One of the more popular exotic pets is monkeys. Like small children, monkeys require hours of socialization and stimulation every day, and like parrots, it’s almost worth getting two.


Will you make the commitment?

Exotic pets are a commitment. The more popular ones such as monkeys and capybaras are long lived and high maintenance.  You need to know that once you commit, you’re pretty much stuck. Yes there are zoos and rescue facilities, but often they are full and/or low on funding and you cannot rely on these places to take your pet if you change your mind. Some other popular pets such as hissing cockroaches and tree frogs are not necessarily long lived or high maintenance, but require a lot of responsibility. These pets can wreak havoc on your native environment, and the animals that live there, if they escape. Everyone has heard of the Burmese python problem in South Florida. This is an extreme example, but is also perfect. These big snakes are really cool, but people didn’t make the commitment or the responsibility for a great big giant snake. One person said, my environment is similar it’ll be ok if I let it out, then another, and another, and another. You should also know that if you get caught releasing an exotic animal there can be some pretty serious fines.



Research, research, research, research, research…oh did I mention research

I’m not kidding on this one guys. The tips I gave you above are just starters. Spend that two year waiting period in the library.  If you have an exotic pet in mind you need to learn all you can about it. Not just the minimum required housing and where to buy suitable food, but: where does it come from, what is it’s native home look like, what is the native climate, does it live solo or in a group, what are natural behaviors, and more. These facts will help you do two things.

One: figure out if this animal is going to work with your family. If you have a busy family in Montana and you want to adopt one capuchin monkey from South America there is cause for more thought.

Two: help your pet live a happy and enriched life in captivity.


Have you ever considered an exotic pet, or do you have one already? What are your thoughts?





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