Exotic pets can be exciting and fun. Having an “unusual” animal can be a rewarding experience, but exotic pet care is complicated.
Many vets don’t take exotic pets outside of emergencies, and as these pets aren’t the “normal” pet types, they won’t always know how to handle them.
Exotic vets can be expensive, and they may have niche specialties. What works for an iguana may not work for a sugar glider, for example.
If you need some advice with your current exotic pet, or you’re looking into exotic pets to purchase and want to be prepared, we’re here to offer advice. Keep reading to learn about how to care for exotic pets.
First: Consider Why You Want to Adopt or Buy
When you’re looking into adopting or buying an exotic pet you need to seriously consider why you want this animal in your home and how much effort you’re willing to put in to take care of it.
These pets aren’t like cats and dogs. They require more complex care, and finding a qualified vet to help them when they’re sick can be hard. They may need more attention than the average pet, and some of them need special foods, lighting, heating, or more.
Make sure that this decision isn’t being made lightly. Some exotics are cute, cool, or otherwise appealing. This doesn’t mean that you should get one on a whim.
For example, if you get a boa constrictor, are you willing to feed it other animals? If you get a sugar glider, are you willing to spend all of your time with it or get it a friend? These cute big-eyed marsupials need a companion or they can get ill from loneliness.
While an overall advice article like this one is helpful, do your research into the animal that you’re considering before you buy it so that you can determine whether or not you’re able to take care of it.
Also, consider the sources. Ethically raised or even adoptable pets are often healthier and easier to care for than pets that are raised by shady breeders or captured by hunters. There is a lot of corruption in the exotic pet industry. Make sure that you don’t contribute.
These pets can also live for a long time. Some parents, for example, can live upwards of 90 years (though common housepet parrots average at 50). Make sure that you have a secondary caretaker just in case something happens to you.
Know Your Animal’s Habitat
Like we mentioned, exotic pets have a wide range of needs. They aren’t the same as the pets that we’ve had domesticated for generations. They’re closer to wild animals (and some are wild animals, depending on the source).
Before you pick up your pet, make sure that you have an environment prepared that’s conducive to its wellbeing. For some animals (like tortoises) this can be a safe outdoor area where it has a lot of room to explore, eat, and hide.
For others, this will mean a large terrarium with a heating rock or heat lamp to allow cold-blooded animals to keep themselves warm. Maybe you’ll need a large cage with a pouch in the middle for your animals to snuggle in and get cozy.
Don’t get the animal before you get the animal’s house unless the animal is coming with all of its supplies.
Research Common Illnesses
Exotics come with different complications than common housepets. These can include unique illnesses that you may not be accustomed to yet.
Some reptiles can experience problems with their scales that can cause infections. Reptiles and birds can experience being eggbound, which can be deadly if it isn’t taken care of. This guide is for birds, but it can happen to any bird, reptile, or anything that lays semi-hard eggs.
Animals don’t show illness in the same way that humans do. Knowing the signs of what to look for is a great way to be a prepared and responsible pet owner.
Find a Good Vet
As we mentioned, not all vets are qualified to be exotic vets. They go to special classes and internships in order to be well-versed in the issues that exotic pets deal with. While the vet may not have seen your specific animal before, they can help based on experience with similar animals.
Not all exotic vets work with all exotic animals. Some may specialize in birds or reptiles. you don’t want to take a sick sugar glider to a vet that only handles amphibians.
If possible, find the vet before you get the pet. If you live in a small town, this may mean going to the nearest large city. It’s also possible that farm or zoo vets are available to private clients. You need to shop around.
Don’t Get Too Handsy (at First)
We’re so used to pets that want to cuddle with us that we can sometimes get a bit overzealous when it comes to handling our exotic new friends. This can be a dangerous mistake for both of you.
Exotic pets are non-native to your area. They’re also not domesticated in the same way that your household pets are. They may not be interested in being picked up, snuggled, or even touched.
Sometimes this passes over time while some pets remain hostile forever. This is their nature, it’s nothing against you.
Go slowly with your new pet and let it feel comfortable before you go reaching for it.
Exotic Pet Care Isn’t Easy
Exotic pet care can be a challenge. If this is a pet that you really want, though, it can be worth it.
As long as you’ve done your research and you have a good veterinarian with experience in exotic pets, you should be safe. Just be careful!
For more posts about pets, animals, and more, check out some of our other articles!