Exotic Pet Guide
Owning a cat or a dog is the standard form of pet ownership. Some people prefer to walk on the wild side by owning exotic pets instead. Exotic pets include unusual and wild animals that many people might not have ever considered owning. A wide variety of exotic pets exist, including fish, birds, reptiles, arachnids, rodents, and more. Before proceeding with exotic pet ownership, it's a good idea to learn more about these animals and their needs. It could also be helpful to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that owning a specific animal is prudent.
Most fish sold as additions to home aquariums in the United States qualify as exotic fish. An exotic animal is any type of animal that is not native to a country. The majority of the fish sold by pet shops in the United States are imported from regions such as Asia, Central America, and South America. Two examples of exotic fish that could find their way into a home aquarium include piranha and red pacu. The red pacu fish grows quickly in an aquarium, reaching a mature size of up to 24 inches. To house this fish correctly, you would need a tank that holds at least 250 gallons. To keep the red pacu healthy, you will need a tank with an extensive filter system.
- Exotic Species
- Wild Caught & Exotic Fish (PDF)
- Dangers of Exotic Fish (PDF)
- Keeping of Exotic Animals: Welfare Concerns (PDF)
- Freshwater Fish (PDF)
- Problems with the Release of Exotic Fish
Exotic birds include numerous species that are widely known. Examples of exotic birds include canaries, cockatiels, cockatoos, parakeets, parrots, toucans, and lovebirds. These birds are considered exotic in the United States because they are native to tropical climates. Because exotic birds have adapted to tropical climates, owners must provide the correct home environment for them. Before owning an exotic bird, you must ensure that you have a cage large enough to accommodate the bird. A bird must be able to turn around and extend its wings fully in a cage without having feathers touch the sides of the cage. Vet services can recommend the correct type of food to feed an exotic bird. Owners must also clean the cage daily, trim wing feathers and toenails, and provide cuttlebone to ensure the bird receives sufficient calcium. Owners who fail to provide adequate care for exotic birds may contribute to illness and even death.
- Pet Store Inspection and Exotic Bird Program (PDF)
- Safe Care and Handling of Exotic Birds (PDF)
- Unfamiliar Species as Your Companion Animal (PDF)
- Exotic Birds: A Growing Problem with No Easy Solution (PDF)
Reptiles and Amphibians
The list of exotic reptiles and amphibians includes treefrogs, geckos, iguanas, and pythons. Reptiles and amphibians are popular choices in the pet industry, and pet shops sell a wide variety of species. Reptiles are typically native to warmer climates and need for warmth to regulate their body temperature. Amphibians such as toads and frogs live in diverse climates around the world. Feeding and caring for reptiles and amphibians can be an expensive hobby. Reptiles and amphibians can transmit illnesses to humans. One of the most well-known risks from owning these exotic animals is the transmission of salmonella. This illness can vary in its intensity, ranging from mild gastrointestinal upset to death. Some types of amphibians secrete a dangerous toxin that can cause paralysis or cardiac arrest.
- Exotic Species List (PDF)
- The Importance of Wellness Examinations for Your Exotic Pet (PDF)
- The Reptile and Amphibian Communities in the United States (PDF)
- The Invasion of Exotic Reptiles and Amphibians in Florida (PDF)
- Exotic Pet Amnesty Program (PDF)
- Don't Let it Loose (PDF)
- The Exotic Pet Industry (PDF)
Insects and Arachnids
Keeping an exotic insect or arachnid in a cage appeals to some pet owners. Examples of pet insects and arachnids include scorpions, tarantulas, and jumping spiders. Pet owners can enjoy the opportunity to observe insects and arachnids in a cage, learning about their typical behaviors. However, these exotic pets need very specific environments and diets to remain healthy. The risk of escape from a cage can also be a concern for some people.
- Scorpions (PDF)
- Caring For Exotic Animals: Between the Front Door and the Cage Door (PDF)
- Exotic Pets (PDF)
- Tarantula Fact Sheet (PDF)
Choosing a rodent such as a hamster or a gerbil as a pet appeals to many people. A number of exotic options are available for people who wish to own rodents. The chinchilla is a small animal that is native to the Andes mountains in South America. A degu looks similar to a hamster, but this animal is native to Chile. A Gambian pouch rat may become an affectionate pet; however, this animal could be responsible for transmitting monkey pox to humans in the United States.
- Small Pet Exotic Mammal Care in a Shelter Setting (PDF)
- Wild Pets (PDF)
- Exotic Pet Trade Industry (PDF)
- Unusual Pets that are Legal to Own
- Fur Flies in Debate Over Rodent Pets
Other kinds of exotic animals also appeal to pet owners. The hedgehog is small enough to hold in your hands. Hedgehogs have specific requirements for diet and care. If hedgehogs do not receive the correct care, they may become ill. Ferrets need a cage, but they also like to roam around a home. Ferrets need a specific diet, and they also need regular grooming care for them properly. Some people even choose to share their homes with monkeys. Chimpanzees and lemurs are primate species that some people select as pets. Although these animals often remain relatively small in size, they can become exceptionally strong. Because of their unpredictable nature, they may cause injuries to both children and adults in a home.