Choosing an Exotic Pet

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Pet

Close up detail of Bearded Dragon.
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When choosing an exotic pet it is important to consider the reasons you want a pet and the reality of caring for the kind of pet you want.

Basic Principles for Choosing an Exotic Pet

  • Avoid impulse adoptions.
  • Learn all you can about a potential pet before bringing it home.
  • Have all the necessary equipment and supplies on hand for the homecoming to make the transition to a new home as easy as possible for your pet.

    What's Your Motivation?

    If you are thinking about an exotic pet for the "cool" factor, please reconsider choosing an exotic pet. The long term commitment might be overwhelming once the novelty wears off. Consider whether a pet is truly going to meet your expectations and fit into your long term plans. Your choice of exotic pet must also be based on your ability (in time and money) to provide adequate housing, space, care, and attention.

    Is the Pet Legal?

    First and foremost, find out which kinds of pets are illegal in your area. Don't ignore the laws (even archaic ones) just because you might get away with it; legal problems and heartache are a possible result. 

    Adult Size

    Larger pets need more space and exercise and may be more difficult to handle.

    Sociability

    Do you want a pet that enjoys human interaction and can be held, or a pet that is happier without regular handling?

    Feeding Requirements

    Commercially prepared food are available for several pet species, but others will require a variety of fresh foods prepared daily, or even mice or insects as a staple in their diets.

    Housing

    Consider what size and type of housing will be necessary. Also think about what special equipment may be needed (e.g. ultraviolet lighting).

    Expense

    Keep in mind that housing, supplies, food, veterinary care, and other expenses are often far greater than the cost of the pet itself. Carefully consider what you can afford when choosing a pet.

    Your Long Term Plans

    If your life circumstances change (school, moves, marriage, children) will you still be able to care for your pet?

    Compatibility with Children

    Some pets are ill-suited to live with small children.

    Single vs Multiple Pets

    Some pets are happiest as single pets (territorial and will fight), but others will be much more content with a companion of the same species. If pairs or groups will be kept, though, same sex pairs are preferred to prevent reproduction. For yet others, pairs of females will get along while males should be kept singly.

    Compatibility with Other Pets

    Will a new pet get along with other pets in the home, or be stressed out by other pets in close proximity to them?

    Veterinary Care

    It is a good idea to have a veterinarian lined up to care for your pet. For some of the more unusual ones it may be difficult to find one willing to see them, so see if you have access to vet care before choosing a pet.

    Longevity

    Some pets live a very long time and are essentially a life-long commitment (and some may easily outlive you).

    Activity Levels

    Some pets are very active and require lots of exercise, others will be quieter (and some are so inactive they might be considered boring).

    Destructive Tendencies

    Some pets are made to chew, dig, and scratch, and require significant training and pet-proofing.

    Availability of Pet Sitters

    Do you have someone who will look after your pet if you go away. Some of the more "unique" pets may be a challenge when it comes to finding pet sitters.

    Health Concerns

    Some animals carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans (see Zoonotic Diseases). This is a very important consideration if there are household members with vulnerable immune systems - young children, elderly people, or immunocompromised people.

    Potential Danger from the Pet

    Some pets can be aggressive, dangerous, or toxic. Really think twice about this one: why would you want to choose a pet in this category?

    Related Resources

    There are a few articles available on this site that might help you narrow your choices:

    General Resources

    Although exotic pet ownership is sometimes challenging, it is generally very rewarding. Carefully choosing the right pet will help to ensure a successful and rewarding relationship!