Exotic animals can be fun and interesting pets to keep, but they are not for everyone. Adequately answering this question really depends on what species of animal you are considering and what type of education, resources, and lifestyle you have. In many cases owners who purchase exotic animals don't do their homework and find themselves with an animal that they don't want or that they can no longer take care.
Reasons Exotic Animals Don't Always Make Good Pets:
Exotic pets are wild. It is important to understand that most exotic animals are not domesticated. Even though the animal was raised in captivity (and no matter how much you hold and love it), it is still a wild animal with wild instincts and behaviors. Exotic animal behavior can be unpredictable and there is always a risk of being bitten or scratched by an animal, especially if the owner does not have any expertise in that animal species. Some animals are not suitable to interact with children and other household pets. Animals can also become aggressive, territorial, and more unpredictable once they reach sexual maturity and/or during their breeding season. Some animals can be verydangerous, especially for owners who do not have extensive training in properly handling that species or in reading their behavior.
Exotic pets are expensive. Exotic Edventuresspends thousands of dollars a year to provide top notch care for our animals. Exotic animals require very specialized diets, habitats, and enrichment, which is not cheap and not always easy to find. Enclosures, heating/lighting, dietary needs, supplements, toys/enrichment, veterinary costs, bedding, medical supplies, and other types of equipment can start to add up quickly. We often have to special order different pieces of equipment, diets, and suppliments and have them shipped to us from other parts of the country, which can be expensive. Most exotic species have certain heating/lighting/humidity needs which can impact your electricity usage, especially if you live in an area with varying seasons. Our electric bill can be quite costly, especially in the winter months when we have to run multiple heating/lighting fixtures to keep our exotics warm.
Exotic pets are time consuming. Many exotic animals require a lot of socialization, which takes a lot of daily time. Many birds, reptiles, and exotic mammals need to spend multiple hours a day with their owner to be happy, healthy, and properly socialized. An animal that is not properly socialized can become aggressive, destructive, and difficult to handle. This can lead to a dangerous animal that can inflict serious injury on its owner.
Exotic pets need special/expensive veterinary care. It is very important to note that most veterinary offices do not specialize or see exotic animals/birds. It may be extremely difficult to find a veterinary office near you who will treat your exotic animal, especially if you live in a rural area. The nearest veterinary office that sees reptiles/birds/exotic animals may be hours or even states away. Exotic Edventures uses three different veterinary offices to ensure that all of our animal species have access to the best care available. Some people don't realize that even rabbits and guinea pigs need to see a special veterinarian and that most traditional "small animal" veterinarians are not properly trained to treat pocket pets. Also keep in mind that veterinarians that specialize in exotics and avian medicine tend to be a lot more expensive, especially when it is an emergency situation. It is recommended to find a veterinarian in your area that can treat the exotic species that you are considering before you bring the animal home. Please also consider the cost of medically caring for this animal. Do you have the resouces to pay $1,500 if your animal experiences a medical emergency? We often get contacted by owners who have a major medical emergency with their exotic animal and they either cannot find a veterinarian in their area to treat their animal or they cannot afford to pay for the treatment.
Exotic pets need special care. Unfortunately owning exotic animals is not as easy as owning a fish or a cat. Exotic animals have very specific dietary, social, and husbandry needs. Many exotics need to be maintained at a certain temperature, humidity level, and/or require specialty lighting/supplements for them to be healthy. Some need specific care and handling. Feeding exotics can be expensive and quite labor intensive. Many have very strict dietary needs. At Exotic Edventures we prepare most of the food that we feed our animals, which means it is not as simple as pouring a bowl of kibble once a day. Prepping and feeding our animals can take several hours and we feed a wide spectrum of different foods/supplements. Many exotic animals eat insects, raw meat, and rodents, which can be additional work to house and care for. Feeding live or frozen thawed prey can also be a challenge, especially for the squeamish.
Exotic pets often require room. Many exotic animals require a lot of room. Some species of birds, reptiles, and mammals grow to be quite large with extensive enclosure requirements. It is common for people to purchase juvenile snakes, iguanas, tortoises, and other animals without considering how large the animal will become as an adult. Burmese pythons can grow to be over 12 feet and eat rabbits and chicken. Sulcata tortoises can grow to weigh over 100 pounds. Some animals do not get overly large, but still require a large enclosure to forage and explore in. Sadly many people end up rehoming their animals once the animal starts to become too large for their owner to manage, house, and/or afford.
Exotic pets are a long term time commitment. Owning an animal is a lifetime commitment, so it is important to consider the animal's lifespan before bringing it home. Some exotic animals, such birds and tortoises, can outlive their owners. Many species of snakes, like the ball python, can live to be 30 years old. This is a huge commitment and should not be taken lightly. Owners often get rid of their animals when they experience a life event or changes in their lifestyle that they did not consider when they originally got their animal (ie. marriage, a move, children, college, etc.). We do not recommend purchasing exotic pets as a child's pet, unless the parents are able and willing to care for the animal for its lifespan. Many children get pets and then end up rehoming them once they lose interest or go away to college. Please consider the animal's lifespan before purchasing an animal for your child.
Exotic pets are not always legal to own. Depending on where you live, owning certain exotic animals may not be legal or you may be required to obtain a permit/license. Ferrets are illegal to own in the state of California. Hedgehogs are outlawed in a number of states. Come animal species are legal to own, but require certain permits to keep. It is imperative to determine whether you can legally own the exotic animal prior to bringing it home. Failure to do this can lead to getting fined and having your animal confiscated and euthanized.
Exotic pet ownership requires education. Owning an exotic animal requires a lot of preparation and education before you purchase the animal. Often times these are simply not the type of animals that you can learn as you go. Owners need to do extensive research to determine whether they are able to accommodate the animal's needs. Verify that an exotics animal veterinarian is in your area. Do you have the finances, time, space, and long term commitment needed to properly care for this animal? It is recommended that people considering an exotic animal first contact a breeder/animal facility to get more information on the care of the animal species they are interested in. Please also find somewhere where you can go to interact and handle adult animals of the species you are interested in to make sure that you are comfortable with its size and temperament before getting your own. We often get calls from people who purchase animals as cute, tiny babies but then become scared or nervous to handle or interact with that animal once it grows and becomes a larger adult. It is vital to consider your lifestyle before adding a pet to your home. Some animals, such as sugar gliders and opossums, are nocturnal and only are active during the evening. Other animals, such as parrots and primates, can be extremely vocal and loud. Many, if not most, exotic animals are not great around children. Do you have or want children? Are you able to seperate your exotic animal from your children? These are things to consider when choosing a pet. A large Amazon parrot would likely not be appropriate in an apartment. A short tailed opossum would not be a wise pet for someone who goes to sleep early at night.
Exotics can need companionship. Some animal species require the companionship of their own species to be healthy and happy. This is something to consider when looking into exotic pet ownership. Many people keep colony/herd animals in solitary conditions which can lead to bordom, destructive behavior, frusteration, aggression, and even depression. There are quite a few animal species that we would not recommend keeping unless they are with a companion. This can greatly add additional cost, space requirements, work, and socialization needs to the equation and is something to really consider when determining if a specific animal species is right for you.