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Three Types of Exotic Pets and How to Care for Them

March 13, 2015 Veterinary Technology, General 0 Comments

Dogs and cats are America's favorite household animals, but have you ever pondered owning a hedgehog, chameleon or even a sugar glider? Some people enjoy keeping these and many other creatures as pets just the same as your average tabby. There are three main categories of exotic pets that fall outside the mainstream: small mammals, birds and reptiles/amphibians. Here's a closer look.

Small Mammals Make Great Beginner Pets...

Many people start out in pet care with hamsters, gerbils and other rodents. These small animals are usually easy to keep, quiet and can be caged, perfect for people with small living spaces and limited time. These mammals rarely require veterinary care and have diets that are easy to work into daily chores.

Bigger mammals like rabbits — the third-most popular pet in the U.S. — hedgehogs, sugar gliders, ferrets and chinchillas are also popular but require more knowledge and effort to maintain. Each has special diet, exercise and medical needs.

...And Birds Do Not

Unless you have a fear of birds, it's fun to laugh at the mimicking habits of parrots. They also happen to be beautiful, intelligent creatures who capture many hearts and minds as clawed companions and feathered entertainers. Parrots come in many sizes and shapes, ranging from small budgies to large macaws, and vary widely in diet, intelligence, space preferences and veterinary needs.

Larger parrots, however, can land painful bites and prove to be moody during their breeding season. They also develop preferences for who they like, what they want and what they're willing to do for their accommodating owners. Smaller birds, such as canaries and finches, are often much more suitable for people who just want a pretty bird to look after. Depending on what species, they may have their own specialized needs, as well.

Three Types of Exotic Pets and How to Care for ThemSnakes, Lizards and Frogs — Oh My!

Reptiles and amphibians are some of the most ecologically endangered animals in the world, as highlighted by the National Wildlife Federation, and as a likely result, there has been a huge interest in owning snakes, lizards and amphibians over the last 50 years.

These creatures are not for the casual keeper, however. Many require special lights, specific temperatures and humidity and very specific diets to live a full life. Many species grow extremely large, such as pythons and iguanas, while others can have strong biological defenses, such as the poison dart frog. This group requires special care and a good veterinary team. More common reptilian and amphibian pets include bearded dragons, iguanas, geckos, boa constrictors and rat snakes. Turtles are often beginner pets in this category, as well.

Other Considerations

Your options for exotic pets can span the globe. While searching for the right one, consider the level of care you'll be able to provide per their health needs and how long you're willing to do so. Some animals, like large birds and tortoises, can have life-spans that exceed our own. It's important to locate proper veterinary care and to learn their signs of illness, as many aren't obvious. In some places, certain species may be illegal or carry specific regulations for ownership.

Exotic animals, just like their conventional counterparts, are often abandoned, and there are many rescue groups with great pets to offer. If you can't find an adoptable pet, always work with a reputable breeder, and act carefully if you're exploring imports.

Photo credit: Flickr

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