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Choosing An Exotic Pet

Choosing an exotic petDeciding to acquire a new pet is always a big decision; your decision should include large elements of planning and research, as well as preparation for a great deal of responsibility that comes with a new pet. All these elements become more complicated when our prospective new pets cannot simply fit into our mammal-friendly surroundings!

I have greatly enjoyed owning all my pets (and have loved them all the same!), but I see my role in dogs and cat ownership very differently from that of my reptiles. Whilst cats and dogs will happily live in my environment, my reptiles require me to re-produce a little bit of The Mississippi Basin, Afghanistan or the Australian Outback in my reptile room. What’s more, as a reptile’s health is dependent upon their environment, I have to get it right! What a responsibility!!

I always say, owning a exotic pet (be that reptile, fish, monkey or insect) is like a cross between owning a Labrador retriever and growing exotic plants!

So, if you are interested in owning one of the wonderful, colourful, exciting species of exotic pets that are available to us now, and before you get down to which individual to choose – please learn as much as you possibly can about the your species of choice.

Ask yourself if this pet right for me:

  • Be aware of the space and equipment required
  • How easy is this pet to keep/feed/clean/medicate?
  • What do they eat and where can I source the food (all year round) ?
  • Can my local Pets’n’Vets Family Vet Practice care for my selected pet or will I require to travel further afield to a specialist vet?
  • What sorts of things commonly go wrong with this pet?
  • What are the ballpark figures associated with treatment?
  • Is this particular species covered by insurance companies?

Good examples of ill thought out pet ownership might be the terrapin who is purchased the size of a 50 pence piece in a goldfish bowl on a whim and grows to the size of a dinner plate requiring a bath-sized pool with specialist heating lighting and filtration. The iguana which seems like great fun and very cute when first purchased but grows into a very hormonal, occasionally aggressive, 7’ long muscular lizard who requires his own room of at least 6’ x 7’ by 7’. Or perhaps a Jill ferret that once sexually matures requires either regular injections or an operation to keep her healthy.  

The world of exotics pet ownership can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, but before embarking on your journey, please find out as much as you possibly can and choose a pet that is likely to suit you!

Choosing the individual pet

Once you’ve decided on a species:

  • Prepare your pet’s new home two weeks in advance. Monitor temperature and humidity levels and ensure they are correct (day and night).
  • Do not use 2nd hand cages/tanks/pet furniture/etc
  • Only buy exotic pets from a specialist
  • Ensure any required certification is included
  • Choose the biggest, brightest individual – it’s tough but it is not your job to ‘rescue the runt!’

Getting your pet home

  • Ensure you have the facility to get your new pet home whereby they are kept at a comfortable temperature for them, and are not too stressed
  • If you have other exotic pets, keep your new pet separated by at least two doors (separate air spaces). Do not share any equipment or implements between pets, wash hands and change close between handling pets.
  • Arrange a visit to one of The Pets’n’Vets Family of Practices to assess the health of your new pet
  • Monitor your new pet very carefully for at least six weeks before allowing sharing airspace with other exotic pets. Consider possible stresses of having the two animals in the same space – they will smell each other. Is one of them in constant fear that they are about to get eaten, or is one of them constantly stressed that they can’t get to that delicious morsel?
  • Be adaptable, if things aren’t going well, you might have to change your set up, change its position or even admit that you are not able to look after this pet!

Good luck!

Oliver Jackson

Oliver has a keen interest in exotic pets (especially reptiles), please feel free to call for a chat or advice!

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