Are your children clamoring for a different type of pet? Perhaps a friend down the street just picked out a sugar glider and it’s the most exciting pet in town. Maybe someone else has a cool bearded dragon. But, is an exotic pet right for your family and lifestyle?

Many exotic pets are highly sensitive and have specific needs in terms of diet, light, environment, socialization, and heat. And, since some species can live for 30 years or more, it’s imperative that you do your research before adding an exotic pet to your family.


What is an exotic pet?

There are many different feathery, furry, or scaly critters looking for loving homes. Not to be confused with exotic animals, such as the lions, tigers, and bears you see at the zoo, exotic pets can include:

  • Chinchillas
  • Ferrets
  • Hamsters
  • Fish
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hedgehogs
  • Sugar gliders
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Parrots
  • Cockatiels
  • Iguanas
  • Chameleons
  • Bearded dragons
  • Snakes
  • Geckos
  • Frogs
  • Turtles/tortoises


How to care for exotic pets

Depending on the specific species, exotic pets require much different care than the typical canine and feline pets. Caring for them can be quite complicated, and failing to properly meet their needs can lead to dire consequences. Before picking up your new pet, be sure to conduct thorough research to verify that you can appropriately care for her. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Home environment — Each exotic species requires a specialized home. For example, specific levels of UV lighting, humidity, and heat are important for reptiles. Lighting, temperature, the size of the enclosure, and bedding all must be tailored to your pet’s needs.
  2. Diet — Most exotic pets have specific nutrition requirements. Some animals need to have fresh food available at all times, while others, such as snakes, don’t need to eat every day. Vitamin and mineral balances must be met to prevent illness and disease. Some exotics need to eat other live animals or insects. If you want a snake, ask yourself if you are OK with feeding your slithering friend live mice. If not, perhaps you should find a pet that doesn’t have these dietary requirements.
  3. Handling — Pocket pets are smaller (hence the name) and more delicate than big, burly Labradors. Be careful when handling these fragile creatures, especially with small, excitable children. Always use proper handling techniques to prevent your exotic pet from being harmed.
  4. Socialization — Are you looking for a buddy who might talk to you, such as a parrot? Or, maybe you’d prefer something a little more low-key, like a reptile. Guinea pigs are a sweet and cuddly choice, if that is what you’re looking for in a pet… Regardless of the species you’re considering, educate yourself on the socialization requirements. Certain species prefer more human contact, while others are much happier doing their own thing.
  5. Grooming — Nail trimming, dental care, wing clipping, or dust baths can be part of your pet’s necessary grooming care. Overgrown nails and teeth are uncomfortable for your pet, so make sure to keep an eye on these to prevent painful problems from occurring. Grooming requirements will vary from species to species, so whether your pet is slimy, scaly, feathery, or furry, do your research to determine the needs of your pet.
  6. Vaccinations and preventive care — Not all exotic pets require vaccinations. Some species, such as ferrets and potbellied pigs, need yearly vaccinations to prevent disease. Regular deworming may also be required if your pet has the ability to spread intestinal parasites. Ask us about the requirements to keep your pet healthy.
  7. Behavior — Exotic pet behavior can vary and be dependent on lighting and temperature (is your pet warm- or cold-blooded?). If you’re unsure if the behavior your pet is exhibiting is abnormal, don’t hesitate to contact us.


If you’re considering adding an exotic pet to your family, call us at 256-859-2221. We would love to discuss the care and husbandry for the exotic species you’re considering so you can make the right decision.