Exotic Pets - Where to Start
An exotic pet is defined as a non-standard pet. This can
include anything from racoons to snakes, rodents to carnivores.
Because an exotic isn't a typical pet like a dog or a cat,
the decision to buy or adopt an exotic pet is a big one. Vanishing
Species doesn't generally recommend exotic pets, particularly
for novice pet owners. 99% of potential exotic pet owners
that volunteer with Vanishing Species to gain experience decide
within the first 100 hours that exotic ownership is not for
However, if you have your mind set, we would at least like
to get you on the right track. The following is a starting
guide for new and perspective exotic owners:
- Consider your motives. Many people's underlying motivation
to get an exotic pet is ego or to "show it off"
to friends. Ego is a very poor reason to have an unusual
animal as a pet and hardly makes up for the all the money,
time, and energy involved.
- Check with both your local and state authorities. Not
all exotic animals are allowed as pets in all states, and
some cities and states do not permit them at all. Even if
your state allows exotics, you must still check with your
- Research, research, research! If you really want an exotic
animal, find out what it eats, where it lives, how/when
it breeds, its temperament in the wild and in captivity,
and everything else you can possibly learn. This will help
you determine if you can provide the animal with everything
it needs, and whether or not this animal will act as you
- Volunteer! This is one of the most vital things you can
do. Contact your state's Department of Natural Resources
or Department of Fish and Game. This will be the agency
that regulates captive wildlife care. They will also be
the ones performing inspections at captive wildlife owners'
homes and facilities (including yours!) Tell them you are
considering getting a [whatever] for a pet and do they have
a recommendation where you could volunteer to get some experience.
Some states have rules about minimum experience in order
to get a particular animal as a pet (particular carnivores
and primates). Calling DNR or Fish and Game will help ensure
that your volunteer experience is a positive one and that
you are learning from the best place possible. It will also
give you some hands-on time with the species you are considering
so you can really decide if this is for you. if you live
in the South Florida area, browse our volunteer
section of the website.
- Plan Plan Plan! Before finally getting an exotic, figure
out the details. This will be vital for your pet and will
also keep you from panicking in an emergency.
- What size enclosure will your animal need? Your state
may have specific minimum requirements.
- Do you want multiple animals? Will that affect the
size of your enclosure?
- What enrichment will your animal need? Think of enrichment
as entertainment. Depending on the species this can
mean foliage, toys, mirrors, tubs of water, obstacles/mazes,
or other stimulation.
- Who will you use for a veterinarian? Do they specialize
in the animal you want? If not have a specialist as
a backup vet.
- Is the vet available 24 hours? What will you do for
- How much will it cost to feed and care for your pet?
- What will you do for food and care if you lose your
job? Get sick? Move?
- Will your pet need special vitamins or other supplements?
Find a good supplier.
- Will your pet engage in seasonal activity? (Estrus
or "heat", hibernation, etc.) What will you
need to do to accomodate them?
- Is the animal you are considering known to be overly
protective or possesive? How will you handle this with
family and friends?
- Is your pet sensitive to environmental changes (temperature,
humidity, seasons, drafts, light)? How will you accomodate
- How will you safely transport your animal (ex. to
- If you move or travel outside your state with your
animal do you need federal licensing to transport them?
- Even after you volunteer, call or email reputable
trainers or facilities. Ask questions to people that
work day to day with the animal you want.