To give an exact definition of what is considered to be an ‘exotic pet’ is rather impossible, because it will all depend on who you ask and what parameters they have set. Some animal lovers will say that any household animal not indigenous to the owner’s region qualifies as an exotic pet, while others think there is more to it, and the animal kept for companionship and enjoyment also has to classify as relatively rare and unusual. Furthermore, “exotic” could also mean any creature that is considered to be “strikingly bizarre” even in its own natural environment, and has a rather exclusive body frame, colour, or extraordinary behavioural features.
Exotic pets are usually both unique and relatively rare to find in common households and if you are searching for a good example, snakes may come to mind. Keeping boa constrictors or pythons in your living room is not exactly something most people find appealing, but some do and often for rather personal reasons, such as fighting ‘fear’, because they have a deep-seated passion for misunderstood animals, or they want to keep unwanted guests at a distance.
Some people are not content with just having common, domesticated animals around and prefer to keep exotic pets simply as conversation starters. Indeed, there is something irresistible about sweet and helpless infant monkeys, with human infant-like behavior. However, those sweet babies will ultimately grow up, and as a general rule, intelligent adult monkeys become quite challenging pets, causing more trouble than the owner has bargained for.
Before deciding on any kind of unique or wild-looking animal such as wildcats, lamas, reptiles, poisonous spiders, ferrets, seahorses, alligator, or other, you should confirm that your intentions are legal. Depending on the country, state, province or region you reside in, it may be illegal to own certain kinds of pets, and therefore, doing your homework can keep you out of trouble.
Owning an exotic animal requires commitment, and before acquiring your new, unusual companion, doing extensive research on suitable environmental conditions, housing and diets, which you will have to provide, comes highly recommended. Some animals eat little, but if you like to keep a giraffe in the backyard, make sure you have adequate space and trees, are aware that these animals get lonely without a mate, and they do eat an awful lot.
Housing can be anything from a bar, or cage to an aquarium, spaces that will need to be maintained and cleaned regularly. Sometimes the living area will have to be adjusted and altered to mimic the pet’s natural environment. Elements such as temperature, humidity, amount of sunlight and vegetation may play a big part in the survival of the animal, as well as providing the right food, and social setting. Like giraffes, many other animals are communal creatures and need interaction with cohorts or a mate.
Like humans, animals may need immunizations, and they too can get sick. Exotic pets are not exempt, so find out ahead of time if there is specialized veterinary care available in your area, and what the rates are. If you are unable to insure your exotic pet the vet bills can become a financial burden.
Information on many commonly kept exotic pets such as amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, and small exotic mammals are widely available through literature, animal groups, Internet websites and discussion forums. Pet stores, Zoos and Wildlife Parks can also provide valuable facts, which may help you in your pet-choice decision.