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For those looking for a unique new addition to the family, there are many (legal) exotic pets available locally — including birds, rabbits, reptiles, arachnids, rodents and more.
Before you proceed with your next purchase, consider the specifics of out-of-the-ordinary pet ownership. Sure, a ball python looks cool, or the sugar glider is super cute and fuzzy. But once that python outgrows its enclosure, or the sugar glider becomes difficult to feed, owners may become overwhelmed and the exotics are put up for adoption, or worse: abandoned.
Before You Purchase
Small mammals can be great additions to your family but are very different from dogs and cats. Food supplements, temperature and humidity can all make a difference in exotic pet’s health. Some animals, like pocket pets, only live for a few years while reptiles and birds can live over 50!
It’s always a good idea to consult with a local veterinarian for “pro tips” before venturing into the exotic pet world. Cascade Hospital for Animals is a great option. Exotic pet owners throughout the Midwest have traveled to Cascade Hospital for Animals to benefit from the expertise of their team, including Dr. Tracey Ritzman. She’s a board-certified veterinary specialist for birds and exotic companion mammals like rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and rodents, among others.
Hamsters and gerbils’ more exotic cousins are an easy go-to for newbies. They’re easy to find in pet stores, relatively cheap and cute as can be. The chinchilla is a small animal native to the Andes mountains, while a Degu looks like a hamster but is native to Chile. There are many breeds and types of small rodents that make great additions to a family home (especially as a first-time pet for your littles).
Whether you call them rabbits or bunnies is up to you. However, all bunny owners should know they are not rodents. These lovable long-eared pets are technically categorized as Lagomorphs — which are smaller burrowing animals. According to the MSPCA, buns are meticulously clean and easy to train and house break. Much like a dog, a pet rabbit can be taught to come to his/her name, sit in your lap and even do some tricks. Important note: Bunnies cannot vomit, so it is crucial to feed them only healthy, fresh foods.
Reptiles and Amphibians
The list of exotic reptiles and amphibians is long but includes tree frogs, geckos, iguanas, pythons and many more. These animals are a popular choice in the pet industry and sell well at a variety of pet shops across the US. Reptiles are typically native to warmer climates and therefore need warmth and a specific habitat to regulate their body temperature. Amphibians live in diverse climates around the world. The hardest part about reptile and amphibian pet ownership is feeding time. This can be an expansive (and expensive) hobby.
Exotic animals qualify as any animal not native to a country. Most exotic fish found in home aquariums include piranha and red-bellied pacu. Red-bellied pacu grow quickly in an aquarium, so be sure to have the extra space for your guppies to grow. To keep your red-bellied pacu healthy, you’ll need a tank with an extensive filter system.
Insects and Arachnids
For those who prefer the underdogs of the “cute pets” world, insects and arachnids might be the best option. Examples include scorpions, tarantulas and jumping spiders. Many owners enjoy the opportunity to watch and observe these fascinating creatures in their habitats, learning and studying their behaviors. However, the very specific environment and dietary needs can be too much for many owners — not to mention the chances of the spider or scorpion escaping.