Benefits of owning exotic animals

There is an allure to owning an exotic animal as a pet. In a world where individuality is desired, obtaining and owning something that is unique and somewhat controversial is coveted.

To be clear, exotic animals are not domesticated, and they vary greatly in shapes and sizes. Some exotic animals are sold in pet stores: Bearded dragons, Green iguanas, and Macaws, just to name a few. Other exotic animals are sold through the extremely lucrative wildlife trade where various species of nonhuman primates, big cats and bears can be easily purchased at the right price.

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Regulations regarding the private ownership of exotic animals vary from state to state, with some more lax on laws and penalties than others. Aside from state regulations, the lack of personnel in place to monitor the wildlife trade (a multi-billion dollar business in the U.S alone) has made it surprisingly easy for the everyday person to obtain exotic animals. Becuase of this oversight, animals are often hidden and smuggled through customs and across state borders unnoticed.

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There is very little data on the exact number of exotic pets held captive in the United States. While we may not yet have the ability to give precise numbers, experts are able to infer from what we do know. For instance, it’s estimated that over 5,000 tigers reside in U.S. homes; that’s more tigers in captivity than there are left in the wild. Born Free USA has documented over 2,000 attacks, incidents and escapes involving exotic pets since 1990.

The majority of exotic pets are purchased as infants but they become unmanageable and aggressive as they age (after all, they are wild). The desire to own exotic animals is often short-lived, yet it is the exotic animals who suffer in the long run.

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Exotic animals require stringent and specialized diets that are essential to their well-being. When their needs are not met, the animals wind up malnourished and develop illnesses and disease. Many exotic pet owners are not prepared to provide full grown tigers, lions, bears with tens of pounds of raw meat and primates with the appropriate diet.

Once the animals reach sexual maturity they’re often relegated to small outdoor (or indoor) enclosures where the extent of their interaction with any other living being is when they’re fed. This leads the animals to become incredibly frustrated, not to mention bored and they often begin to exhibit stereotypic behaviors such as pacing or self-mutilation, indicative of their extreme mental distress.

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After they recognize the fact that no matter how much they love their animals, they will never be happy as pets, owners seek out sanctuaries and zoos in the hopes that they will be able to surrender them. Unfortunately, zoos are only prepared to care for a certain number of animals and those that can’t be accommodated are frequently euthanized. Sanctuaries are often already at capacity due to the enormous captive exotic animal epidemic in the U.S. Sadly, this means that many owners resort to selling their pets at auctions where they are purchased for canned hunting attractions or taxidermy.

In addition to the danger that private ownership poses to the animals, it also creates serious public safety concerns. Here are three of the most common in the U.S.

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1. Irresponsible Release

In some cases, exotic pets are simply released by their owners. We can only imagine that this is a desperate attempt to rid the owners of any responsibility for the animal while maintaining the delusion that they’ll be better off in the “wild.” The only problem is that the “wild” typically means a residential neighborhood or city in the U.S.

Many of these animals starve to death; others are unable to compete with the harsh elements they’re not accustomed to and wind up being hit by cars or killed by native species. Occasionally these exotic pets survive the release and begin to establish themselves, they then become known as an invasive species.

For example, in Florida, the Burmese python has been an invasive species since the 1980s. It is strongly believed that these snakes were originally kept as pets, but when they became too large to accommodate they were released. Not only does this sort of release pose a threat to the public, it poses a threat to the native species in the area.

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2. Frequent Escapes

There are over a thousand reports of exotic pets escaping their enclosures at private residences. Keep in mind, these are only the incidents that are reported, there are likely many more.

Most owners know that reporting these escapes, especially sans the proper licensing, will almost always guarantee the seizure of their pet. Although the fault rests with the owners of the animal, too many unnecessary deaths, both human and animal, have occurred because of this sort of negligence.

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People have been strangled by large pet snakes and mauled by pet bears, chimpanzees and a number of big cats. Afterward these animals are, more often than not, killed on sight. It is incidents like these that prove we need to enact stricter regulations, or ideally bans, related to exotic pet ownership.

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3. Zoonotic Disease

Aside from the daily maintenance of exotic pets, many harbor diseases. Zoonotic diseases can spread easily between humans and animals, domestic animals included. According to the Center for Disease Control, exotic pets can pass on and infect humans with a variety of diseases including the Herpes B virus, Rabies, Salmonella, Ebola and Monkeypox. Even though these outbreaks have been rare, the increase in the number of exotic animals being traded (millions each year) certainly increases the chances that these diseases will spread, posing a serious threat to handlers and the public at large.

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What Can You Do?

We’ve seen the damage that can be done when irresponsible and uneducated citizens acquire exotic animals to keep as pets. Although there may be rare cases where families have lived with exotic animals without being physically harmed, these pets are still wild animals that deserve their freedom. They’re not suited to be pets, but sadly once they are raised in captivity they can never be released back into the wild.

Protecting the wild populations of any species does not entail keeping them held captive as pets. Instead, we must continue to dissuade the public from buying exotic animals in an effort to reduce the demand that is currently fueling the illegal wildlife trade. If you are looking for a pet, consider adopting one of the millions of domestic animals waiting for homes in shelters. It is our responsibility to keep wild animals wild.

Lead image source: Guillaume/Flickr

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Dr. Dan MeakinWhen most people think about exotic pets they think about animals like snakes, lizards, tropical birds and wild animals.

Before you buy an exotic pet you need to consider the pros and cons of caring for exotic animals as it related to both you and the animal.

Pros of Having Exotic Pets

The most obvious pro of having an exotic pet is that they are unusual and unique. Many people like exotic pets because they are the only one in their neighborhood that has one.

Exotic pets are also very interesting to interact with and in some cases they can produce very intense interactions.

Another advantage of having exotic pets is that you may be the animal’s last chance for a good home.

If the animal has lost their territory because of civilization encroachment or if they were previously kept by people that were not caring for the animal properly and you have the expertise and appreciation of the animal to give it a good home, then the animal is probably better off with you.

Cons of Having Exotic Pets

There are a few good reasons to have exotic pets, but there are also many cons to having exotic animals as pets.

Many exotic pets are taken from the wild, often in less than humane ways. This causes the animal, in certain situations, extreme stress and trauma.

Another drawback of keeping exotic pets is that they require very specific care to stay healthy and happy.

Many people that purchase exotic pets, like lizards and tropical birds, don’t understand this and as a result the pets die or become very ill. This leads to another con of keeping exotic pets, lack of knowledgeable veterinary care for specific exotic species.

Since most local veterinarians only deal with domesticated animals or farm animals, many do not have the experience required to deal with health and husbandry issues that exotic pets may develop.

Should You Have an Exotic Pet?

The decision to get an exotic pet needs to be one that is based on the reality of your ability to care properly for the animal. If you are dedicated to providing the right environment, food and medical care that the animal needs then you are a most likely a good candidate for an exotic pet.

If you are buying an exotic pet to be cool or if you are buying one on a whim then you need to take a step back for and really think about the purchase and make sure it is right for you and for the animal.

At All Creatures, we are passionate about exotic animal health.

Many species pass through our doors. You may not even be able to name them all, but to us they’re just as familiar as cats and dogs. We proudly offer experienced care from check-ups to surgery for just about any animal that you call a friend. However, we don’t want these pets to fall into the wrong owner or home.

Feel free to check out our ‘Exotics’ page on our website. There you will find Exotic Pet Care Guides for many species and we will be adding more on a regular basis.

Dr. Dan Meakin is the owner of All Creatures Animal Hospital, 1894 Ohio Pike in Amelia. Call (513) 797-PETS.

Should exotic animals be kept as pets? Should the ownership of wild animals be banned?

Should people be allowed to keep exotic animals as pets? Should we ban the ownership of wild animals? Do true animal lovers keep exotic pets? Check out the pros and cons and share your opinion!

On netivist we have many open debates and petitions concerning animal abuse and protection (e.g. bullfighting, dolphin hunting, gorillas in zoos). Let’s discuss the possession of exotic pets. Keeping exotic animals as pets has always been a subject of controversy. We are not only referring to the eccentricities of some celebrity owning a lion or a tiger. Exotic pets are very diverse and increasingly common in homes.

Should exotic animals be kept as pets?

Animal lovers are divided. For some of them having an exotic pet is a cool thing and a display of love for the animal. Some owners of unusual pets put great effort into all the paperwork necessary to get their animals authorized as pets. Moreover, they spend a lot of money and time taking care of their pets. Owning a pet is always a responsibility, but owning a dangerous or wild animal more so. For others, allowing exotic pets means endangering wildlife. Snakes, spiders, chameleons, scorpions and monkeys have become increasingly common pets. The owners of these pets in generally treat them with great care and argue these pets have a very pleasant life at their homes. However, the ownership of exotic pets is also highly controversial. Keeping exotic animals as pets threatens public health and safety as well as animal welfare. Wild animals can harm humans and spread diseases.

Pros and cons of exotic pets

Let’s have a look at the arguments proposed by people in favor of exotic pets ownership:

  • Many of these pets don’t need neither much space, nor daily walks or shows of affection, for example reptiles, spiders, insects…
  • Dogs and cats usually live many years. Some exotic pets have shorter lifespans, which means they are less of a long term commitment for their owner.
  • As some exotic pets, such as amphibians or reptiles, don’t have fur they are more convenient for people with allergies.
  • Some exotic pets have other advantages like pest control (lizards), fiber production (alpaca), eggs (quails), etc.
  • There is a great diversity of wild animals, so any owner can find a pet that suits her/his needs.
  • Owners of exotic animals usually learn a lot about them so that they can take care of them properly. Knowledge usually makes people more open minded and interesting.
  • Adopting wild animals can be a good way of protecting some endangered species which otherwise would struggle to survive in their original habitat.

Many activists and animal rights advocates staunchly oppose keeping exotic animal as pets and argue:

  • Exotic animals are wild animals. They have not been domesticated and selected during thousands of years like dogs (30.000 years) and cats (5.000 years). So even if they are owned since birth and tamed, they are still wild, with their own instincts and needs. In consequence, they often suffer while being kept as pets
  • Some of these animals are very dangerous. If they escape, they can endanger family and neighbors.
  • Some wild animals may carry infections and diseases.
  • Some animals (parrots, for example) have very long lifespans and mean a very long term commitment for owners.
  • Many of exotic pets have specific needs, not only physical (temperature, light, food, space, housing) but also mental needs (monkey, parrots). If any of these needs is not fulfilled, they will suffer. If these animals develop mental disorders they may become violent and destructive.
  • It is sometimes difficult to find the right professional or veterinary doctor who could advice on the best ways to take care of the exotic pet.
  • There is an important illegal market around wild animals and exotic pets. There are criminal organizations that are hunting and mistreating animals in order to serve the demand for these fancy pets. Some endangered species are particularly sensible to this threat.

Should exotic animals be kept as pets or should the ownership of wild animals be banned? Vote in our poll and share your views and experiences with unusual pets. Comment in our forum to raise awareness about the pros and cons of owning exotic pets.

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Should People Be Allowed to Keep Exotic Animals as Pets?

The issue of keeping exotic pets is a divisive one. Animal rights activists are up in arms over it, while there is also no consensus among experts. This PetPonder article will shed some more light on this debate.

Did You Know?

By some estimates, a yearly average of 3.5 people die from exotic animal attacks. Since this number also includes deaths occurring in zoos, this number is not worrisome at all for exotic pet owners, considering the statistical negligibility of 3.5 people among an American population of more than 316 million (as of 2013).

Everyone (well, most of us) loves pets. While most of us limit that love to more conventional animals such as dogs, cats, budgerigars, and fish, there are many who extend it to animals such as snakes and chimpanzees. This gives rise to the debate over keeping exotic wild animals as pets.

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In an age of the rising influence of various animal rights movements, the ever-growing trade in exotic pets is an obvious culprit, and regularly finds itself under the microscope. The reason why the debate over exotic pets has rumbled on for so long is that there is no simple answer. There are equally sound arguments on both sides of the debate, and a conclusion is hard to reach. Here’s an attempt to do just that.

Pros and Cons of Keeping Exotic Pets

One of the main problems in settling this debate is the variable definition of ‘exotic pets’. By the strict definition, even non-native animals that are bred locally and legally, and not taken from their natural environment, are ‘exotic’. Similarly, while the term ‘exotic animals’ usually sets alarm bells ringing, not all exotic animals are a threat to society. Pythons and chimpanzees, primarily, are the culprits in pet attacks, and such animals are obviously dangerous, but the extremely harmless and positively cute sugar gliders and crested geckos are not even dangerous for infants, let alone adult, sensible pet owners.

Albeit there are such confusions, here are some points about the pros and cons of keeping exotic pets.

Pros of Keeping Exotic Pets

This section deals with exotic animals of low intelligence and low risk. Such animals include several reptiles, rodents, frogs, unconventional felines, such as the serval, fennec foxes, guinea pigs, etc. Dangerous and endangered animals such as chimpanzees, pythons, big cats, crocodiles, etc., do NOT belong in a domestic environment, and shouldn’t be kept as pets. More explanation of their situation is provided further on.

★ Low Upkeep

Most exotic pets are low-maintenance―at least in comparison to dogs and cats. Lizards, frogs, spiders, and even snakes require basic and cheap shelters, infrequently (to an extent) provided cheap food, and minimal veterinary care. An empty aquarium with a bit of bedding and a few rocks will do just fine. Some species may need some branches and live plants. So, they are perfect for the typical urban pet owner, who can easily house these animals in an average apartment. On the flip side, though, these pets won’t be as affectionate as dogs. They will recognize you and tolerate your handling, and a few may go so far as seeking out your attention.

★ Perfect for Busy Owners

Unlike dogs, lizards don’t need to be taken out for a walk. Unlike cats, snakes don’t need to have their head scratched. Unlike lovebirds, frogs don’t need you to keep them company. Most exotic pets are fairly independent, and don’t need to be shown constantly that their owner does, indeed, love them to death. Enough handling to keep them social and familiar with you will do.

★ Hypoallergenic

Many animal lovers can’t have a conventional pet because they are allergic to dog or cat dander, or feathers. On the other hand, reptiles, frogs, etc., don’t have hair or feathers, and are thus, perfect for these pet seekers. Exotic mammals may cause some allergies, of course, but reptiles work fine with everybody.

★ Incredibly Safe

It is a tragedy that people think of a tiger or a cougar when they think of ‘exotic animals’. If we take the dangerous wild animals out of the equation, how many deaths do you think pet lizards, frogs, snakes (including the scarily named boa constrictor and the much-maligned African rock python), spiders (including poisonous spiders) guinea pigs, wild cats (not big cats), wallabies, muntjacs, etc., have caused? In America, at least, the total is much less than the number of fatal attacks by dogs! That’s right, your neighbor’s Doberman Pinscher is likelier to come at you than your creepy neighbor’s boa constrictor.

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Neglected, harassed, or mistreated animals will seek to fulfill their basic needs, and unfortunately some do possess the tools to kill humans quite easily, but an unprovoked intentional attack from an aggressive exotic pet is virtually unheard of. It is due to the emotional appeal by media that these animals get a bad rap, not due to statistics.

★ Wild Populations are Unaffected

The converse of this point will also appear in the ‘cons’ section, due to the variable definition of ‘exotic animals’. Taking a chimpanzee from its natural habitat in Africa is not commendable due to the adversities faced by and the declining number of wild chimpanzees, but getting an ‘exotic’ pet from a breeding program in your own country has no effect whatsoever on the animal’s wild populations. Numerous animals, particularly snakes and lizards, are part of breeding programs in the U.S.

Moreover, most exotic animals are simply so abundant in their wild environment that a legal and well-regulated pet trade doesn’t have any adverse effect on their population. Animals such as the fennec fox, the muntjac deer, wallabies, anteaters, and most lizards, geckos, and snakes are thriving in their wild habitat, and don’t need conservation efforts to increase their wild populations. The emotional argument of taking an animal away from its ‘home’ is a purely emotional argument, and is a matter of your sensitivity.

Cons of Keeping Exotic Pets

As you can see, there is simply no rational argument against having pets that won’t kill you (unless you give them more than sufficient reason to) and that don’t affect the wild population. However, there is a huge flip side to the exotic pet trade, which we will now explore.

✖ The Illegal Pet Trade

As said before, the wild populations of some exotic pets are severely affected by the pet trade. Due to this, bans have been imposed on the trade of numerous animals, but the illegal pet trade continues to fester in many wildlife-rich regions of the world. Animals such as big cats (none of which is in rude health at the moment) and many primates need all the help we can provide for their wild populations to flourish. The illegal pet trade is a big contributor to the reducing numbers of some species.

The damage is not just limited to the actual ‘sale’ of the animal. The transport, often to places very far from the animal’s native region, can be taxing. The animal is stored in torturous containers, and is very rarely looked after during the travel. Since the collective benefit gained by the transactions is much more than the expenses of capturing the individual animal, it is often ignored and mistreated until it finds a patron.

This poaching is also harmful for the animal’s native environment, since the loss of an element in the local food web can wreak havoc upon it.

✖ Negligent Owners

Most animals that can be kept as pets, perhaps excluding crocodiles and pythons, have no natural aggression towards humans. Even big cats are timid and scared of humans, and ‘maneaters’ are, thus, not very common. Unfortunately, the nature of the pet trade means that many patrons end up buying cute-looking cubs that grow to become larger and stronger than they had anticipated. This disillusion can then result in negligence and mistreatment of the pet, which can cause horrific tragedies due to developed, rather than instinctual, aggression. Sometimes the pet is simply abandoned, which either causes it to perish in an unfamiliar environment, or it becomes a nuisance by being successful in an environment that has no niche for it.

The numerous success stories of keeping such dangerous animals as pets show that with sufficient care and attention, even these animals can be successfully raised in a human society, and that the owner is usually to blame for a pet’s misconduct.

✖ Intelligence and Highly Developed Instincts

Higher predators such as big cats and crocodiles have highly developed predatory instincts that can’t be wiped out very easily. Though adult humans don’t always present a clearly accessible target, this makes the animals an innate threat not just to their owner, but his visitors, his neighbors, and especially their more conventional pets. Supporters of the exotic pet trade argue that dogs were feral before they were domesticated, but that argument ignores the thousands of years of domestication and selective breeding (try petting a wild pack of gray wolves). After hundreds of rounds of selective breeding, even tigers, lions, and bears could become docile and affectionate towards humans, but until then, they don’t belong in your house, just as much as you don’t belong in their jungle.

✖ Contagious Diseases

Though this is rare, exotic animals may act as vectors to diseases that can start an epidemic in their introduced locality. Thanks to the inability of many pathogens to cross species barriers, this problem has a natural, but partial remedy. However, diseases such as hepatitis A and B, rabies, and salmonella are some commonly observable diseases that can be transmitted by exotic reptiles and mammals.

Conclusion

Taking into account all the points mentioned above, it would seem that as a purely rational argument, keeping docile exotic pets born in breeding programs is acceptable. It doesn’t harm the animal or its native environment in any way (if anything, it may raise awareness about it on a small scale), and it’s not dangerous for the animal or the owner. Similarly, keeping dangerous and intelligent pets has very obvious risks, and thus, should be disallowed.

The rational argument is, however, often cast aside as emotions take priority. As mentioned before, the misrepresentation of the term ‘exotic pets’ by animal welfare/animal rights movements and the media has resulted in a misinformed public opinion. Many people are―understandably, I admit―against the very notion of keeping exotic pets, since they think those animals were ‘meant to be in the wild’. This is a perfectly understandable personal opinion, but not so much so when it comes to deciding a public policy.

Using emotional terms such as ‘snatching an animal from its home’ may win your organization the uninformed public’s support, but it is entirely misleading. Most animals are extremely adaptable, and as long as there is no radical change in the environment, they simply don’t care whether they grow up in their native environment or in a suburban home in America. Unlike humans, most animals simply don’t have the intelligence necessary for such complex emotions. Humans are among the very few animals (arguably only animal) intelligent enough to harbor such sensitivities and predispositions, and enforcing our paradigm onto animals is unfair to both humans and animals.

All in all then, by all means, keep non-aggressive exotic pets bought from breeder programs, but make sure you can take care of them as long as they need it!

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The Pros And Cons Of Owning An Exotic Pet

They can help the environment

Keeping exotic pets can help the environment in more ways than one. As well as giving these animals the chance to spent their lives in a loving home, they can also help to educate anyone they meet. That’s right; many people may not have heard of these animals or seen one before. Their presence can be enough to help with their conservation.

They could be dangerous

While any animal can be dangerous, exotic pets might come with more of a risk than others. This is especially important when it comes to the big cats or those venomous snakes. Perhaps there is a reason that many of these animals require licenses before we can keep them as pets? It looks as though several safety precautions might be needed before we can welcome them into our homes.

There are many pros and cons to owning an exotic pet, but does the good really outweigh the bad? Our lifestyles can have a significant effect on whether we have to facilities to welcome an exotic animal into our homes.

Pros and Cons of Wild Animals As Pets

Many people find the idea of having wildlife as pet as exotic and exciting. However, if you want a wild animal as a pet, you should have thorough understanding of the animal and its behavior and needs. The people who have these animals as pets are invariably trained to handle them, but even they will tell how unpredictable these animals can be. You may have read stories in the newspaper of zoo keepers being mauled by their wards.

So, having wild animals as pets has become quite a sensitive and controversial issue. Some people like to highlight the pros, while others just point out the cons. However, both should be weighed equally and only then a decision should be taken to keep a wild animal as a pet.

Here are some pros and cons of wildlife as pets.

Sometimes, conventional pets like dogs and cats cannot be kept due to lack of space. In such circumstances, one can keep a wildlife like a hedgehog or gecko as a pet as they do not require that much space. Some wild animals have their own benefits. Like a hedgehog can be used to keep insects and others pests at bay in a house.

Often it has been seen purchasing a wild animal can be cheaper than purchasing a pet that is popular and has a pedigree.

Also, many proponents of wild animals feel that some species have a better chance of survival if they are adopted. It has been seen that the dart frog is facing a problem in the wild as its natural habitat is diminishing. Hence, if this animal is adopted, it will have a better chance of survival.

However, there are sufficient cons and disadvantages of owning wild animals as pets. First of all, one has to take into consideration the welfare of the animal. Having a wildlife means giving due consideration to its diet, exercise and social interactions. Often, the animal will not have any interaction with other animals of its own species and will be left to leading a lonely and solitary life. Also, the owners will not be equipped to provide proper care to the animals as they may not be well-versed in these things. Many wild animals look cute and cuddly when they are small. However, as they reach adulthood or sexual maturity, their wild side takes over and the animal becomes aggressive. This is the time many owners abandon their pets or give them away to zoos.

Wild animals are carriers of many diseases that are lethal to humans. For instance, reptiles and amphibians are carriers of salmonella infection and each year thousand of people in the US contract this disease due to their pets. Also, rats imported from Africa are known to carriers of monkey pox. An outbreak of this disease occurred in the US in 2003 when Gambian rats brought in the monkey pox into the country.

Above all, the demand for wildlife as pet is increasing. So, many illegal traders are taking advantage of this demand. Most of the wild animals are captured and then transported in cruel and inhuman manner to reach their owners. In addition, majority of the owners do not know to take care of the animals and this causes them to fall sick or even die.

So, weigh the pros and cons of having wild animals as pets before jumping to adopt one. Make sure that you are properly equipped to handle the care of the animal. Do not adopt one if you have any doubts.

Benefits of Owning An Exotic Pet

We love cats and dogs. We love goldfish, ferrets and finches. We love mice and rats and guinea pigs. So why do people love to get exotic pets when there are so many native species to have as pets? First of all, they’re different. And that brings with it an array of different challenges that you have to learn to be a competent pet owner. Indeed, you can keep a dog and so long as you feed and walk it, you’ve got a dog. On the other hand, keeping an exotic pet requires education, dedication, and wisdom. Most people who keep unusual pets rapidly become experts in the unique needs and care requirements that their favourite creature has. Exotic pet keepers become a community of like-minded owners sharing advice and experiences, and offering information to other people who are interested in buying one of the special pets that they love. Exotic pets are also often very long lived, especially if they are cared for properly. In nature animals very rarely die from old age. But once they are taken out of an environment where predation, disease and environmental factors are removed, exotic animals often stay healthy for a very long time. This makes them a great investment, both in terms of money when you buy the pet and all the equipment that your pet requires, and in terms of emotional investment. Once you fall in love with your pet, you can expect it to live with you for many years.

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