While many Americans are content with having a dog, cat, rabbit, or fish, others may always be on the search for the next exotic pet – a status symbol, perhaps, or an animal they’ve always admired. However, having such pets isn't without its risks.
Experts in Canada have been quick to warn of the perils associated with having exotic pets, such as injury, infectious diseases, and destruction – not to mention the harm that could be caused to these beautiful animals by ill-informed pet parents and those with little to no experience in handling them. What makes having an exotic pet different to any domesticated pet? Well, the clue is there for all to see; domesticated pets are bred for the purpose of being pets, while exotic animals are not. When it comes to the unknown, exotic animal husbandry is littered with uncertainties.
"I can tell you pretty well what a dog or a cat or a rabbit is likely to carry, what the risk is and what we can do to decrease that risk. But the farther you get from these typical, domestic species, the less we know and the more you can get surprised … the less we know about a species and the more we bring them out of their normal environment, they can get into some really completely unpredictable risks," explained infectious disease expert Scott Weese of the University of Guelph in Canada. From behavior and healthcare, to nutrition and general upkeep, there's still so much we've yet to learn about the care of exotic animals in private properties.
The risks of keeping exotic animals involve the pet as much as they do the pet parent. As well-meaning as most pet parents are, they're simply not equipped to take on an exotic pet's needs, forcing the animal into unprecedented and scary situations, including unsuitable housing, solitary confinement, or even the family household. Such practices are cruel and incredibly dangerous to the pet's health and wellbeing – and risky to the safety of those choosing to live alongside such unpredictable pets. Nutrition is also a big worry; would you know what to feed an exotic pet? Many pet parents assume they do, but veterinarians report cases of unsuitable diets time and time again.
Before bringing an exotic pet into your home, please do consider the risks associated with it, and always conduct sufficient research first. Seeking advice from your local veterinarian is always a good place to start, though it's also a good idea to seek out pet parents in your area who may be able to offer their own advice.