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EXOTIC PETS

Tips on Caring for Pets of an Exotic Nature

By David Townsend

If you like the idea of a pet that’s a bit different to cuddly cats and dogs, then some kind of exotic pet may be for you. 

Exotic pets, as the name suggests, are animals that are considered rather unusual and aren’t traditionally kept in our homes, such as snakes or lizards. 

Pet reptiles are fascinating creatures and some species can make interesting pets, even if they aren’t cute or fluffy. However, owning any pet is a big responsibility, and it’s particularly important to find out all you can about how to care for any animal, let alone one that you probably don’t know much about! Here is a short introduction to what you should consider before you buy any exotic pet.

Housing

You will need a glass or plastic tank known as a terrarium for your lizard or snake to live in. This will need to be large enough to keep your pet healthy and happy. You should always check how big your pet is likely to grow and how active it will be before you spend a lot of money on its enclosure.
Because most reptiles kept as pets live in warm or tropical climates in the wild, most require some form of heating in their tank. Heat mats and lamps are available for this, and should be placed at one end of the tank. The reason for this is to provide areas of different temperatures within the tank, as your pet will need a cooler place to shelter in, as well as a hot spot to bask. 

You will need a good quality thermostat to monitor the temperature. Many reptiles have a tendency to get really close to any heat source provided for them, so you should fit a guard over any heating equipment to prevent your pet from burns.

You will need to provide adequate lighting to ensure a cycle of day and night. Many pet lizards will also need a UV lamp to provide them with essential vitamin D that they would get from sunshine in their natural environment. You will also need to maintain the correct humidity levels by misting with water regularly.

To ensure your lizard or snake stays healthy, you should try to recreate their natural habitat within their terrarium. 

Exotic pet shops sell all kinds of things to help you do this, including bark chippings to go on the floor, and plastic caves for snakes to hide in. 

Check what is recommended for your chosen species. For example, many reptiles will appreciate some branches to climb on and some logs or rocks to hide under. 

It’s important to sterilise anything you put inside the tank, to prevent your pet from parasites and bacteria that could make it ill.

Feeding

Another way that exotic pets differ from other household pets is that they like to eat live prey. For instance, depending on their size, lizards eat a variety of insects and other invertebrates such as crickets, locusts or worms. 

Pet snakes can be fed dead baby mice, which are usually sold frozen. You will need a freezer to keep them in and can defrost them as required. You will need to check the specific dietary requirements of your chosen pet to ensure you provide it with a healthy diet.

Temperament & Behaviour

A lot of exotic pets are kept for their strange appearance and interesting behaviours, rather than for social interaction with their owners. 

Many types should not be handled, but are kept to be observed. Some even become aggressive and dangerous if handled. 

On the other hand, lizards such as geckos and bearded dragons have docile, friendly natures. They can become quite tame and enjoy being handled. 

Be aware that some species are nocturnal by nature, so will be at their most active at night.

Costs

Apart from the initial price of buying an exotic pet and all the necessary equipment, there will be ongoing costs such as food and vet bills. 

Find out the live expectancy of your lizard or snake before you buy it, as you may be surprised that some reptiles can live up to 20 years or more. This is a big long term commitment of both time and money. 

Also find out where your nearest vet is and check if they can treat exotic pets. 

You may consider taking out insurance for your pet.

To sum up, you will need to do thorough research before buying an exotic pet. You will need to make sure you are ready for the challenge and commitment of caring for a reptile. Exotic pet reptiles that are particularly good for beginners, with less complex care requirements, include geckos, bearded dragons, corn snakes and king snakes. Providing you find out all you can in advance and choose carefully, owning an exotic pet can be fun and rewarding. 

You can find more tips on caring for exotic pets at www.ExoticPets.org.uk

 


 

 

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