Why Choose an Exotic Pet, Anyway?
Welcome to our new blog by Dr. Laurie Hess! She’ll be contributing regularly on the Pet Health Network about all things exotic.
As an exotic animal veterinarian, I am frequently asked why anyone would want an exotic pet (bird, rabbit, guinea pig, chinchilla, ferret, lizard, turtle, snake, hedgehog, sugar glider, or other unique animal) over a dog or cat. My answer to this question is that there is no single answer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with cats and dogs; I love these animals and have several of my own, in addition to my exotic family members. It’s just that there are so many reasons to have an exotic pet that it’s hard to limit my responses. But here are a few very important reasons to own an exotic pet:
1. Exotic pets are so different from cats and dogs that owning one can be an incredible learning experience.
Exotic pets are fascinating. With their unique behaviors and complicated social interactions, both with each other and with us, they really can teach us all sorts of new information. But their gregariousness can be a double-edged sword for an owner; these exotic pets have very specific social and environmental needs, and before you embark upon the journey into exotic pet ownership, you should be sure to learn about the needs of the exotic pet species you are considering so that you don’t end up with a pet whose requirements are more than what you bargained for.
2. Many exotic species don’t take up much space.
For many city dwellers that live in cramped, tiny apartments, a pet such as a dog or cat that spends most of its time outside a cage and requires a lot of space just isn’t an option. A small mammal (such as a hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, chinchilla, or rat) or even a reptile or small bird that can live in a fairly small cage might be a more feasible choice. Ask anyone who owns one of these smaller exotic species, and they’ll tell you that these pets can provide the same love, companionship, and satisfaction that a larger dog or cat can offer. Remember, good things come in small packages.
3. Exotic animals can be great for people with pet allergies.
Although many people would love to have a pet dog or cat, they often cannot, because they or their family members have
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Laurie has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified bird specialist and exotic animal veterinarian as well as a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.