FAQ: Keeping Unusual and Exotic Animals as Pets

What are unusual animals to keep as pets?
An unusual pet is probably one which most people would not want to keep. There are many animals which you should not keep in captivity, indeed it is illegal to keep some, but there are also many animals which do very well in captivity but which are not widely-available for one reason or another.

Why keep an unusual pet?
There are many good answers to this question. One good reason is that they don’t normally require a lot of space, so even apartment dwellers can keep them. Keeping such pets is also a function of individuality. An interesting animal in someone’s home is an immediate conversation piece. But probably the main reason for keeping such pets is the sheer fascination.

What kind of unusual animals make good pets?
Firstly, for the purposes of this article, the notion of a ‘good’ pet will be one which you can keep safely and happily. Most of these animals are what one would call ‘ectotherms’. These are animals whose internal body temperature is regulated by the external environment. Mammals and birds for example are different because they can regulate their own body temperature.

Are there ethical or legal questions to address?
As long as it is not illegal to keep a species, that is if it is endangered, it is mostly up to you as to whether or not you keep them. Ethically, it is best to purchase those animals which have been bred in captivity as apposed to those which have been caught from the wild. However, with certain species of scorpions for example, it is sometimes impossible to breed such species in captivity.

How do I decide what kind of animal to have?
Your choice of animal is a very important one. If you are to be able to care for your pet to your utmost ability you must not be afraid of it or get bored with it. Despite the fact that your unusual pet will not run and greet you when you come home, or snuggle up to you when it is cold, it is imperative that you can still see the merits of keeping this animal for the entire duration of its life.

Caring for your unusual animal
There are three basic requirements for your animal. The first requirement is food. You must know what and how much your animal will require. The second requirement is water. For some animals humidity is a matter between life and death. You must know exactly what your pet will require. The final requirement is heat. Because your animal will not be able to regulate its own body temperature, it will require the provision of heat via a heat pad or a light bulb.

What happens if an unusual animal has a health problem?
They should not be treated any differently to any other kind of pet. There are in fact many veterinary surgeons who will be happy to look at your pet. However, finding a vet who has specific knowledge and experience of your pet type may be difficult and time consuming, so it is important that you find a specialist as son after you have got your animal as possible, rather than waiting until something is wrong.

What kind of animals are available?
There is a huge variety of pets you could keep, far greater than there are for any other class of pets. Invertebrates include crickets, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, vinegarones, tarantulas and mantids. Caecilians are worm-like amphibians which are unfamiliar to most people. Amphibians include salamanders, newts, frogs, toads and axolotls. Unusual mammals include porcupines, jirds hedgehogs. Molluscs include snails and slugs. And finally, there are also thousands of species of lizards, snakes, turtles, terrapins, tortoises and insects. And this has ignored the prospect of the literally millions of varieties of marine animals you could keep.

What are the most common types of unusual animal kept as pets?
Probably the most common are the arachnids, such as scorpions and tarantulas. If you are keen to keep an exotic pet then this is a good place to start, if only because of the vast amount of literature available. Unusual mammals are becoming more popular as well. If you are not sure if you want an unusual pet, why not try keeping some garden snails to begin with?

How much should I expect to pay?
The price of your unusual animal will vary even more greatly than it would for any other type of pet. Some animals you may be able to obtain for free if a breeder has surplus. For other types, such as tarantulas and scorpions, you can expect to pay between 20 dollars and many hundreds of dollars. For the more unusual mammals and snakes you might need to pay up to several thousand dollars.