By Dae Ceresini
What comes to mind when you hear the term “exotic pet?” To many, it means any domesticated species that is not a dog or cat. “Exotic pet” can mean anything from small mammals like rabbits, hamsters, or chinchillas to reptiles and birds such as iguanas, pythons, and parrots. These fun and unique pets may be just what you need to complete your family. As with any new family member, you want to first be sure there will be the right fit.
Today, we will focus on some important considerations to take before choosing to add a reptile or bird to your home. There are many different species of reptiles and birds; and each one requires unique care. It is crucial, before adopting one of these pets, to research to find out as much as possible about the care required by that specific animal. You’ll want to give your new pet the best life possible, so here are some considerations to research and learn more about before making a decision:
- What is the optimum temperature and humidity for your specific pet?
- Is special lighting required? For example – UVB or heat lamps.
- What type of bulbs are need to supply the appropriate lighting and heat, and how often do they need to be changed?
- What type of substrate/bedding should be used in the enclosure?
- How much water is needed in the enclosure, and how should it be supplied?
- What dimensions should the enclosure be?
- You will also want to consider how big your pet will get and how fast they will grow. Enclosures may need to be changed/upgraded to keep your pet happy and healthy.
- Should nesting or private areas be incorporated into the set up?
- Can the specific pet be housed with others of the same or different species, or does it need to be housed alone?
- Where should the enclosure be kept in your home?
- For example: It can be unsafe to keep birds in/near a kitchen as fumes from certain cookware can be harmful.
- What food must be given to meet the nutritional needs of your pet for their lifetime? Some reptiles must be fed whole prey or live insects, so the potential owner would need to be comfortable with doing this.
- Do adjustments need to be made as they age?
- How must this food be kept? For example, how do you care for the crickets to be sure they are providing the best nutrition when ingested.
- Frequency of feeding and amount of food required each feeding to keep your pet at an ideal weight and prevent possible health complications?
- Are supplements needed and how should they be given?
- Many reptiles require a multi-vitamin or calcium supplement
Other things to consider:
- Lifetime costs?
- Including: cost for pet itself, initial set-up of the enclosure, food, veterinary care, supplements, replacement/upgrade costs of enclosure, etc
- General temperament/behavior?
- Will this pet be a good fit for you?
- Time needed/attention?
- Common illnesses/problems to give preventative care and watch for?
- Is there a vet in your area that sees your species of pet?
- Dr. Balmer sees reptiles and birds at Animal Hospital of Dauphin County
This list serves as a cheat sheet of questions for you to consider before buying. It is also a good idea to talk to your AHDC veterinarian about any questions you may have. Be sure, when researching, that you are using accredited, verified sources. Below are a few recommended links:
www.anapsid.org – reptiles
www.kingsnake.com – reptiles
www.veterinarypartner.com – small mammal, rabbits, and birds
Should you choose a new exotic pet, or if you need care for your current reptile or bird, Dr. Balmer will gladly see your pet!
Animal Hospital of Dauphin County also has several doctors, including Dr. Balmer, who sees small mammal “pocket pets”!