Despite our nation’s love for cats and dogs, there is a growing trend in exotic and pocket pets. Animals such as rabbits, chinchillas, reptiles, and Guinea pigs have become popular among American families over the past few decades, appealing to those who appreciate their size and unique characteristics.

Common species now kept as pets include:

  • Rabbits
  • Ferrets
  • Guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils
  • Rats and mice
  • Chinchillas
  • Lizards, turtles, and snakes

Like cats and dogs, exotics also need quality veterinary care, a nutritious diet formulated for their species, appropriate shelter, interaction or socialization, and psychological enrichment.

Exotic Pet Care 101

Before exploring some of the general needs of exotic pets, it’s important to understand that there is no one formula for exotics across the board. Caring for a bearded dragon, for example, will present very different needs than a house rabbit.

That said, the very first and most important action to take is educating yourself on your exotic pet species. Hopefully, you had the chance to thoroughly research your pet and have a good understanding of the care needs. There are also several great online resources about exotic pets and we at Godspeed Animal Care also invite you to ask questions.

However, regardless of breed, all pets need to have the following taken into consideration in order to thrive.

  • Appropriate housing – Most often, when it comes to exotic pets, housing and bedding are two requirements for health and safety. It is important to select the correct cage or enclosure so that it is both roomy enough for your pet to get some exercise, yet secure enough to prevent an escape. Pets such as rabbits and hamsters will require bedding which will need to be replaced at least once a week. Too much urine or feces can create a harmful atmosphere that can cause skin, eye, and foot infections.
  • Dietary needs – Also important to the health of your exotic pet is nutrition. Inability to provide proper nutrition is often one of the primary reasons why many exotics become ill or are abandoned to shelters. Some exotics, for example, are carnivores and require meat to live, often in the form of live mice, such as the case with snakes. Other pets have diets that are difficult to emulate without purchasing specialty foods that are species-specific. Since nutrition is the basis of health, we recommend doing your homework and seeing us for a consultation to assess the best possible diet for your exotic pet.
  • Behavioral enrichment – Just as a family dog might get bored if never walked or given opportunities for play, the same is true of exotic pets. Since many are confined to small cages, it is essential to provide mentally and physically engaging activities through the use of exercise wheels, mirrors, foliage and other shelter where they can hide, and interaction and careful handling by you.

While these are the big three considerations when considering the ongoing optimal care of your exotic pet, other factors can also present themselves. Many exotic species are prone to certain illnesses or conditions, some of which are zoonotic or transferable to humans.

Avian species can carry Chlamydiosis/Ornithosis among other diseases, and 90% of reptiles carry Salmonella. That is why an educational approach to exotic pet ownership is a necessary component of owning and caring for such pets.

At Godspeed Animal Care we are adept at providing complete wellness care for your one-of-a-kind wonderful pet. We can advise on a variety of daily care topics and even have several types of exotic pet diets available for purchase. To keep your best winged, scaled, or furry friend at his healthiest, please call us to schedule an appointment.