Pets bring unmatchable joy and companionship to our lives, so it's no surprise that more and more people are adopting animals into their forever homes. While cats and dogs are the most popular pets, some people look for animals that are a bit different.
These "exotic" animals can be incredibly rewarding to care for and nurture; still, you must consider many factors before adopting an exotic pet into your home. Discover those factors below, along with several exotic animals that make great pets.
Should I Get an Exotic Pet?
People worldwide keep all manner of exotic animals as pets, from tarantulas to tigers and fighting fish to fennec foxes. But just because something is legal doesn't mean you should do it; exotic pets require specialized care and environments that you need to ensure you can provide before you adopt them into your home.
In addition, do your research before adopting any animal. For example, the axolotl is an exotic salamander that gained popularity as a cute character in games such as Minecraft and Fortnite. The problem with buying a "trendy" pet is that it can cause a significant drop in the number of wild creatures and result in irreparable damage to the animal's native ecosystem.
In other instances, wild animals are promoted as "pets" even if they are not domesticated. For example, "pet" hedgehogs are susceptible to malnutrition and intense stress from captivity, while fennec foxes are scared of people and "should never be kept as human companions."
Key questions to ask yourself include:
- Can I provide an enriching environment for this animal? Do I have enough space?
- What are their social needs? Should I adopt more than one at a time? Can I provide for these additional animals?
- Does this animal require a special diet? Can I m
- eet the dietary requirements?
- How much time can you dedicate to this animal? Who will look after your pet if you travel?
- Are they susceptible to any illnesses? Do you have enough money to fund medical expenses?
- Is it legal to keep this animal as a pet in your area?
If you're trying to choose a new pet, here are five domesticated yet exotic animals that can make unique and loving companions.
Degus are small rodents, closely related to the chinchilla, that live in Chile. They have become popular pets because they can make good companions, particularly for people who would like to have an animal that is not as large as a dog or cat.
Still, degus are incredibly social creatures - living in groups of up to 100 in the wild - so you'll need to adopt at least two of these friendly creatures and make sure you can supply the mental and social stimulation they require. The ideal number of degus is a colony of between four and eight, and they will need a substantial cage with running wheels and space to exercise, thanks to their status as one of the most active rodents in the world.
If you're willing to put in the time and effort, degus can make excellent pets who will express their affection by coming to you for scratches and communicating in squeals.
A llama is a domesticated South American camelid. They are related to camels but have long necks and ears like an alpaca. Llamas are used as pack animals in the Andes mountains of South America, where they were domesticated 4000-5000 years ago.
Llamas make good pets if you have the time and space for them; as pack animals, you'll need to house at least two or three because these social animals need company and don't enjoy living alone. Still, if you have adequate space - such as farmland - these intelligent animals can understand and learn how to perform simple tasks, and don't require much maintenance. Plus, they'll adopt animals such as sheep and goats into their own herd, which they will fiercely protect.
If you want a smaller alternative, opt for the alpaca. They are less protective of livestock but possess a gentler temperament. Not only are they adorable, but alpacas are employed as therapy animals thanks to the soothing aura that makes them ideal companions.
Skunks can be intelligent and friendly animals but many die unnecessarily because people see them as pests. Even if you don't fancy keeping one of these mammals as a pet, it's worth learning more about them so humans can live harmoniously alongside skunks.
Attempting to trap a wild skunk would be a mistake as these creatures can be ferocious when scared, but the domestic variety can make excellent pets in the right circumstances. Many will enjoy time spent in human company as long as they are socialized with humans from a young age. Skunks require a varied diet of chicken, fish, beans, meat, and vegetables.
Domestic skunks are different from wild skunks in several ways. Not only do they have a softer temperament, but they do not possess the same defense mechanisms as their wild counterparts. Because of this (and if they wander off, they'll struggle to find their way home), you need to ensure that your enclosure provides plenty of space but is securely enclosed.
Chinchillas are small, furry rodents that make good pets; they can be affectionate but don't enjoy being handled too frequently. These rodents are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk. And it's important to moderate their environment because they're allergic to heat.
You won't need to engage in much grooming with your chinchilla, but you will have to prepare a "dust bath" once a week by purchasing a special rock formula in which they can roll around. In addition, it's best to adopt a minimum of two chinchillas at a time, as they like to have constant company.
Ferrets are small mammals that are related to weasels. They have long tails, large feet, and furry coats and have been domesticated for over 2,500 years. They can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia; there are over 300,000 domestic ferrets in the United States alone.
Ferrets are a unique kind of pet that is small, playful, and a lot more intelligent than people think. These creatures are more independent than dogs and more playful than kittens. They are quiet, will use a litter tray, and sleep for up to 20 hours a day.
Still, ferrets are fearless little creatures who can get into trouble if left alone for too long. Their high energy levels mean they'll want plenty of space to play, but you'll need to set up an enclosed area to keep them out of trouble when you're not home.