The phrase “exotic pets” brings up a plethora of associations, many of them negative. Illegally sourced monkeys, baby tigers, Burmese pythons let loose in the Everglades, these are just a few of the headlines that come to mind. But the truth is that these are just the most publicized examples of exotic pets. There are countless types of exotic pets that are not illegal, dangerous, or even particularly difficult to care for, and you’ve probably seen some of them before.
What is an exotic pet?
It’s hard to give a precise definition, but most people typically ascribe the term to any pet that is not commonly domesticated, or rather, not as commonly domesticated as dogs and cats. Dogs and cats are great, but some animal lovers enjoy keeping something a little bit different, and there are a host of uncommon, cool pets that are easy to take care of. Many of these exotic pets are relatively small, have simple diets, don’t require much attention, and often don’t pose any risk to your furniture.
So, maybe you’d like to add an unusual family member to become a multiple pet household, maybe you want a pet but don’t have the time for a dog or a cat, or maybe it’s just national pet day and you want to get in on the fun! Whatever your reason, as long as you’re committed to giving an animal a loving home, you might want to consider an exotic pet. Here are some low-maintenance exotic pets you should consider.
If you’ve been on social media over the last few years, you’ve probably seen these around, prickly little critters sitting in their trademark rolled-up ball. Most of the hedgehogs you’re seeing are African pygmy hedgehogs; they’re small, solitary animals that have grown in popularity as their roly-poly pictures circulate around the internet. They do need to be fed particular food to imitate their natural diet of insects, roots, and plants; and, specially formulated hedgehog feed is commercially available. As long as they’re provided a large enough enclosure (at least two feet by three feet) with hiding places and spaces to exercise during their nighttime activity, hedgehogs don’t need much besides a heat source to keep their living conditions tropical. Over time, they can also be taught to tolerate some handling, though preferably in the evening hours since they’re naturally nocturnal.
It’s also worth noting that hedgehog spines are not dangerous! They’re not barbed like porcupine quills, and their only purpose is to create a hard, prickly shell against predators in the wild.2
Despite the stigma against rodents as pests, there are a handful of species that make excellent low-maintenance pets. Some of them don’t even fall within many people’s definition of rodent! Flying squirrels, for example, are classified as rodents despite the rosy perception they carry compared to their ground-dwelling cousins such as rats and mice. Gerbils, hamsters, and chinchillas are all rodents as well, and all can make great pets. Most rodents require little more than a clean enclosure with water and proper food.
Chinchillas are small rodents that hail from mountainous areas of South America. These active, jumping animals require a large, vertical cage to give them space for nocturnal exercise as well as a specific diet of good quality grass hay and specially-formulated pellets. Beyond that, chinchillas don’t need much. If socialized at a young age, they can become amenable to handling, however, they don’t require affection to be happy and healthy.4
They might scare the living daylights out of some people, but arthropods such as non-poisonous tarantulas and scorpions, hissing cockroaches, and hermit crabs can be some of the most low-maintenance pets you’ll find. None of them require any kind of specific attention or maintenance beyond feeding and enclosure cleaning (most species molt, so disposing of molted skins is necessary). For most of your pet’s life, all you’ll need to do is keep them fed and keep their space clean and properly warmed.5
The field of herpetology (the study of reptiles) is vast and has a passionate following of reptile pet owners. Given the proper care, there are few reptiles that can’t be kept as pets, however, only a handful of those are low maintenance enough to be considered good for beginners. Leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and corn snakes are immensely popular for their docility and easy care. As with arthropods, they don’t need to be given affection, and if you want to simply feed them and keep their enclosures clean and warm, that is perfectly sufficient.
No matter how simple or easy the maintenance of your pet might be, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared to take care of them in their time of need. Learn more about exotic pet insurance and what is covered.
1https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/hedgehog-pets/, Accessed July 2021.
2https://hedgehognation.com/2018/11/05/do-hedgehog-spikes-hurt/, Accessed July 2021.
3https://pethelpful.com/exotic-pets/easy-care-exotic-pets#gid=ci026d9d8f400627e0&pid=easy-care-exotic-pets-MTc0OTY5MTk4MzExODQzODA4, Accessed July 2021.
4https://www.thesprucepets.com/chinchillas-1236769, Accessed July 2021.
5https://askentomologists.com/2016/01/23/which-arthropod-pets-are-good-for-beginners/, Accessed July 2021.
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