Exotic pets are popular choices for people who don’t want to have domesticated animals such as cats or dogs.
If you want to own your own exotic pet, you need to inform yourself about how to look after them, especially since many exotic pets can live for a long time – they’re a huge commitment!
What is an exotic pet?
An exotic pet can be everything from a sugar glider or chinchilla to a reptile and lynx. Generally, exotic pets can be defined as animals that aren’t usually kept as pets and that are often found in the wild.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most common species of exotic pets. Here are eight types of exotic pets you might be interested in purchasing.
Eight Popular Exotic Pets
- Weasels. These animals grow up to 12 inches in length, so they’re easy to keep at home if you’re short on space. They’re social and can live for up to 10 years. They’re also harmless to humans.
- Sugar Gliders. These animals are part of the marsupial family and grow to weigh between 80g and 130g. They are very social and get along well with other pets in the home. They can live for up to 15 years.
- Servals. These cats can live up to 22 years in captivity. They reach a maximum weight of 40 pounds and are solitary animals. They have been known to bond with humans, but this is encouraged to do with servals from when they are kittens.
- Monkeys. You can own various types of monkeys, but the easiest to care for are squirrel monkeys, macaques, and capuchins. They can live between 10 to 60 years, depending on the species. They need lots of stimulation daily.
- Ocelots. These cats can live up to 12 years and can weigh up to 35 pounds. They’re adaptable to many different climates, which is a bonus.
- Lynxes. These cats can live up to 12 years. There are four types of lynxes and they’re solitary animals who need their own space in order to thrive in captivity.
- Foxes. These animals can also live up to 12 years in captivity. They make great exotic pets because they’re not aggressive unless provoked and remain small. A fox will not grow larger than 24lbs.
- Capybaras. These rodents are social creatures that can be petted once they become comfortable with you. They can live for up to 12 years and can grow up to 174lbs, although they don’t grow larger than 20 inches in height.
Where Can You Buy Exotic Pets?
Although it often seems much easier to find a puppy or kitten, there are breeders of exotic pets that you can find online.
The important thing is to find reputable exotic pet breeders that follow the correct regulations and are licensed to be selling those animals.
Here’s where to find some popular exotic pets:
- Weasels. Although they’re more difficult to find than their domesticated cousin the ferret, you can find different types of weasels from reputable weasel breeders. These facilities offer a range of different weasels available for purchase.
- Sugar Gliders. Reputable sugar glider breeders can be found online, but you can also find sugar gliders at rescue shelters, so go on and adopt one!
- Servals. These cats are available from serval breeders that are licensed by the USDA.
- Monkeys. Exotic animal sanctuaries located in the US have many types of monkeys available, such as marmosets and owl monkeys.
- Ocelots. These beautiful cats are being sold as kittens by reputable wild cat breeders. Choosing a licensed breeder is important because it often means that the kittens have had all their vaccinations and have been raised in an environment with other animals, thus making the cats more socialized.
- Lynxes. You can find lynxes from conservation facilities. Often, you’ll be able to purchase lynx kittens, which is a good idea as this increases the chance that the kittens will bond with you over time.
- Foxes. There are many types of beautiful foxes available for purchase from fox breeding farms. If you have your heart set on a specific type of fox, you can usually reserve them, although this requires a small deposit to be paid.
- Capybara: These animals can be purchased from private zoological facilities that have capybara breeding programs.
What You Should Know Before Buying An Exotic Animal
If your state has given you the go-ahead to own an exotic pet, you have to ensure that you care for it correctly.
Having an exotic pet is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly, as these animals are not like domesticated cats and dogs.
One of the most important things you can do before purchasing an exotic pet is find out as much information about it as one exotic pet’s needs will be quite different from another’s.
A serval cat will want different food and interaction from a reptile, for example.
Just because an animal is considered exotic, or wild, that doesn’t mean you can simply put it in an outdoor enclosure and be done with it.
You need to stay on top of their needs and part of their care entails having a vet who will be able to treat your exotic pet.
Vets that treat exotic animals are less common than those for domesticated animals, so make sure you ask your current vet for recommendations.
Your local pet store might also have some recommendations for you.
Another important thing to bear in mind before buying an exotic animal is to consider its specific behaviour and temperament.
If you’re keen to purchase a ferret or weasel, you have to know that they can be harmful to other pets you already own, such as chickens.
On the other hand, if you work a lot and don’t spend a lot of time at home, purchasing a social pet such as a sugar glider or capybara is not the best idea as these animals will be lonely.
In addition, for some animals, such as capybaras, human interaction is not enough – they need to be around other animals in their species in order to be happiest.
That said, there are some exotic pets that are solitary animals, such as the lynx, but this does not mean they don’t require stimulation.
Even though you might not be able to spend a lot of time with the animal in its enclosure unless it’s bonded with you, you will need to provide it with items it can play with.
Clearly there are many things to bear in mind before you bring an exotic pet home. You have to prepare for the new addition to your family!
With that in mind, here are some important things to learn.
Let’s look at how to care for your exotic pets when it comes to diet, enclosures, temperature/humidity concerns, and medical conditions that can affect them.
Care Of Exotic Pets: Food
Exotic pets require lots of specific care, such as in the form of their food. They require essential nutrients for their specific needs.
One of the most common reasons why an exotic pet becomes sick is because it’s not getting enough of the nutrients it needs in its diet.
Let’s take a look at different exotic animals and the food they require on a daily basis.
- Weasels. These carnivores need to eat meat such as mice, rabbits, birds, and birds’ eggs.
- Sugar Gliders. These marsupials require protein such as crickets and mealworms to make up 25 percent of their diet; leafy green vegetables and fruits like berries for 25 percent of their diet; and pelleted food for the final 50 percent.
- Servals. These cats need protein-rich meat, such as fish and rabbits. They like to eat whole prey. However, you should also give them a feline supplement that contains calcium and taurine.
- Monkeys. These exotic pets need monkey biscuits that contain minerals and vitamins to meet their nutritional needs. You can supplement these with steamed vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, cooked chicken, and rice. If you keep your monkey indoors, you’ll need to give it Vitamin D supplements.
- Ocelots. These cats need meat such as ground meat daily. You should also supplement their diet with taurine and calcium, in the same way you would with a pet serval.
- Lynxes. Most types of lynxes will eat small prey such as birds, squirrels, and rabbits. You will have to supplement your lynx’s diet with special food that is tailor-made for them, such as Zupreem Feline Diet.
- Foxes. Canned food you give to your dogs is perfect for foxes, but fennec foxes require a higher dose of taurine so you’ll have to ensure you feed them taurine-rich food such as chicken hearts. Foxes also like to eat insects such as grasshoppers, which you can find in your garden.
- Capybaras. These cute rodents require a diet that’s filled with grass, squash, melon, and grain. They also need Vitamin C, which you can give them in the form of guinea pig pellets.
Care Of Exotic Pets: Medical Conditions
Exotic pets are susceptible to various illnesses, which is why ensuring they have the correct food and hygienic enclosures is of the utmost importance.
Here’s a rundown of some common ailments that your exotic pet might experience so you can be prepared for them.
- Weasels. These exotic pets are susceptible to bacterial infections and skin parasites, such as mites, ticks, and lice. They can also carry rabies.
- Sugar Gliders. Parasitic and bacterial infections are common, but sugar gliders are mostly affected by illnesses as a result of malnutrition. Bruises and pale gums are common signs of a lack of adequate nutrition.
- Servals. Feline rhinotracheitis (herpes) and rabies can affect servals. They can also get calicivirus (a contagious disease that causes respiratory problems) and panleukopenia, a virus that affects the nervous, immune, and gastrointestinal systems. Tyzzer’s disease is caused by bacteria and can affect servals, so it’s important to maintain the correct hygiene in the serval’s enclosure as well as give them a nutrient-rich diet.
- Monkeys. These animals can get hepatitis A and monkeypox, which shows up as rashes and pustules. It’s a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted to humans.
- Ocelots. These cats can get the feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus, both of which cause respiratory problems, as well as panleukopenia, which can lead to anaemia.
- Lynxes. These animals can be affected by manga, a skin disease caused by parasites. Ticks and fleas can also attack them, as can intestinal worms. Canadian lynxes have been found to become infected by a parasite transmitted by ticks that causes similar symptoms to the Epstein-Barr illness, which displays symptoms such as fevers and skin rashes.
- Foxes. Rabies can affect foxes, which is why they require a vaccination. In addition, they can be affected by mange and toxocariasis, an illness caused by roundworms.
- Capybaras. They can get scurvy from a lack of Vitamin C, and are susceptible to respiratory infections and lice infestations, like other rodents. Keep their enclosure hygienic to reduce the risk of such infections.
Care Of Exotic Pets: Enclosure Size
Besides paying daily attention to your exotic pet’s diet and health, another essential you have to plan is your pet’s enclosure.
Again, this varies quite a bit depending on the type of pet you choose, however a general rule is to make the enclosure as big as possible.
- Weasels. Weasels can grow up to 12 inches in length, so make sure your weasel’s enclosure is at least 36 inches in width, 24 inches in length, and 24 inches in height.
- Sugar Gliders. Since sugar gliders can grow up to 16 inches in length and weigh a maximum of 120g, they require cages that are at least three inches by two inches by three inches.
- Servals. These cats reach a weight of between 15 and 40 pounds, and their body length is almost three feet. An outdoor enclosure that’s large enough for the serval to walk around and play is a must to own. Make sure it has a roof so that the serval can’t escape.
- Monkeys. Monkeys vary quite a lot when it comes to their size. Generally, a monkey’s enclosure should be a minimum height of six feet so that it can leap around its cage. You’ll also need an outdoor and indoor cage, as you will want to ensure it gets the best of both worlds.
- Ocelots. A pet ocelot needs an outdoor enclosure that’s a minimum of four meters in length, two meters in width, and 2.5 meters in height. This will ensure it has enough space as it can grow between 28 and 35 inches.
- Lynxes. These cats grow to sizes between 32 and 40 inches, while their tails are between four and eight inches. A lynx can weigh between 22 and 44 pounds. A lynx pet requires an outdoor enclosure of at least four meters in length, two meters in width, and three meters in height.
- Foxes. Although foxes are usually small in size, reaching up to 24lbs, they require an enclosure large enough for them to play, dig, and run around. Aim for an enclosure size of at least 150 square feet.
- Capybaras. A capybara requires an enclosure that’s at least 12 feet by 20 feet in size. This is because it can be up to 51 inches long and can weigh between 60 and 174lbs.
Care Of Exotic Pets: Temperature/Humidity Levels
You need to ensure that the temperature and humidity in your exotic pet’s enclosure is appropriate for what they can handle so as to make them feel comfortable.
Cats such as lynxes, ocelots, and servals should be in enclosures that have shelter, such as dens, from which they can escape weather conditions such as rain.
However, normal outdoor temperatures should be fine for them. The serval can handle high levels of humidity, as can the ocelot which lives in tropical humid conditions.
Lynxes come from humid forests, which also makes them adaptable to humid conditions.
Let’s take a look at some other exotic pets and what temperature/humidity they need.
- Weasels. Prevent them from being in extreme weather conditions. They become stressed in very low temperatures. In addition, avoid temperatures higher than 78 degrees Fahrenheit as this can be harmful to them. Be careful of high humidity, too.
- Sugar gliders. The best temperature for a sugar glider is between 80 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. They should be in a warm place, but away from direct sunlight as well as air conditioning vents. They have been found to be quite adaptable to indoor humidity, as Wilmett Pet Center reports.
- Monkeys. While different monkeys will be adaptable to different climates, let’s look at marmosets because they’re a popular choice for exotic pets. They need to be in temperatures of between 73.4 and 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and need a humidity level of between 40 and 70 percent.
- Foxes. Different fox species will want different temperatures. The arctic fox can overheat during high temperatures, while the fennec fox (a popular pet choice) requires very high temperatures – they will shiver if the temperature is less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit and require low levels of humidity.
- Capybaras. These small animals can handle temperatures up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but they need to have water and shade in their enclosure. The humidity levels in indoor enclosures should be between 30 and 70 percent, but these animals can handle levels between 15 and 20 percent in drier areas.
Are You Capable To Care For Exotic Animals?
When finding the right exotic pet to adopt, make sure you consider your lifestyle.
If you aren’t home often, you shouldn’t choose a social animal that needs a lot of daily attention.
If you don’t have the money to build the right outdoor enclosure for the animal and feed it special food, then it’s important to know this before you go ahead and buy it.
To be an exotic pet owner, you need to ensure that you’re committed to enriching and stimulating the animal so that it doesn’t become bored and depressed in its enclosure.
You have to provide it with enough playtime and fill its enclosure with items that it can enjoy.
For example, monkeys want to be able to jump around their cage or enclosure, so you’ll have to ensure it contains rungs and platforms.
On the other hand, if you want to own a wild cat, you’ll have to ensure that you can provide it with a safe, quiet enclosure in which it can feel secure.
In addition, no matter what exotic pet you own, you’ll have to be home often to regularly monitor different aspects of its care, such as the temperature of its enclosure and if it seems to be in poor condition, which would require a trip to the vet.
There are many hidden costs associated with having an exotic pet to consider.
These include cleaning-related costs that you’ll need to spend regularly to keep the animal’s enclosure healthy.
Monkeys, for example, are known to be quite messy as they urinate and throw their faeces around.
There’s also the question of ensuring you build the correct enclosure for your exotic animals who cannot be kept indoors, such as servals, ocelots, and lynxes.
This can accumulate costs as enclosures will require fencing, concrete, and roofs to prevent the animals from escaping.
Keeping an exotic animal is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly!
Exotic Animal Breeding
If you want to become an exotic pets breeder, you will need to get a license from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that allows you to breed and keep certain species of exotic animals in your care.
These animals can be captured from the wild or be animals that have been bred in captivity.
There are two different types of licenses: a Class A license and a Class B license.
- A Class A license is for dealers who sell animals that are bred and raised at their facility, as the USDA states.
- A Class B license is given to dealers who are involved in purchasing and/or reselling warm-blooded animals.
The cost of either of these licenses ranges from $30 to $750, and is dependent on your annual dollar volume of business, as the site goes on to report.
How To Get Started
Exotic animals can only be bred by a professional organization.
To get started and register your organization, there are forms you will have to fill out.
However, you’re required to first contact your USDA APHIS Animal Care office before you go ahead and mail your application, which can be found on the USDA website.
When you speak to them, make sure you specify the type of animal species you will be handling, the type of business you’re in, and the type of business to which you will sell your exotic animals.
This will ensure that you apply for the correct license and get the assistance you need to ensure your application is successful.
To get a license, you first have to ensure that your facility meets the Federal standards when it comes to various aspects of dealing with exotic pets, such as humane handling of them, feeding, and housing.
If you don’t meet these standards, you will be denied a license until the problems have been corrected at your facility.
You have to pass the inspection within three months, and if you don’t you’ll have to wait at least six months before you are able to reapply for the license.
By preparing your organization to meet those standards, you’ll be in a much better position to apply for a breeder’s license.
Additional Tips For Owning An Exotic Pet
- If you can, it’s always best to purchase an exotic pet from rescue shelters. Some small exotic pets can be found in such places, such as sugar gliders, and they’re a great way to give animals in need a happy home.
- If you purchase your small exotic pet from a pet store, you should always find out where the animal came from, such as by requesting information about the animal’s breeder, so you can be sure that it was responsibly bred.
- Some exotic animals can transfer diseases to their owners, so always make sure you practice good hygiene when cleaning out the animals’ enclosures and petting them. Wash your hands afterwards. It’s also a good idea to protect your hands by wearing gloves.
- Be careful when introducing people to your exotic animals. Loud noise can make animals feel afraid or intimidated. In addition, just because your exotic pet has bonded with you, it doesn’t mean it will react positively to other people.
- Some exotic animals need interaction with other animals of the same species, while others are solitary. It’s important to know which category your favorite exotic pet falls into before purchasing it. For example, while capybaras want to have company, a lynx is a solitary animal that doesn’t do well with another lynx in the same enclosure.
Owning an exotic pet is an exciting prospect, especially if you want to look after an animal that’s considered wild and more interesting than a domesticated one.
That said, you have to be sure that you can care for the specific animal because different exotic pets will require vastly different methods of care, such as when it comes to shelter, food, and socializing requirements.
In this article, we’ve provided you with a comprehensive guide to various exotic pets and how to take care of them.
We’ve also provided you with information about how to tell if you’re capable of looking after exotic pets, such as when it comes to your lifestyle not clashing with the pet’s requirements.
The good news is that there’s an exotic pet for everyone!