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Article: What are Exotic Pets?
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What are Exotic Pets?
written by Yoong Yuin Hun

Pets have been around for many centuries. In the early days, wolves were used as guards and hunting partners, hawks and eagles were trained to hunt, horses to pull carriages and the list goes on. Animals and humans have been together side by side and they may be work animals back then but they also shared a bond with the humans. Today, an animal taken as a pet rarely works, we take almost any domesticated animal as a companion and friend. The close friendship man has developed is astounding but it does not end at just domestic animals, pets today can be any type of animal and the pet trend is that on exotics. What are exotic pets? It is not easy to define exotic pets but basically they are our non-standard pets that have been taken from the wild and bred in captivity or just wild non-native animals that rarely bond well with people. In other words, they are animals from the wild.

       In recent years, the pet industry has ballooned drastically with more and more people wanting a pet but not everyone were looking for domestic pets, rather, the pet industry is blooming with a high demand for exotics. Examples of exotic animals are snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, monkeys, jerboas, parrots and the list can go on and on. Basically, any wild animal can be labeled as an exotic pet. Yes, it may seem interesting and different from your average dog or cat or hamster and it may be impressive to some people if you say you have an exotic pet but one never realizes just how difficult it can be to have an exotic animal as a pet. Why is this so? Well, not all vets specialize in exotic animals and when our exotic pet turns sick, it can be tough finding out what went wrong and how to cure it. Another reason is that we do not have the knowledge on proper housing and care. Many years ago, it was hard to find books and websites on caring for a specific exotic pet but thanks to the hardworking and dedicated exotic pet hobbyists, we are able to gather as much knowledge as we can from the Web. It is very important to research on the animal that we want to get as it gives us an insight view on how suitable the pet is to our lifestyle and how adaptable it is to us and also to new foods. With a dog or cat, it is easy to provide for its needs and it is very adaptable to any lifestyle but with an exotic pet, it is just not that easy. A tarantula cannot live on our wall, a frog cannot sit in our living room sofa, and a tortoise cannot sleep under the kitchen table. As responsible pet owners, we have to give our exotic pets the correct living space that closely resembles their habitat.

There is such a variety of exotic pet species that knowing what each pet needs can be confusing so caring for an exotic pet is a big responsibility and requires careful research and planning. Exotic specialists are regularly confronted with animals that have died or become very ill as a result of being kept in unsuitable environments or fed the wrong foods. Many exotic pets require live food such as mice, rats and crickets but naturally, their diet is more varied with maybe possum, mouse deer and other living creatures in the wild. Some exotics may take clay, eat various wild fruits and sap, roots and grass but when they are with us, we can only offer what is available to us from supermarkets and pet stores. Some animals need a diet that is well balance and feeding just what we have would not be healthy to our pet at all. Special supplements are in need to ensure their health and growth is as healthy as possible. Every species requires different care and different living environment therefore it is important for us to understand as much as possible the needs of such an animal. It is very natural for us humans to want to nurture a living creature so it is always wise for us to study carefully basic care and take heed of signs of disease or illness.

Not all animals can be taken as pets. Some wild animals cannot be taken as an exotic pet as they are protected or endangered. To monitor the trade closely, there is an international agreement called CITES (Convention on Trade in Endangered Species). CITES bans trade in species threatened with extinction and regulates trade in species whose survival could be threatened. As for dangerous and protected animals, licenses to own them are required by local government to ensure that the numbers taken as pets are monitored. It can be a bird or a reptile or a mammal so it is wise to always check with the local council on which animal or pet needs a license. Failure to do so may lead to a fine of a certain sum of money and the pet getting confiscated by the authorities.

        Exotic pets are indeed fun to have as it gives pet hobbyist a challenge. Caring for an exotic pet is challenging as it needs guts, knowledge, patience and passion. Do not get a pet for the fun of showing off to friends or because the pet looks cool or you want to scare people away, get an exotic because you want to understand these creatures and nurture them from going extinct in the wild.

Unconventional