Is this animal a good pet?

One of the questions we get asked most often is "Is this animal a good pet?"

We don't feel this is really a fair question. No animal really "makes" a good pet. What makes a good pet is a good pet steward. This means understanding the type of pet you are getting including all of that pet's needs, not just diet and habitat, but what kind of social interaction it needs to be happy and safe. Many animals need almost round the clock contact to really be a safe and happy "pet".

Most of the species that we maintain here and take out to our educational programs, we do not ever consider to be "pets". They are wonderful educational animals, in our opinion, and we love them all but without the proper training and experience, they can be quite dangerous to live with.

Another thing we see a lot is that people believe that if they get one of these animals as a "pet" and realize they can't handle it, a zoo will take it in. The majority of zoos do not take animals from private owners and especially not animals that have been altered in any way (declawing, spaying/neutering) and have had a lot of human contact.

There are so many things to consider prior to getting any pet, whether it be a particular breed of dog, or an exotic species.

Some things to consider prior to bringing any pet home are:

  • Is this species legal where you live? If not, you could be endangering the life of the animal by taking it into your home?
  • What is the lifespan of the animal? If its long, say 20 years, do you know that you will be able to, or have friends or family that you know without a doubt can, provide for this animal for it's entire life?
  • If you are young, will you still want or be able to live with this animal if/when you have children?
  • Can you afford basic vet care? Basic vet care for exotic animals is typically much more expensive than other animals. For instance, one yearly well check up for a fox, with fecals, shots, blood work, would cost (this depends on the vet, of course) approximately $360. That is for a WELL check! Can you afford this? What about if they get sick? Can you afford that?
  • What kind of space does this species need? If it needs a lot, do you live in an area/home where you can provide the type of space it needs, even once it's grown?
  • Do you own or rent your home? Many rental places do not allow exotic pets. While the one you are living in now might, what happens when you have to move? Can you be certain the next place will. This is one of the most common things we are told when a person explains why they need to send their animal to rescue "We are moving to an apartment that will not allow these pets."
  • Are there temperature requirements for this species? Some animals require their environment to be at a constant temperature range. Can you provide this, even in the case of a power outage?
  • Are you looking for an animal that likes to "cuddle"? Some species don't really like to be held, but are still fun to watch. Can you respect this type of species needs?
  • Is this a noisy species? If so, can you or your neighbors deal with this?
  • Do you have access to a veterinarian who is willing/able to deal with this species?
  • Can you afford veterinarian care? Often times, exotic animal vets are more expensive than "regular" vets, as they have to specialize in so many more species, many of which have little to no information on them.
  • Is this a social species? If so, are you able to provide this animal with plenty of attention and/or a friend?
  • Are you capable of keeping this species contained? Some species are so fast that if they got out of your home, you could never catch them and they could not survive in the wild or could be detrimental to the local environment.
  • Are you prepared to provide for a new home for this animal, in case there is some reason that you are no longer able to care for it? Most people assume that a zoo will take in an animal should they no longer be able to care for it, and this is untrue. Most zoos have policies against taking animals from private owners.
  • Do you expect this animal to be litter box trained? Many species are very iffy on litter box training. Can you live with it if it will not train?
  • Will this species get along with the humans and other species in your home? Many people end up setting up a "food chain" in their home without meaning to, this can have catastrophic results.
  • Does this animal require a cage? If so, do you know and can you afford just what type of cage it needs to be happy?
  • Are you capable of meeting the dietary needs of this animal? Many species have very special and sometimes time consuming dietary requirements.

How can you be certain a species is right for you?

  • RESEARCH. We can't stress this enough. Do not just speak to a breeder. There are many ethical breeders out there, but remember, they live with this species and are obviously fine with its idiosyncrasies. Read books, but pay attention to who wrote the book. Many books are written by people who have never owned the species. Join some online forums or email lists about the specific species, this is where you usually can learn a lot about the typical problems with each species.
  • Work with both juveniles and adults of the species and not just once, but many times and at all times of the day. Many animals act differently at different times of the day. Try to find private owners who will let you visit, or rescues that will let you volunteer.
  • Find as many internet sites as you can. Each may provide different information, so you need several, this way you can tell which have the same information in common.
  • Speak to a vet who has experience with the species you are interested in.

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