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Exotic Pets

Girl with her new hamsterChoosing an Exotic Pet
Many people hear the word pets and think of golden retrievers, fluffy kitties or goldfish, the end. But, the world has more variety than just those, and many people think that their pets should reflect more élan, more panache than just the common, garden-variety animal friends. Whether they go for the small, furry and adorable, or the big, slimy, downright scary exotics, they want a pet that gets people talking or possibly reconsider visiting at all!
And when your child brings home a fuzzy friend and innocently says "can we keep him?", smile, and go get a box.
If you are interested in an exotic pet, there are many things to consider. First, what kind of pet owner are you? Are you a hands-on, interactive owner that wants a pet that will give at least some semblance of interest in you? Or, are you more of a watch and observe keeper, more content to allow your pet to live without a lot of physical contact? Consider the needs of each type of pet and then assess how it will fit into your life style. What kind of habitat at does it require? Will you have the space for this animal to comfortably live in your home? Will you be able to bear the expense of its needs? And finally, is this type of animal even legal to possess in your area?

Got Hamster?
Get a hamster wheel!
Otherwise you could end up with one chubby fellow, trust us, we know.

Once you have answered all of these questions, you can then start making an informed decision about the pet you want to find, and looking for a likely fit. It is always best to buy your exotic pet from a legal, knowledgeable dealer; make sure that they know the answer to any question that you might have for them, or look elsewhere. Also, before buying an exotic pet, make sure that you yourself have some information about what to expect. Speak to a local veterinarian not only to see if they deal with exotics, but for advice and suggestions as well. Some exotics require frequent and expensive care, while others are relatively cheap to keep, another factor you must keep in mind.

Finally, if you have small children in your household, you must consider whether an exotic pet is appropriate. Some are dangerous and some are not very interactive, so consider the pet as well as the makeup of your family before moving one into your household. Fish and other tank dwellers can be a good exotic starter pet for young children, allowing them to observe them and requiring a minimum of care to be happy and healthy. Do not spend huge amounts of money on your tank unless you are committed to the concept, and as with any other pet, know what you are getting into before making that first purchase.
How about trying the exotic fish... without that fishy smell. With this widescreen DVD you can observe all your favorite fish. Buying new fish is as easy as changing tracks, and when you go on vacation, well, the power button serves as nursemaid.
Exotic Pets and Children
   Most children love animals and will usually start asking for a pet. Allowing them to have one can depend on many factors including where you live, how much time you have to give to a pet and your child's maturity level. Is your child ready for a pet? Does he display real interest in an animal friend, or is it just the latest whine-de-jour? How does he handle responsibilities? Does he complete his age appropriate chores or is it a constant struggle to get him to do anything? If you cannot get him to pick up his dirty drawers, will he really feed, water and clean up after a pet?

Apartment dwellers are often drawn to the exotic pets because they are small and relatively easy to care for. Before starting to look at actual animals, make sure you know your child's temperament and level of commitment to the idea and then narrow down the search. Find the right category of animal first and then start looking. Your search should take you to a reputable pet shop where a knowledgeable salesperson should take the time to match your child to the right pet, and not just try to make a fast sale. Make sure that you know what kind of equipment your new pet will need to stay happy and healthy before even heading down to the pet shop; some pets will be far more expensive initially than others.

Understand that while the child is the one that is asking for this pet, you will ultimately be overseeing its care, and potentially taken over full time. With that in mind, you will want to consider if you will be able to tolerate the chosen pet. If you are anti-snake, and your son has refused to clean the cage, what will you do? Also, consider the pet's diet before allowing him to become part of your family. Snakes for instance, eat rodents. Will you be able to handle that? Will it be too intense for your child?

Finally, realize that the attention span of even the most patient child can be as short lived as the toy filled commercials they are bombarded with. Today's "hot" pet will be tomorrow's passé reject, so be prepared to step in and adopt the cast off. Until your child is older than ten, you might want to stick with fish, or birds, both of which require minimal human contact, are pretty and rarely creep out Mom.
We've owned small birds in the past, they are great for younger kids and often move out of the house with the teenagers. Everything you need to know can be found in this helpful book.
Exotic Pet Safety
   Having an exotic pet can be very satisfying but it is definitely not without its risks. As a responsible pet owner, you have an obligation to not only your family's safety, but the safety of the pet and the community as well. One of the first steps to successful exotic pet ownership is knowledge; knowing what the temperament and habits of your exotic can help you take the necessary precautions to keep everyone out of harms way.

First: handling your exotic pet. Some of the exotics are easier to tame and handle than others. If yours is truly not amenable to being touched or carried, then you must respect that. The only way for the animal to communicate this is sometimes with a painful bite; so if your pet is struggling and trying desperately to get away, do not pick him up! Remember, some exotic pets may be more dangerous than others, as some are poisonous or harbor dangerous germs that can make you very ill. Exotics can also be very unpredictable, so there may not be any actual warning signs given before a strike. Be especially cautious when allowing younger children to handle your exotics, a child may inadvertently squeeze or scare your pet, or may panic and release him.

Be sure that your exotic pet's cage is escape proof (cardboard boxes are only temporary). There is nothing worse than trying to recapture a creepy crawly or a slimy slitherer- snakes just do not come when called! Rats and other rodent exotics are very adept at escape, and can be very destructive when out of their own habitat, so careful monitoring of their cage is necessary. One very smart hamster managed to pull a neighboring curtain through the bars of his cage and then use the material to shimmy to the top of the cage, and out the top, never to be seen again. Watch for any signs of escape and thwart the attempt! The ghost of Fozzle can still be heard scratching away under the stairs to this day.

Always make sure that handling is done when everyone is calm and focused. A brief interaction in the evening is fine, holding the pet mouse during a child's birthday party is not. Again, monitor the pet and the pet holder for the first sign of problems and end the interaction immediately. Do not allow the pet to be taken out of its cage or habitat if there is someone who professes they afraid of your pet. Terrence the tarantula should not be invited out of his home if Aunt Tilly has arachnophobia! Wait until Auntie goes home to play with the big hairy spider.

Finally, after you are done handling your exotic, make sure that you and your children thoroughly wash your hands. No matter how you feel about your pet, they can harbor germs in their fur or on their skin. Do not allow anyone to eat while handling an exotic pet, and make sure that your exotic does not get any human food- some items can be highly toxic for some species.
   
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