Michael Jackson had a chimp. Audrey Hepburn had a fawn. Mike Tyson had not one, not two, but three Bengal tigers. Hollywood has always had an inexorable fascination with owning exotic animals. And we, Hollywood’s fans, have often followed in its footsteps.
But there’s more to owning an exotic pet than shelling out gobs of money. If you’re thinking about becoming the proud new owner of a kinkajou, African grey parrot, or ball python, here are five things to consider before buying an exotic pet.
Exotic pets, by definition, are wild animals. Because of that, owning one isn’t as simple as owning a cat, dog, or hamster. Different states have different laws regarding the ownership of exotic or dangerous animals. Some states ban ownership outright, while others allow certain species with a permit. Make sure you do your homework for your state and the species you want.
There’s a reason celebrities are known for having exotic pets: they have the budget to purchase one. Here’s the price tag for a few popular exotic pets:
- Sugar gliders: $100-$500 for infants
- Kinkajous: $1,500-$3,000
- Fennec fox $2,500-$3,500
- Macaws: $1,000-$5,000
- Savanah Cats $1,000-$20,000
And this is just the cost of buying the pet. This doesn’t include special food, enclosures, or vet bills, which inevitably run a higher price tag than your average pet.
Domesticated animals are usually content with enough clean space they need to stretch their legs. But like we said, exotic pets are wild animals, so they usually need more elaborate enclosures to keep them safe, healthy, and happy.
For example, wallabies need large outdoor enclosures with high fences to keep them in since they can jump six feet in the air. The green basilisk lizard may feel vulnerable in large, empty terrariums and do well in warm wooden ones with decorations and a coat of paint to look like the jungle.
Even “easy” exotic pets have highly complicated needs, including temperature, exercise, and diet. When you don’t meet those needs, they are likely to fall ill. Unfortunately, a typical veterinary office cannot always care for your animal, and specialist care is hard and expensive to come by.
Your health is also a concern when it comes to exotic pets. Many exotic animals can carry zoonoses or diseases that pass from humans to animals. This isn’t to say you’re guaranteed to get sick if you bring one home, but you may need to wash your hands after handling them, especially with reptiles and amphibians.
The biggest thing you should consider before buying an exotic pet is your commitment level. Exotic animals have a lot of needs, and on top of that, they can live for decades. They’re fun, beautiful, and exciting, but they aren’t for someone who only wants to be a casual pet owner. Decide if you have the time, resources, and motivation to do it, and then bring your new friend home.