Exotic animals are kept in homes more and more frequently. There are many more exotic species than you would believe: mammals, such as monkeys, racoons or prairie dogs; birds and all kinds of reptiles, and even insects, such as tarantulas or scorpions.
If you are considering buying an exotic pet you should first research the biology and the dietary and housing needs of your new friend. This is easy to do nowadays, thanks to the Internet and to the great variety of books containing information on all you need to know to take proper care of this type of pet.
Most veterinary consultations performed on exotic animals are due to illnesses caused by inadequate care: the animals are not provided with the light, temperature, humidity, diet, etc. that they need. You should keep in mind that many of these animals come from very distant places, with very different climates, and that to avoid diseases you will need to recreate their original conditions as much as possible.
The future owner must also be aware that, apart from the initial purchase price, he might also have to buy a terrarium, space heater, ultraviolet light source, etc.
Another important fact in the case of reptiles is their diet. A vegetarian animal, such as an iguana, is much easier to keep than an insect-eater, such as a chameleon, given the limited supply of insects available in specialized pet stores.
You should find out beforehand if your exotic pet should be provided with the “CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) certificate”. This certificate is issued in connection with the legal trade of certain species, to prevent the decline of natural populations. If the species to which your pet belongs needs this certificate, it must be provided along with the sales invoice. You will usually be provided not with the original document but with its number. This guarantees that the animal specimen that you are purchasing comes from the legal trade in listed species.
If you finally decide to buy an exotic pet, you should do so from a specialized shop and not from street markets, door-to-door salesmen or other questionable providers. There has been an important increase in exotic animal imports, especially birds. They are often illegal and have been imported without the necessary health measures. And, of course, always ask for an invoice.
After the purchase, take your pet to a veterinary surgeon specialized in exotic animals for a physical examination. If your pet is a bird, it is highly recommended to perform a blood test (to detect antibodies) for Psittacosis, also known as chlamydiosis or parrot fever, because a sick bird may transmit this disease to humans.
A final recommendation to exotic pet owners: if, for whatever reason, you cannot continue to take care of your pet, do not release it into the wild. Your pet will probably not be able to survive under the new conditions, but if it does it has the potential to unbalance the native wildlife population. The proper thing to do is to find a new owner for it or take it to an animal shelter or wildlife rescue centre.
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