Recommendations for Adopting an Exotic Pet

Oct 24, 2012

What is an Exotic Pet?

Although this definition may appear strange, in Canada, any pet that is neither a cat nor a dog is considered to be an exotic pet.

What are the Main Exotic Pets Owned by Canadians?

  • Miniature rabbits and small rodents
  • Budgerigar and cockatiel, canary
  • Domestic ferret
  • Green iguana

It should be noted that aquarium tropical fish far outnumber all these animals together.

Why Adopt an Exotic Pet?

Adoption of exotics is becoming increasingly popular. When asked, people relay a number of reasons:

  • Allergies to cats and dogs
  • Lack of sufficient space or landlord rules
  • Long work schedule
  • Care required for dog or cat is too time consuming

Note that many exotic pets such as birds require more not less time so this is a common misconception about some exotics.

It is impossible to provide all the characteristics of these various animal species. This article will provide a review of the important points that should be considered before such an animal is adopted.

Important Elements to Consider Before Adopting an Exotic Pet

1. Size of Animal

There are size differences between a leopard gecko (30 cm at maturity) and a green iguana (200 cm at maturity), between a budgerigar (40 grams at maturity) and a green-winged macaw (1000 grams at maturity), between a corn snake (2 metres at maturity) and a Burmese python (4 to 5 metres at maturity). Larger animals require larger enclosures and in a small home or apartment, this may be a limiting factor.

2. Behaviour of Animal

Some exotic animals have characters that are less conducive to frequent human handling or other manipulation: certain tegus type lizards, anaconda, parrots born in the wild will not tame the same way as a budgie will. Though some exotic animals look cuddly, they may not be willing to allow close handling.

3. Feeding Requirements

Many exotic animals need special diets. For example, snakes have to eat their prey whole. They are not for the tender-hearted. Birds require a complex diet – not just seed!

4. Captive Condition Requirements

Some tropical fish require water that has exceptional quality and characteristics that are very difficult for most people to achieve. Macaws cannot live in a small cage. They need an entire room with all the inconvenience this can cause. Green iguanas come from the humid tropical forests of Central and South America; recreating such an environment for an animal that measures nearly two metres at maturity is no easy undertaking. Some of these enclosures are quite costly to buy and maintain so this must be factored into the budget!

5. Financial Aspect

Whatever the pet, the owner will be required to spend money at one point. An example is the aquatic turtle that is often sold as a miniature turtle. An adult can weigh nearly two kilograms. It takes a very special aqua-terrarium to keep a turtle of this size in good health! The related costs can also be very significant.

6. Laws and Regulations

A number of municipalities prohibit certain exotic animals. For example Ste-Foy prohibits the possession of snakes on its territory. The Quebec government forbids possession of venomous reptiles, crocodilians and sea turtles. Furthermore, the only felidae and canidae that can be kept in captivity are domestic cats and dogs.

7. Care and Nutrition

Some of the medical care is quite specialized and not all veterinarians will see exotic pets so make sure an exotics practitioner is available in your area first.


In some cases, exotic animals can become excellent pets. To avoid mistakes that could have serious consequences, make sure you and other family caregivers have a thorough knowledge of the subject before acquiring such a pet.