If you are considering adopting or purchasing an exotic pet for yourself or your family, a little research is in order to ensure that you are ready for this major responsibility. Many areas restrict or prohibit the ownership of certain exotic animals by private individuals; these restrictions may be for the protection of endangered or ecologically fragile species or to provide added protections for people against the dangers associated with these pets. Knowing the risks of exotic pet ownership can help prospective adopters or buyers make the right decision for their families.
Most veterinarians and humane societies discourage the adoption and purchase of primates as pets. These animals require constant attention and can become aggressive as they grow older; additionally, they typically have specialized dietary needs and environmental requirements that can be very difficult to meet as a private individual. Chimpanzees and other larger primates are especially problematic; these large animals have many times the strength of the average human and can easily maim or kill if upset or provoked. Because of their close genetic similarity to humans, primates can also transmit diseases to their human owners and may in turn contract illnesses that can prove dangerous or even fatal from the humans with whom they come in contact.
Snakes and other reptiles are among the most popular exotic pets. In some cases, these beautiful and unusual animals can be handled safely by knowledgeable owners and can be a source of pride and enjoyment for these individuals. If not properly contained and fed, however, snakes, lizards and other members of the reptile family can become a threat to pets and people. Some species of reptile can carry salmonella, a dangerous disease that can be transmitted to humans and can result in serious gastrointestinal distress. What’s more, reptiles also die prematurely due to improper care by inexperienced owners. Plus, many of these animals were taken from the wild and suffer when away from their natural habitat. In fact, experts estimate that 90 percent of these reptiles caught in the wild die within the first year of their captivity.
Most prospective pet owners would not consider adopting a full-grown lion, tiger or cougar into their family. However, the trade in lion and tiger cubs continues to be a major issue for conservationists and a source of concern for the Humane Society of the United States. Lions and tigers are wild creatures that cannot live happily in direct captivity. As they grow older, they require a larger territory than most owners are capable of providing. They can also exhibit aggression toward their captors and may cause grievous bodily injuries in attempting to free themselves or in response to perceived threats in their too-small environment. Zoology experts and veterinarians agree that big cats should not be kept as pets under any circumstances whatsoever.
A number of other animals may be considered exotic pets. For example, Savannah cats are the result of planned breeding between African servals and domestic cats. The first few generations of these cross-breeds are extremely wild and difficult to manage; they may exhibit numerous characteristics of their wildcat ancestors, including spraying, marking and unpredictable violence toward their owners and toward other pets. Prospective owners should perform all the necessary due diligence on their desired animal before making a commitment to adopt or purchase any pet. Most veterinarians and animal-welfare advocates discourage the ownership of exotic animals due to both the dangers posed by animals to people and vice versa.