There are such a variety of rescues and social media groups that promote the purchasing of an exotic animal/pet, that it has become easier to find exacly what you want. But before you get brainwashed into acquiring a pet you are not prepared for, please take the time to consider the categories listed below.
Acquiring an Exotic pet is not the same as getting a cat or dog. They require very specific care, food and veterinary treatment. Therfor ask yourself, are you acting on impulse or from commitment? Many people like the idea of an exotic pet, but don’t think about the changes it will make in their lives. Pets are companions – they live with us and depend on us for all of their needs. This is a great responsibility, and one that should not be taken lightly. Are you prepared to love and care for your pet for all of its life, even if it is only for a short 4 years like some rats / rodents or birds that can live over 50 years, and not just when it’s a cute and cuddly baby, or a novelty?
Money is the top of many people’s worry-list these days. Every pet requires food, shelter (kennels, aquariums), basic veterinary care (vaccinations, de-worming, neutering), toys and equipment (litter boxes, leashes, bowls). And there are often additional or unexpected costs – perhaps you must add or improve a fence to keep a new puppy in? There may be illness or accidents requiring veterinary care. An elderly animal may develop chronic health conditions. You might need to board the animal during your absence. Bluntly put, can you afford it?
Are you a party animal, dancing to all hours of the night? Do you spend every afternoon and week-ends ferrying the children to soccer and rugby and cricket and music lessons? Do you work a second job or study every evening? Do you travel a lot, for work or pleasure? Do friends and dating take up most of your free time?
Different animals require different amounts of time, but all require at least some. Do you have time to feed and water several times a day? To walk, groom and play with your pet? To clean the fish tank? To attend training classes and visit the vet? The consequences of lack of attention can be serious – for example many behavioural problems (such as excessive digging and chewing, biting..), are caused by boredom and lack of activity.
What’s in your Future?
Few of us have crystal balls, but often we can foresee lifestyle-altering events in our future. Are you thinking of getting engaged (or divorced)? Perhaps you’re hoping for a new (human) baby? Especially these days, is your industry or profession facing job uncertainties – might you be retrenched? Do you foresee up-scaling or down-sizing your home, or emigrating? Is it possible that in the near future an elderly family member might have to move in with you? Or the children leave to attend varsity? Any of these events can have an impact on the health and well-being of your pet.
Yes, your health status and that of your family members can be a factor in deciding whether to get a pet, or what kind of pet would be best for you. Does anyone suffer from allergies / asthma? Do you have arthritis or back problems that may prevent you caring for an animal, especially a large one?
Is your personality conducive to pet ownership? Do you often feel “‘stressed out”? Are you a “neat freak”? Kittens and puppies don’t come already trained, nor will they be housebroken. Will you become angry and frustrated at cleaning up the “mess”? Do you have the patience to teach a young dog or cat?
Is your physical environment suitable for an animal, or are you willing to invest time and money to make it so? What are the rules of the apartment or residential estate where you live? What space is available? Is the fence in good condition? If your yard is small, is there a park nearby for daily walks? Might barking or a wandering feline upset the neighbours?
Who are you getting the pet for?
All too often, the kids promise to look after the new puppy (kitten, fish, etc), but once the novelty wears off, it’s Mom (or Dad) who ends up taking over. Or the children begrudgingly do their duties, but only after being nagged by you. We need to recognise that children’s interests and activities change over the years, and so their level of involvement with the pet will change. The decision to get a pet should be shared with equal enthusiasm by all members of the family.
Other animals in the family
If you already have one or more pets, their needs and comfort must be considered too. How might they react / adapt to a new addition? Will a new puppy provide companionship for, or irritate, an elderly dog? Will a new cat raise territoriality issues in an older animal? Are you prepared to put in the work required to help the animals adjust to each other?
If you’ve thought about these questions / statements thoroughly and honestly (only you will know!), and decided you are ready for a new pet, then its time to do more research on the specific pet you are looking at. Also know that most exotic pets require a permit. Make sure you stay legal.