Exotic Pet Care: Understanding the Needs of Our Smallest Friends

A bearded dragon looks like it's smiling for the cameraDogs and cats reign supreme as the world’s most popular pets, but, for some, our hearts belong to a smaller, more unusual subset of animal friends. Appreciated for their smaller size and many fascinating characteristics, exotic pets, such as lizards, snakes, birds, and rodents, have become more common in recent decades.

Like cats and dogs, exotic pets require proper nutrition, enrichment, and the right environment to thrive. The details of exotic pet care differ from those of traditional pets, but with owner education and commitment, we can provide these amazing animals with the best lives possible.

Exotic Pet Care

As one can imagine, caring for a guinea pig is significantly different than caring for a bearded dragon lizard. When it comes to exotic pet care, we recommend doing your homework, especially around proper husbandry and handling, before committing to an exotic pet. Also, consider the following specific needs:

  • Housing – Providing the right housing and bedding is extremely important when it comes to the health and safety of exotic pets. Enclosures should be roomy enough to allow for exercise and secure enough to prevent escape. Proper lighting, temperature, and humidity are important for many species of reptiles. Rodents, such as hamsters and rabbits, will need their bedding changed weekly.
  • Nutrition – Individual species have very specific nutritional requirements. In many cases, even a slight variation from the recommended diet can have negative consequences for your pet. Some exotic pets also require supplements to meet their dietary needs.
  • Habits and behaviors – Before adopting any species of pet, it’s important to understand their unique behaviors and social needs. Guinea pigs, for example, do better when paired with another guinea pig. Mice and hamsters are more active at night, while birds like to start their days bright and early.   
  • Enrichment – Just like conventional pets, exotic pets also need mental and physical enrichment every day. For pets in enclosures, this could mean providing tubes, exercise wheels, or climbing platforms. Many exotic pets enjoy human interaction and look forward to playtime with you outside of their cages each day.

Consistent Care

It can be difficult to gauge the health of an exotic pet on a day-to-day basis, which is why regular veterinary care is essential to long-term wellness. All species should visit a veterinarian who’s knowledgeable about exotic pet care at least once a year. Some animals, such as rabbits or bearded dragons, should have more frequent visits for dental care.

At The Maywood Veterinary Clinic, we understand the unique needs of exotic pets and are happy to help as you share your life with these wonderful animals. Please don’t hesitate to contact our team with any questions or concerns. We look forward to seeing you and your pet!