The definition of an exotic pet is a loose one. Originally, it referred to species that were considered wild animals and not typically kept as domestic pets. However, there is now a legal basis for what's considered an exotic pet. Though it's often subject to local jurisdiction, a partial federal law describes an exotic animal as one that is native to a foreign country or of foreign origin or character, not native to the United States, or was introduced from abroad. When these pets need medical care, you will need to seek care from an exotics veterinarian.
Watch Now: 11 Wildly Exotic Animals That You Can Have as a Pet
Frogs and toads that can be considered an exotic pet include African Clawed Frogs, Dwarf Clawed Frogs, Fire Bellied Toads, and Northern Leopard Frogs. Amphibians have thin, fragile skin that can dry out quickly and damage easily if handled roughly. They also absorb toxins and germs through their skin, so they should be handled as little as possible, and when they are handled, they should be touched only with moistened gloves and not bare skin. In general, amphibians like frogs, salamanders, and newts are typically harder to care for than most reptiles, so most amphibians are not ideal for families with children. However, Pacman frogs can make great pets when maintained properly.
Finches and cockatiels are commonplace when it comes to pet birds, but a number of people care for exotic birds as pets, too. This includes parrots such as African Greys, a medium-sized parrot that's incredibly intelligent, or Amazons that are vocal. Other exotic birds include Canary Wing Bee Bees, Cockatoos, and the brightly colored Lories. Before you buy an exotic bird, make sure you have a cage that's large enough to accommodate it and that you're aware of its long lifespan.
Insects and Arachnids
Madagascar hissing cockroaches, praying mantis, and stick insects are more exciting than ants, particularly the latter two—one for its prayerful stance and the other for its ability to camouflage with its woodland surroundings.
Some people like to keep scorpions, which are docile but can sting. Though the venom of some scorpions can be deadly, the most common scorpion kept as a pet is an emperor scorpion. Their sting, which is generally mild and not fatal, feels similar to a bee sting.
As for arachnids, tarantulas are an option. Keeping a tarantula is a big responsibility as some have a lifespan of up to 25 years. But they are also easy to care for, need little attention, and you only have to feed them a few times per week, depending on the species.
The category of reptiles includes some of the most ancient species on Earth. In general, reptiles require less daily care and exercise than other pets; however, they require special skills to care for properly and can suffer serious health consequences from improper diets, handling, or habitats. Regardless of species, all reptiles (and amphibians, too) can potentially carry Salmonella bacteria, so these pets are not meant for very young children who might handle them and then put their hands in their mouths. Potential exotic reptiles include Anoles, Bearded Dragons, Burmese Pythons, Ornate Box Turtles, and Chinese Water Dragons.
There are a lot of pets that are considered rodents: chinchillas, mice, gerbils, prairie dogs, and rats. Some things to consider when you are thinking about getting a rodent pet are whether they are nocturnal creatures that sleep during the day or if they keep a schedule more like you and are awake when the sun is up. Other rodents that are popular as pets include Degus, Syrian Hamsters, Chinese Hamsters, and Capybaras.
Other Exotic Pets
Regardless of which kind of animal you decide to keep as an exotic pet, do your research prior to acquiring one so that you can care for it properly. The following pets don't fit in a particular category but are sometimes kept as pets as well.
- Short-tailed opossum
- Sugar gliders
Definitions. Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School.
Reptiles and Amphibians in Your Backyard. North Carolina State Extension.
Pandinus imperator. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
Simple Things Your Reptile Might Be Missing. University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
Salmonella Infection from Frogs, Turtles and Lizards. New York State Department of Health.