Everything You Need to Know About Exotic Pets
Ever have trouble finding the precise information you need about your pet (or the pet you’d like to have)? No worries: we’ve got you covered.
This page is a detailed guide for everything you need to know about various types of exotic pets.
Just check out the table of contents, and skip to the information you're looking for. Easy peasy.
Table of Contents
The eight articles listed in this section offer some general advice for keeping exotic pets, including what you need to consider before getting one and whether you should get a pet for a child.
Some of the things to keep in mind as you venture into exotic pet keeping is whether you have the appropriate space and time to devote to the animal, and whether you have the means and inclination to feed it appropriately.
Your answers to these considerations will depend quite a lot on which particular pet you want and its specific needs.
Any pet is a big responsibility, but typically the rewards make up for the chores. That being said, you want to make sure you or your child are prepared for the realities of keeping an exotic pet.
Before you jump into pet keeping, avoid these mistakes:
- Making an impulse purchase and not knowing how to appropriately re-home the animal.
- Failing to check the animal’s lifespan and plan accordingly for long-term commitment.
- Thinking your child will handle all the responsibility.
- Underestimating how much space they need.
- Not learning the health requirements or allocating a budget for proper nutrition and veterinary care.
When it comes to picking a family pet, a lot of people go with the cute and cuddly options: dogs, cats, bunnies. But exotic pets like reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates have a lot of advantages, too. Sure, they’re not cuddly, but they do have these perks:
- They’re usually non-allergenic.
- They teach kids to look for similarities rather than differences; a snake may not cuddle, but it still needs food, water, and a clean home. And this tendency to look for the similarities can grow into empathy for different types of people, as well.
- They can stay inside and don’t need to be walked or let out.
- They teach kids not to fear things they don’t understand.
Wherever you acquire your pet from, you want to make sure you start with a healthy companion. Fortunately, there are a few signs you can look for to make sure the animal is well. Here are signs even non-experts can see:
- Visit the animal during its natural waking hours to look for movement and activity.
- Check their skin for wounds or injuries, and handle the animal to feel for things like missing scales (injured snakes) or a soft shell (unhealthy tortoises).
- Examine the eyes and nose for discharge or cloudiness that could indicate a cold or other illness that needs to be treated before you take the animal home (or could indicate that it hasn’t been well cared for).
Exotic pets can seem like an excellent gift idea, but in general, living beings don’t make the best gifts. Adding a pet to the home is an individual decision that really should be made by the person who will be responsible for caring for the pet.
What kind of responsibilities go along with keeping an exotic pet like a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate? Check out the full article to find out.
Ever wonder what kind of pets you can fit into a small space, like an apartment or bedroom? Many exotic pets would be happy in smaller homes, including tarantulas and frogs.
To learn more about keeping small exotic pets, read this article.
Some exotic pets are diurnal, and some are nocturnal. If you’re interested in the nocturnal variety, you may have questions about how to make night time more rewarding for both you and your pet.
Sometimes, you buy a pet for your kid, and they end up shirking their responsibilities to the animal. It happens. But there are steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming an accidental herp keeper.
For one thing, it pays to make sure your child is prepared for being a pet parent before you ever bring the animal home. Check out our tips on knowing if your child is ready and how to prevent them from leaving pet care to you instead.
Traveling is a stressful prospect for animals, but sometimes it’s necessary, like when you are bringing your pet home for the first time, moving to a new home, or taking it to the vet. In situations where you must travel with your animal, you can reduce the stress by following these tips:
- Have a transport container that allows airflow without letting your pet escape (probably not a traditional pet carrier for most exotic species).
- Keep the temperature in the vehicle comfortable for the animal.
- Plan ahead for your pet’s needs if it will be a long trip. In most cases, short trips don’t necessitate food or water.
The articles above have some general guidance on keeping exotic pets, but they don’t cover specific details.
Here are some of the common questions about living with and caring for reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates:
The answer is fairly simple: in the wild, animals are exposed to a much more diverse diet than what the typical keeper can provide, and they are also exposed to higher amounts of natural light. Those two things combined mean they are more likely to have all their health needs met than captive animals.
For many exotic pets, nutritional supplements, such as calcium powder and vitamin D, ensure that they don’t develop illnesses like metabolic bone disease.
Diurnal species often need a UVB light bulb in their enclosure to make up for their lack of exposure to natural sunlight. The UVB bulb helps them to produce vitamin D, just like humans do when we are exposed to sunlight.
But even if a species doesn’t require UVB lighting, they may need a basking lamp to stay warm. Reptiles and amphibians are cold-blooded, and lighting is their primary source of heat because they do not generate their own body heat.
What you name your pet is a decision entirely up to you. What we would suggest, however, is to have fun with it and don’t take the naming process too seriously.
We have an entire article devoted to fun and interesting names for snakes. Whether you’re into inspiration from pop culture, movies, music, books, cartoons, or mythology, we’ve got snake name suggestions for you.
Some exotic pets don’t require bathing. If you have a scorpion or tarantula, for instance, you never have to worry about getting them into a bath. But other animals, like snakes, lizards, and tortoises, can benefit from help getting clean.
Brumation is like hibernation for reptiles. In captivity, your reptile may never brumate, especially if you keep their habitat warm year-round. If, however, you keep your pet in an outdoor enclosure, cooling temperatures may spur them to brumate.
It’s important to know how to keep your animal safe when it enters a brumation state. Click here to read about getting an animal through brumation.
The short answer is, yes, lizards and snakes can bite. The answer you should pay more attention to, however, is that you can prevent this from happening. All it takes is having the right information and implementing it.
To prevent your reptile from biting:
- Don’t pick it up suddenly. Instead, make sure the animal is aware of your presence before handling it.
- Know that if you finger-feed them, they will associate your fingers with food, whether you have any or not.
- Wash your hands after handling food items, to remove the smell.
- Make sure you’re feeding enough food, often enough.
- Don’t handle the animal while it’s hungry.
If you’re talking about things like catching a cold, then no. In general, you and your pet cannot spread these kinds of diseases to each other. That being said, it is possible for you to catch a bacterial illness from your pet if you don’t wash your hands after handling it or cleaning its habitat.
To learn more about which bacterial infections you can pick up from your pet, check out this article.
Actually, yes. There are a few species of snakes that you don’t have to feed mice to. We’ll assume that you’re talking about the ones that also don’t need prey larger than mice!
If you don’t like the idea of feeding mice to your snake, your options include:
- Garter snakes
- Ribbon snakes
Now, there are also water snakes and African egg-eating snakes, but these are pretty rare to keep as pets.
What can you feed your garter snake or ribbon snake? Find out here.
Yes. There are facilities for boarding exotic pets available in many areas. If you live near The Tye-Dyed Iguana in Fairview Heights, Illinois, you can check with us about boarding availability at our facility.
Any time you will be boarding your animal, check that the facility has a good reputation for disease prevention and specific care for exotic pets.
Funny thing about reptiles: they don’t need to eat as often as mammals. Their metabolisms are different. And that means they typically go longer between meals.
Snakes often need to eat only once a week, though the exact frequency will depend on the size, age, and species of your pet. In general, carnivores eat less frequently than omnivores or herbivores. Lizards, tortoises, and turtles may need to be fed daily, though skipping a day occasionally won’t cause any harm. You may find days that your pet just doesn’t want to eat.
Most amphibians, like frogs, toads, and axolotls, do well being fed about 2 to 3 times per week. Again, the specifics depend on the species.
Invertebrate pets, such as tarantulas and scorpions, do well being fed about once a week, depending on the age. Some arachnids prefer eating only once a month. It’s best to check what’s typical for the species you have or plan to have.
The easiest place to get basic care information is in our care sheets. They offer details about things like:
- How big a particular species gets
- How long its lifespan is on average
- What kind of food and how much water the animal needs
- Specifics about the size, type, temperature, and humidity levels of its ideal habitat
- Lighting requirements
- Whether it can be housed in groups or alone
Right here at The Tye-Dyed Iguana, actually! Our team is happy to answer any questions you have about keeping a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate. If your child, or a child you know, is interested in learning more about what it takes to take care of exotic pets, we also have hands-on classes at our Snake School.
Snake School at The Tye-Dyed Iguana covers five areas of exotic pet keeping:
- Turtles and tortoises
Now, let’s go on to information about the specific types of exotic pets…
Reptiles are cold-blooded, vertebrate animals with dry scaly skin. Some species live on land, and others live in water. Exotic pets that are reptiles include snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises.
There is no typical feeding style for reptiles. Some species are carnivores; some are omnivores; and some are herbivores.
In general, reptiles don’t need to eat every day, though herbivores and omnivores tend to eat more often than carnivores.
Find out more about reptile feeding at these links:
Reptiles may look sedentary a lot, but they actually need plenty of room for moving around. When you provide reptiles with enough space, they are more likely to engage in natural behaviors like digging, burrowing, and climbing (depending on the species).
Keep in mind that some species are nocturnal, so just because you don’t see them moving during the day does not mean they aren’t active.
Find out more about appropriate housing for reptiles at these links:
How do you tame a reptile? Is that even possible? The truth is that reptiles will never be as friendly and cuddly as a dog, but they can become accustomed to your presence and learn to approach you at will.
Find out more about handling reptiles and knowing if they’re healthy at these links:
Amphibians are cold-blooded vertebrates with moist, permeable skin (or small scales, in the case of caecilians). They typically start life as aquatic creatures and go through a metamorphosis that allows them to live on land.
Exotic pets that are amphibians include axolotls, frogs, toads, and newts.
Adult amphibians are all carnivores. They may eat spiders, beetles, worms, brine shrimp, isopods, springtails, flies, crickets, roaches, and various other insects.
Amphibian larvae, like tadpoles, however, are usually herbivores. They often eat micro plants and algae. In some cases, young amphibians eat an omnivorous diet if they can find organic debris from decomposed animals.
Captive amphibians should be fed about two or three times per week and given calcium powder and a multivitamin supplement.
Find out more about amphibian feeding at this link:
The size of housing needed for amphibians depends primarily on their size and activity levels. Many cannot be housed together, but there are exceptions. You’ll want to check whether the species is terrestrial or arboreal in order to provide appropriate hides or climbing spaces.
Many amphibians require fairly humid environments, with each species having its own ideal humidity levels. Some, such as newts, are primarily aquatic and need a habitat with both a water portion and a land portion.
Find out more about appropriate housing for amphibians at these links:
One of the most important things to know about handling amphibians is that they breathe, in part, through their skin. Because of this, they should not be held often, and you should wash your hands both before and after handling them.
Find out more about handling amphibians and knowing if they’re healthy at these links:
Invertebrate is a more general classification of animals, meaning any animal that does not have a spine. The world contains many types of invertebrates, but we’ll keep this section limited to those you are likely to find at an exotic pet store.
The most common invertebrates at The Tye-Dyed Iguana and other pet shops are:
- Spiders, including tarantulas
Because the category “invertebrates” covers so many different types of animals, there is no real pattern for what invertebrates eat. Tarantulas often eat other invertebrate species, including crickets, mealworms, and cockroaches. Isopods subsist on decomposing wood, leaves, and plant matter. And crabs are omnivores that eat a variety of plant and animal foods.
Find out more about invertebrate feeding at these links:
Invertebrates often have the smallest housing space requirements, making them an excellent choice for small spaces, like bedrooms or apartments. Tarantulas and scorpions do well solo in their terrariums, but crabs, isopods, beetles, and roaches should be kept in groups.
Find out more about appropriate housing for invertebrates at these links:
Invertebrates are not the kind of pets that are made for handling, in general. With practice, you can learn to hold some tarantulas and crabs. Whether they bite or pinch depends on the individual animal’s personality, how accustomed they are to handling, and the approach you use for bonding with and handling them.
Find out more about handling invertebrates and knowing if they’re healthy at these links: