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What to Know Before Buying an Exotic Pet for Christmas

Bearded dragon in Santa hat

It’s the holiday season, and pets are a popular gift for parents to give children or for partners to give significant others. Sounds like the perfect gift, right?

Maybe not.

Exotic pets are often a bigger commitment than people realize. So before you commit, learn what you’ll be getting yourself or your loved one into.

Here’s what to know about exotic pet ownership.

Make sure the person responsible actual wants a pet

This should really go without saying, but sometimes people get an idea into their heads for a gift, and it’s not really the best choice for the gift receiver.

In most cases, they can just throw out your gift or give it to someone else. But this isn’t the case with an exotic pet. It can be difficult to find a new home for reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates.

So if you’re going to give one of these pets as a gift, make sure the person you’re giving it to has actually requested that particular exotic pet. The responsibility of pet ownership is not the kind of thing to surprise someone with.

You may be wondering, “What kind of responsibility is involved?” Keep reading…

Some exotic pets require whole prey foods

The majority of snakes only take food that comes in the form of other whole animals. You can’t feed them processed pet foods like you can for dogs or cats.

Some people have no problem with this, and some do. If you’re gifting a snake to someone, you’d better make sure they’re okay with handling live or frozen mice.

Snake eating mouse

Many lizards are insectivores and eat things like crickets, beetles, or worms. This can make feeding time easier. But even these foods make some people squeamish. Their pet isn’t going to last long with no one to feed it.

Many reptiles and amphibians require special lighting

To keep exotic pets safe and at stable temperatures, they typically need to be kept inside. Because of that, they aren’t exposed to the sunlight they would be in nature.

That means they’re going to need, in many cases, a UVB light bulb. This special type of light bulb ensures that the animal is able to manufacture vitamin D and maintain bone health.

Animals that require UVB bulbs include:

  • Some lizards
  • Tortoises
  • Turtles

Whether the animal you buy will need a UVB light depends upon the specific species.

In addition to a UVB bulb, most amphibians and reptiles also require a heat lamp for basking and creating a temperature gradient within their enclosure. These are two separate bulbs. But you can find combination bulbs that provide both heat and UVB.

Chinese water dragon

(This is a Chinese water dragon. It is beautiful and requires two lights or a combination UVA/UVB bulb.)

If you’re looking for a pet that does not require special lighting, many frogs, toads, and invertebrates fit the bill. You can also inquire with our team at The Tye-Dyed Iguana about which lizard species don’t require UVB. (They will still need a heat lamp for basking.)

In most cases, snakes don’t require UVB lighting but do need a heat source.

You’ll probably need to find a specialty vet

Veterinarians who are trained to treat dogs, cats, and birds do not always have the training to care for snakes, tortoises, lizards, and other exotic pets. Before buying an animal, it’s a good idea to check if an exotics vet is located near the person who will own the pet.

They probably aren’t going to cuddle

Most reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates do not like to be handled, let alone snuggled with. If the person you’re looking for a gift for wants a pet they can put on their lap, you should probably check out the shelter for a dog or cat. These pets have been bred to interact well with humans.

Tarantula near web

(She really just wants to hang out near her web.)

The bottom line is that reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates make excellent pets — as long as you know what you’re getting into, and these kinds of animals are what you actually want.

It takes a special kind of person to make room in their home for exotic pets. If that’s the person you’re shopping for, feel free to bring them into The Tye-Dyed Iguana to check out our animals.

Diedra Blackmill is head copywriter and content marketer at Telepath Writing Services. She specializes in writing blog articles, newsletters, and scripts that generate more revenue for businesses. Hire Diedra for your online content.