Exotic pet ownership

Exotic Pet Ownership

Monday, October 5, 2015 | NHS Behavior Department

Exotic pets include birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, chinchillas, reptiles and really anything else that is not a cat or dog. Adopting an exotic pet is a big decision and requires much consideration before doing so.


Exotic pets can live to be quite old. In fact, some can outlive their owners.

  • Amphibians: 5 to 15+ years
  • Reptiles: 3 to 30 years
  • Birds: 10 to 60 years
  • Rabbit: 3 to 8 years
  • Rodents: 3 to 8 years

Improper housing and feeding are the most common reasons for illness and death. Talk to your Adoption Counselor about requirements for proper care before adopting.


Not every pet will wantd to be handled by their owners. Some will require special handling skills.


Many exotic pets will exhibit behaviors that may be considered unfavorable by most people. Talk to an Adoption Counselor about potential issues with common behaviors, or circle back to the Pet Resource Library for additional information on specific animals. 

Veterinary care

Like all other animals, your exotic pet will require regular veterinary care. Some animals may require various vaccinations. Talk to your vet to see what they recommend. Not all veterinarians will treat exotic pets. Contact vets in the area to see if they will see exotic pets in their practice. 

Some exotic pets carry zoonotic diseases. This means that they can transfer illnesses to their human family. Those who are pregnant, elderly, infant, and/or have compromised immune systems should take extra precautions. Wash your hands every time your handle your pet, or clean their cage.


Maintenance of your exotic pet may be fairly inexpensive. However, initial set-up can cost a little more than expected.

Things to consider:

  • Diet (seed, fresh vegetables, species-specific foods)
  • Environment (cage, heat lamps, bedding, etc)
  • Play toys (rolling ball, exercise equipment, appropriate toys)
  • Veterinary care

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