Not the type to keep a regular house cat? There's no goldfish swimming around your bowl. A pooch is just too plain. Pets are great and you want one, but you want one that will really stand out. Something different. Something exotic.

According to Wikipedia, any rare or unusual animal that is commonly thought of as a wild animal can be considered an exotic pet. (Source: Wikipedia)

So, what does that mean for you? Before you go for broke and get the lemur or toucan for your four-season room, you may want to do a little research. There are reasons why our typical pets are so popular, and reasons why exotic pets are less common. Certain animals, such as big cats or venomous snakes, have specific restrictions you must follow.

Here are a few things to consider when you're considering an exotic pet.

Most Popular Exotic Pets

Even amongst the rare and different, some animals pop up a little more often than others. Here are some of the trendiest and most popular exotic pets today.

Capybara

Think of a guinea pig, but then think of him Hulking out to a whopping 100 pounds and 4 feet in length. They need a lot of attention, a lot of room, and a nice pool. They're also not very tolerant of children, so they may be better for that bachelor pad.

Stick Insect or Walking Stick

It looks like a stick, but it walks and eats. How cool is that? They're fairly low maintenance and can make good, educational pets. However, those little twiggy legs are fragile, so handle with care.

Sugar Glider

These tiny little fellas are related to possums, but look more like flying squirrels. They can bond with people, but they do have sharp teeth and claws, so handle them carefully.

Wallaby

This smaller cousin to the kangaroo is about as cute as they come. Even though they are small, they like to jump, so they need some room to roam and tall fences. They don't care to be alone, either.

Python

What's cooler than a snake? A really, really big snake. Pythons can be fairly docile animals and not too hard to find. Keeping them healthy can be difficult and since they can live up to 25 years, so don't go into this relationship too lightly.

Spiders

Snakes aren't creepy enough for you? How about a big spider like the Tarantula? Spiders can come from a wide variety of climates with extremely different needs. For beginners, a non-poisonous species is best.

Big Cats

Yes. Believe it or not some 5,000 tigers are kept as pets in the United States. That's more than exist in the wild. Leopards, lions, and jaguars are kept too. Between 1990-2001, they were responsible for more human deaths than any other type of exotic pet.

Macaw

These large, beautiful members of the parrot family are intelligent and great talkers. But they are not for the faint of heart. They can be difficult to manage, very loud, and they have a powerful bite. They can make great pets, but only for those willing to take the time to learn how to properly care for them.

Exotic Pets and Insurance

Before you take home that wild wonder, make sure that you know how it may affect your homeowners insurance. Most homeowners insurance includes coverage for basic pets, but they also have limitations. For this reason, some insurance policies have extra fees or simply will not cover certain, typically aggressive, breeds of dog, much less exotic, undomesticated animals.

If they worry about a Doberman Pincher, how do you think they'll see that pet liger? Many exotic pets come from wild stock and therefore have little domestication. Spiders and snakes can have a poisonous bite. Up to 90 percent of reptiles can expose humans to salmonella through their feces. These types of factors increase the risk greatly of an incident – and therefore an insurance claim.

Pet or Homeowners?

You shouldn't depend on your homeowners insurance to cover your pet's actions. The best way to own an exotic pet and stay protected is to get an exotic pet insurance policy.

Standard pet insurance policies may or may not cover your exotic pet. Depending on the company and the type of exotic pet you want to own, you may need to look into specialized exotic pet coverage. Expect to pay a little more than you would for pet insurance for a beagle, but with exotic pet insurance, you can make sure that you are adequately covered for the actual pet you own.

Other Things to Think About

Insurance is a major concern when owning an exotic pet, but it's far from the only thing you should consider. Here are a few tips to ponder while you decided if that exotic pet is a good match for you and your lifestyle.

Food

What does this pet eat? How often? Is it readily available near where you live? Is it terribly expensive? Animals vary greatly in the amount, frequency, and type of foods they eat. You'll want to know that you can handle that obligation both physically and financially.

Life Span

How long does this type of animal typically live? Some animals may only live a year or two while others can live up to 30 or more years. Be certain that you are ready for the commitment for the animal's full expected life span.

Environment

Does this animal need a lot of space? Do they require certain temperatures or humidity? Are they social or solitary? You want your pet to be happy, so that means providing a suitable living environment. Keep in mind, your family or frequent visitors are a factor in this environment.

Size

That young bear may look adorable and you can just envision him frolicking in your yard, but just how big will he be in a couple of years? Do you have the room or the budget to feed and animal that big? Will he be dangerous? You need to know just how big that pet will become and whether or not you are equipped to handle that.

Veterinary Care

Most of your neighborhood veterinarians specialize in cats, dogs, and other relatively mundane pets. If you're looking for an exotic pet, be sure there is a qualified veterinarian in your area who can help you keep your new friend healthy.

Where Did Your Pet Come From?

Smuggling illegal pets is big (and criminal) business. Verify that the pet you're considering was raised or obtained legally and ethically and is legal for you to own. You can check with your county and city animal services department if you're not sure.

Exotic pets can be bizarre, beautiful, and wonderful additions to your household. But, they can be more taxing than your average pet, so it pays to know exactly what you're getting into. Too many exotic pet owners decide that they can no longer handle their pet and since it was once wild, they release it into the local wild. This usually leads to the death of the animal, but in other cases, it can lead to the proliferation of a non-native, or invasive species of wildlife. This can cause great damage to the local ecosystem.

Due to their rare and wild nature, exotic pets come with a higher level of responsibility. Some of them make wonderful pets. If you've done the homework and you still think that you'd love to own that natural wonder, go for it. You may develop a unique bond unlike any you've ever experienced before.

Sources: Wikipedia, National Geographic, Livescience.com, humanesociety.org

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