There are roughly 44 million nontraditional, or "exotic," pets in the United States. Each year, that number increases. Presently, this number almost equals the number of cats registered as pets in the U.S.
There are several reasons suggested as to why exotic pets have become popular in recent years. The first reason is simply a physical problem or an impossibility of keeping dogs and cats in an urban environment. Urban or city dwellers want to have a pet, so they consider a smaller nontraditional pet like a reptile, rodent, or bird. Secondly, people have just become more interested in exotic pets. Dogs and cats are wonderful, but there's something a little unusual and imaginative about exotic animals.
People should realize, however, that out-of-the-ordinary pets require out-of-the-ordinary care. Nontraditional pets often require precise diets and living conditions that are more difficult to provide than the average pet owner may realize. The most common problems encountered in exotic animal medicine are not related to infectious diseases, but rather management and nutritional related diseases. This is due to the fact that most people who purchase exotics know very little or nothing about them.
When it comes to sickness and disease, exotic animals are usually very adept at concealing their problems. Sick animals in the wild are often singled out as easy prey. Because of this, owners may not recognize symptoms of illness until the animal is very sick or in a near-death situation.
Helping injured exotic pets can be difficult. The actual surgical procedures and medical treatments are very similar in most mammals; however, unexpected complications may result. One such complication is keeping the animal rested or immobile during the post surgery recovery period. This is particularly difficult for an animal recovering from fracture surgery where the convalescent period is extremely long (weeks or months).
Another problem associated with keeping certain non-domestic animals as pets is that certain animals are not used to interacting with humans. A wolf or a wolf hybrid is not a dog, and the owners should never forget that fact. At times, this animal may not react the way you expect a normal animal to react. The same is true for other wild animals.
There are also legal issues associated with owning exotic pets. Local and federal laws prohibit taking, keeping, and confining native animals without a special license.
Before purchasing or obtaining an exotic pet, it's important to talk to your veterinarian and several people who have similar pets. These animals should not be purchased as a gift or on a whim without some serious research. Specific articles and books on caring for exotic pets can be found in libraries, book stores, pet shops, online pet supply websites, and from your veterinarian or your veterinarian's website.