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Blog Entry – How to look after an exotic pet

Step 1: Research

Before you even consider bringing an exotic pet (or any pet for that matter) into your family, research is key. You need to find out what your pet needs from you. What does it eat? How often do you need to feed it? What space does it require? What temperature? How big will it grow? Do you need to interact with it? These are just some of the questions you need to answer before buying a pet.

Internet research – this is by far one of the easiest methods of finding answers to your questions or, just simply talk to people. There are many passionate and highly knowledgeable people in the animal industry and they are often more than willing to share their knowledge with you.

A few extra things to consider:

  • Do you have a suitable exotic vet nearby that can treat your animal when needed?.
  • What will you do when you go on holiday – do you know someone prepared to look after your pet or alternatively do you have a good boarding service available.
  • Is everybody on board? Do not buy a pet just for your children, remember, most exotic pets are long lived, eg, a royal python has an average life span of 20-30 years in captivity, with 40 years not being uncommon. It is highly unlikely that your children will take their pet with them when they venture off to university!
Step 2: Sourcing

The next step is where do you source your animal from? Here are a few things to consider when choosing an animal:

Always check the animal over – here are some good general points to look for:

  • They should be bright and alert
  • They should have good body condition, appropriate to the animal species
  • The eyes, nose and ears should have no discharge
  • Intact tails, toes etc – especially with animals such as bearded dragons that when kept together can fight.
  • Clean and well maintained living conditions
  • Ask information about the animal you are buying e.g. How often it is being fed? How old is it? What temperatures is it being kept at?
  • The attitude of the owners – are they happy for you to ask questions and talk – or are they rushing you and unprepared to answer your questions?

If something does not feel right do not go through with it. It is better to walk away and think about it, than make the wrong choice and have a sick animal on your hands.

There are different options of where to source your animal from:

– A charity or a rescue centre – as exotic pets are becoming more popular, unfortunately so is their presence in rescue centres. At Hatton Adventure World we sourced many of our reptiles from an excellent rescue centre. They are all exceptionally friendly animals that have become excellent ambassadors for educating children about animal welfare.

– A reptile shop – where you will receive great advice about which pet is suitable for you,

– A professional breeder – this should be someone that breeds and sells reptiles for a living – be wary about individuals selling on the internet, that are not professionals!

Step 3: Set up

Before you bring your pet home you need to have your set up ready.

Always get your habitat right before adding your animal. Ensure your temperature and humidity is correct and everything is working as it should be.

Remember hygiene here – exotics can carry all sorts of diseases with salmonella being a problem with reptiles. As long as you keep good levels of hygiene this should not be a problem but ensure that everyone washes their hands appropriately and vulnerable individuals do not come in to contact with reptiles without careful supervision.

Step 4: Food

What does your pet need to eat? A snake will need a supply of frozen mice or rats – do you have somewhere suitable to put these? A bearded dragon will need suitable vegetables, fruits and insects. You also need to have a reliable source for these insects.

Step 5: Maintenance

General areas that need checking every day include: temperatures and humidity, food levels, overall health of the animal and the cleanliness of the habitat.

Generally these things are easy to observe and maintain, however, health is always a difficult area. The best advice is to get to know your animal. The better you know your animal the more you will notice if something is wrong. We have over thirty animals in our Scales and Tails at Hatton to look after on a daily basis, but because we handle our animals daily it is fairly easy to tell if something is not quite right and requires attention. If in doubt, check it out!