By JOSH KENNEDY
When people think of a pet, they mostly think about animals like dogs or cats. But there are people who own animals that are a little more exotic.
These include small reptiles, like geckos and chameleons, and exotic birds like parrots. Mammals such as chinchillas and ferrets are also considered to be exotic.
Ken, an employee at Petculture in Waterloo, said he has a large number of exotic animals at his home, including leopard geckos, bearded dragons and small pythons and boas. Lemieux enjoys having these pets around.
“I think owning these types of animals is more rewarding than owning a dog or a cat,” Lemieux said. “I find it so much fun to watch my geckos eat crickets.”
Although owning these kinds of pets may sound exciting, they actually require a lot of maintenance. Each animal needs to be on a special diet. For example, people who have pet lizards have to buy them bags of live crickets since 80 per cent of lizards are insectivores. For a pet snake, you have to buy frozen mice and rats that need to be thawed for about 40 minutes before feeding them to a snake. Snakes have small appetites and are only fed one mouse once or twice a week.
Some exotic pets need a special living area. An employee at Petsmart in Waterloo, who asked that her name not be published, said reptiles need to be kept in a heat-controlled pavilion due to their cold blood and should be provided with a UVB heat lamp.
“The pavilion must have no living things in it, except the reptile,” the employee said.
The most important thing about owning an exotic pet is to make sure its living quarters are clean, especially if the creature is a reptile. Cleaning should be done almost every day with a full clean being done once a week. You must also wash your hands before and after handling your reptile. If not fully cleaned, bacteria will begin to grow in the area and it will spread diseases like salmonella poisoning. For example, the Petsmart employee said if you own a Chinese water dragon, the water in its tank must be cleaned everyday or else it will be contaminated due to the lizard swimming around in it.
Owning a furry animal, like a ferret, can also be a lot of work as you must “ferret proof” your entire home. You have to make sure that the ferret is nowhere near anything like electrical wiring because it can bite right through it with their sharp teeth. This cannot only kill the ferret, but can also cause an electrical fire.
Despite all the extra work that comes with owning an exotic animal, it can also be very interesting to have one in your home.
“Exotic pets are different from other pets and they are not too common or popular like dogs and cats,” said Petculture employee Shannon Cabrera. “But giving the proper care and the right diet, you will grow to love them like any other pet.”