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Are You Ready for an Exotic Pet

Jul 22, 2008
Exotic pets are vastly misunderstood in the press, and are often portrayed as unruly, difficult to keep and very much a specialist pet. In actual fact exotic pets make exciting and unusual pets and shouldn't be dismissed as quickly as they often are. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the humble corn snake to the highly aggressive desert hairy scorpion to the stunning dendrobates.

They also can be surprisingly affectionate, as is the case with the bearded dragon, which is well known for the bond it forms with its owner. They can be very intelligent like the monitors and tegu's, who are renowned in the trade for their intelligence. Some unfortunately do deserve the press such as the green iguana and the Burmese python, both of which are often bought as cute hatchlings where they then develop into monsters and end up in rescue centers.

Ideal exotic pets for the beginner include the leopard gecko, this is a brilliant lizard which is very easy to keep, full of character and still one of my firm favorites. They are commonly kept in vivariums where their needs can be met surprisingly easily. The set up costs associated with all of the equipment you'll need (the vivarium itself, a heat mat, thermostat, decor, etc) are quite high but once purchased leopard geckos make inexpensive pets, they can be kept for approx 2-3 ($4-6) a week.

Another ideal beginner exotic pet is the African praying mantis, these make impressive pets due to their aggression towards pray, but they are also very handleable and get to a reasonable size. As youngsters they can be kept in plastic cups with mesh on the top, as adults they still only require a small home, something one foot cube is ideal.

If snakes are your interest then a corn snake is an ideal first step into the world of exotic pets. You've probably seen them in the pet shops sold as hatchlings, those small bright orange snakes with saddles on the back. These are ideal first time exotics (and what got me into them in the first place) due to their size (adults usually reach 4-5ft, some individuals may get bigger but they rarely go over 6ft), handle-ability and good appetite.

They are also generally quite forgiving of the mistakes that people new to the hobby make. Part of the popularity of corn snakes probably stems from the fact that although the wild types are orange, in captivity they come in a vast array of colors and patterns. Welcome to the world of color morphs. Nowadays if you have the cash you can almost hand pick the color of your snake, from perfect white to a deep rusty brown to purple.

Due to their rarity (and most corn snake color morphs having to be homozygous before they are visible) they fetch a high price, you could end up spending a few thousand dollars on a price specimen. Most of the snakes value however would be in the offspring it can produce so expensive color morphs are generally sold between fellow breeders.

Hopefully this might make you take another look at exotic pets, there's a little more to them than meets the eye.
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Find more information on Exotic Pets such as Leopard Gecko and how to handle them.
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