What is Considered an Exotic Animal?

An exotic animal is one that is wild but that comes from a different continent than the one you live in. For example, a hedgehog in the United States would be considered an exotic animal, but in its home country, it would be considered wild. Many children have cared for exotic pets, such as hamsters and goldfish, but their parents may not have even been aware of this classification of animals. Many state laws are designed to protect people and the environment from harm caused by these types of exotic animals.

What is considered an exotic pet depends on the context, but there is a broad consensus that anything other than a pet can be considered exotic. Most states prohibit keeping exotic pets that they consider invasive or dangerous to the environment or to people, but some have other reasons for banning certain types of pets. Since a large amount of financial support is normally needed to exhibit exotic animals that are rare, difficult to acquire, and expensive to maintain in a living, active state, private zoos are sometimes considered a status symbol that upper-class people can use to illustrate their power and wealth. The definition is evolving; fish, rabbits, and some rodents and birds have become sufficiently entrenched in the world of animal fantasy to stop considering them exotic. For some, keeping a goat or ferret as pets is exotic, but for others, only things like tigers and venomous snakes are exotic.

The definition varies by culture and location, and over time, as animals become sufficiently entrenched in the world of animal fantasy, they may stop being considered exotic. Even in areas where it's illegal to keep primates as pets, the exotic pet trade continues to thrive, and some people keep chimpanzees as pets, mistakenly believing that they will create links with them for life. If you own an exotic pet, you should look for a veterinarian who has a special interest in that particular species and who has the right equipment to diagnose it and treat it. Since each state has its own laws and regulations on exotic pet ownership, each state also defines what an exotic pet is differently. Keeping up with everything that's available for each species has become difficult, so many general practitioners may recommend you to a veterinarian who has more experience handling your particular exotic pet.

Injuries to humans can be relatively common, but deaths due to the ownership of exotic pets are rarely reported annually. As for the “interesting” part, remember that some of these pets, like many birds and reptiles, can live longer than cats and dogs, so having an exotic pet can be a real long-term commitment. Within the veterinary community, exotic pets are generally considered anything other than a domestic dog, cat, or farm animal.

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