The Problems with the Term "Exotic Pet"
What do you think about when you hear the term "exotic pet"? Do you think of the proverbial lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!)? Add in things like dangerous large primates, alligators large enough to eat a man, and giant snakes and you've probably got the whole array of exotics covered right? Owners of exotic animals seem to have gotten a bad reputation as of late. Mention the term "exotic pet" to most people and they'll probably tell you about the large pythons invading Florida, chimpanzees ripping people's faces off, and exotic baby animals watching their mothers be killed so they can be sold into the pet trade.
But have you, or your children, ever had a pet gerbil? What about a chinchilla, hamster, guinea pig, hermit crab, leopard gecko, bird, turtle, ferret, insect or fish? If you've owned or own any of those types of pets (and it's not an all inclusive list), then you are, or were, in some people's opinion, an exotic pet owner.
Did you know that, from a veterinarians perspective, even very commonly kept pets such as rabbits, hamsters, mice, rats, gerbils, etc, are considered exotic?
There really is no clear cut line for what counts as an exotic pet and what doesn't. Most people would probably agree that a gerbil is a pretty harmless pet, while a pet lion could do some serious damage. And yet, despite the vast differences between these two species, they are both considered to be exotic pets. Some exotic animals have been kept and bred by humans in captivity for thousands of years. Ferrets, for example, have been kept by humans since around 1500 BC, and yet they are still usually considered to be exotic pets.
Most animal lovers probably agree that dangerous animals should be left in the wild, or to experts. Tigers and venomous snakes may be beautiful animals to look at, but they don't make good pets. Animal lovers should be against cruelly taking wild animals out of their natural habitats to be sold as pets to people who have no idea about their proper care. But you can be an animal lover, be against these things, and not automatically be against all exotic pets. Not all exotic pets are dangerous, and most of the more commonly kept species are bred in captivity and not taken from the wild.
The problem seems to come from the fact that all animals not considered domesticated, often times most animals other than cats, dogs, and farm animals, all get lumped together under the title of 'exotics'. People often times seem to turn a blind eye to the fact that commonly kept pets, even animals they may have or have had in their own homes, by some people's definitions fall into the category of exotic. So when you criticize and stereotype people who own exotic pets, not only are you criticizing the irresponsible exotic owners, but you're also stereotyping thousands upon thousands of responsible pet owners who just so happen to have something like a ferret or a chinchilla instead of a dog or cat.
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