Loving the Strange: Five Great Exotic Pets You Must Own
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
Dogs and cats are popular pets because they’re warm and fuzzy, respond to affection, and are fairly easy to care for. That may not be enough for a sophisticated person like yourself who prefers something more distinctive and challenging. These five great exotic pets can provide the novelty you crave.
As friendly as a dog and as curious as a cat, a hedgehog is an ideal exotic pet to begin with. It has a cute face and responds to affection. Their uniqueness lies in the coat of short spines that stick out when they curl into a ball for protection. But cannot harm humans. Unlike hamsters, rats and other rodents, these creatures live 4-to-7 years, are generally clean and odorless, and can be trained to go in a litter box. They are also active during day and night.
Hedgehogs average about 5-to-8 inches and require only four square feet of cage. This makes them easy to carry when you travel. Though in the wild they eat beetles, pet varieties can subsist on dry cat food, supplemented by vegetables, fruits, crickets and mealworms. For more information on pet hedgehogs, consult the International Hedgehog Association.
If you’re willing to take responsibility for maintaining a saltwater aquarium, then you can take care of these exotic creatures. Seahorses are actually bony fish whose skeletons are located on the outside. They range in size from about 1.5 inches for the dwarfs to one foot for the giants. Most pets are between 4-to-7-inches in size. They can display colors from a subtle brown to bright orange and yellow. But they can change their hues for courting or camouflage. They generally prefer their own tanks but can tolerate some small animal species.
Though seahorses are plentiful in the wild, you want to buy captive-bred varieties that have been raised by experts. These versions tend to be free of diseases and live from one-to-four years, depending on type. They are also usually trained to consume frozen mysis shrimp instead of hard-to-care-for live creatures. For more information on seahorses, check out FusedJaw.
Though rating high on the creepiness factor, tarantulas are quiet, usually gentle and can live in a small space like a 5-to-10 gallon dry aquarium, though larger species require bigger spaces. They range in size from 2.5-to-10 inches and are generally colored brown to black, with some markings in white, yellow or orange. They do not tolerate frequent handling because some species have hairs under their bellies that can cause itching. They are also venomous. Though the poison is only harmful to insects, it can cause the same allergic reaction as a bee sting.
They subsist on live insects, particularly crickets, given every few days. Females live far longer than males. Some species, such as the Brazilian Black Tarantula, survive up to 20 years or more. For more information on these spiders, check out the Tarantula Guide.
Graceful and hypnotic, these bell-shaped creatures are more properly called jellies since they are not fish and are mostly made up of water. Their delicate nature means they cannot survive in ordinary rectangular aquariums where they can get caught in corners and torn up by filters. They require special curved containers but are otherwise as easy to take care of as any freshwater fish. They subsist on either frozen plankton food or live brine shrimp.
They range in diameter from 2.5 inches for the transparent moon jellies up to 18 inches for blue blubber jellies. They live about from one-to-three years. The transparent moon jellies are particularly attractive under multicolored LED lights. For more information on jellies, see JellyfishArt.
Sugar gliders, also known as sugar bears, win first place in the cuteness competition for five great exotic pets. They have furry, squirrel-like bodies; long tails; big black eyes; and grasping hands. These marsupials are small enough to keep in a pocket and can be trained to go to the bathroom only once a day. They are affectionate, curious, social and can subsist on commercial pellet foods supplemented by fresh fruits and vegetables. A cage that is 30 inches wide, 18 inches deep and 36 inches tall makes a sufficient home. The enclosure must have powder-coated bars that are too small for the creature to slip through.
When buying sugar gliders, make sure the dealer has a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information on these lovable pets, see the Association of Sugar Glider Veterinarians