Exotic Pets: Family Friends or Status Symbols?


Many pet owners in Northern Virginia are choosing to keep exotic or unconventional animals as pets rather than the usual cats, dogs, birds, or small rodents. While some of these pets make friendly additions to your family, others might be viewed as status symbols that do not make good pets because they require special care or simply because they will always be somewhat wild and dangerous.

So-called exotic pets are becoming more common in the Northern Virginia area, with some being sold at local pet stores today. There are a wide variety of possible exotic pets available. These include mammals such as hedgehogs, chinchillas, sugar gliders, and ferrets; reptiles from turtles to lizards and snakes; amphibians (which include salamanders and frogs), insects, saltwater fish, and corals. Although pet stores in Northern Virginia offer many of these creatures, it is recommended that you either buy your exotic pet from a reputable breeder or that you adopt one from a rescue group, which will ensure the animal is a good fit for your family. Remember, hiring a pet sitter to take care of  your dog  or cat  while you are on vacation is easy, just be sure you have a pet sitter that is willing to take care of your exotic pet as well; that snake might be a little scary!

 If you decide you would like to add an exotic pet to your household, spend time researching the specific needs of the animals you are considering before you make your final choice.

Consider the following factors as you decide whether or not an exotic pet is right for your family:

 Size: of pet and of housing requirements.

Legality: in your state and community.

Social needs: including amount of daily attention needed, type of companionship needed, and compatibility with children or other pets already in the home.

Cost: for initial purchase, for food, for health care, for possible destructive behavior.

Information: including diet and care requirements and also local vet(s) that are familiar with this animal. Will your neighbor or pet sitter care for the pet if you go away?

Activity level including how active and/or destructive the pet will be and WHEN it will be active!

 Whatever pet you choose to add to your family, whether exotic or common, large or small, furry or feathered, as pet owners we all know the following observation is true: Pets can be wonderful companions for the old and young alike! Enjoy the pets in your life!

Becky O’Neil is a pet expert and owner of Becky’s Pet Care located in Northern Virginia, a professional provider of dog walker and pet sitter services.

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