The Challenges of Keeping an Exotic Companion
Many animal advocates would not promote the keeping of exotic animals as pets. However, there are times that exotic animals are adopted as companions. Providing a suitable living environment and adequate care for an exotic animal is a unique challenge that differs greatly from caring for animals such as dogs or cats. This article, published in Veterinary Clinics of North America, looks at specific and concrete ways that people can improve the physical and mental welfare of their exotic companions.
A major challenge is identifying illness, because exotic animals have evolved many ways of masking these signs. This means that human companions need to thoroughly understand “normal” behaviors to be able to identify “abnormal” ones. This paper frames positive welfare for exotics in terms of “Opportunities To Thrive” and presents five such measures: well balanced diet; self-maintenance; optimal health; expressing species specific behavior; and choice/control. By fostering opportunities for exotic animals to eat well, move and behave as freely as possible, and have some agency in their day to day activities, human companions can create the best conditions for their exotic animal to live as well as possible in a captive context. In addition, vets also need to be informed about the impact of stress on the mental and physical health of exotics. Vets play a key role in guiding their customers to provide their exotic animals with environments containing choices, control, and multiple opportunities to express an animal’s individual nature.