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We realize that trying to decide which pet is best for you and will fit into your home is, at best, a challenge. We hope that the information below will help you narrow down which animal you want. When you finish this page, check out our Guide to Taming a Pet for some ideas on how to tame your new pet when you do get one.

INTRODUCTION

This page is a guide to help you determine what pet is right for you. Since all animals have different needs, personalities, housing requirements and diets and every person has different expectations it will take a fair bit of research to find an animal that is best suited to your own situation.

NEVER BUY AN ANIMAL BECAUSE OF IT'S LOOKS OR FOR AN "OCCASION" (i.e. CHRISTMAS)!

We hope this page will give you some more ideas on finding the right pet for you.

WHERE DO YOU START?

Even though we have already said that you shouldn't buy an animal because of its looks, usually it's looks are what get you interested in the animal in the first place. This isn't a contradiction. We, as humans, are visually stimulated and we like things that look good. Unfortunately beauty is only skin deep and its the rest of the package that is far more important. A Tiger is beautiful but it is not a house cat! Enough said.

Once you have found some interesting animals your next step is to research the animals to see if they will fit into your lifestyle and to see if you are able to adjust to their needs. Start by reading books, including the reference books in the library. There are books on most common pets out there but there aren't many books on most of the exotics. The reference books, such as Walkers Mammals of the World, are a great source of information that tell you what the animal eats in the wild, how large it is, whether it is solitary or a communal animal, habitat and so on. All of these factors have to be taken into consideration when you are thinking about an exotic.

Another fantastic source is the Internet. We hope to give you as much good information as we can on our pages but you should keep researching beyond our pages alone. We provide a list of good links that you can check out (and out, and out,...). You should also consider joining a list. We explain what a list is on our list page and provide access to a few good lists. You don't have to have an animal to join, just an interest.

Your next step should be to contact breeders and someone who currently has the animal your interested in as a pet to find out more. Don't be afraid to tell the breeder that you are just researching the animal. A good breeder is usually willing to help you out. If the breeder is only interested in a quick sale and no information, you should be very cautious. Don't lead the breeder on into thinking that you want to buy the animal. The breeder will become very leery of YOU if they think you want one of their animals and then you walk away with the info and don't take the animal. If you go back to them later to buy the animal they may have reservations about selling it to you.

SORTING THE INFORMATION

Once you are totally confused by the amount of information and the conflicting information, what do you do next? You will find that a fair amount of the information is very similar. The rest tends to be individual opinion. Since everybody has a different approach to the same problem, his or her solution is different. Use your common sense to sort out some of the confusion, and ask even more pointed questions. You can also use some of these different ideas to your advantage, since there is a great deal of experience behind these opinions there will be something in them that you can use with your own pet, even if you don't follow that particular approach.

NARROWING DOWN THE CHOICE

This is the hardest part. Once you have found some animals that really interest you, you have to decide which is the right animal for you. The following are some of the things that you should consider before you bring ANY animal into your house:

1. THE LAW

You're probably thinking, "What do you mean by THE LAW?" What does the law have to do with buying a pet rat or a pet fox? Well it has everything to do with it. Most local, state/provincial and federal governments have laws restricting the ownership of certain types of animals. Check with your local and state/provincial governments to find out what is restricted in your area. Also check with the federal government, in Canada you would check with the Department of Agriculture, in the United States you would check with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). For example; here in Canada, hedgehogs are illegal in British Columbia (even though every pet shop has them, dumb huh?). In Alberta all rats (with the exception of pouch rats) are illegal (they are quite strict about this), in California, well the list of what is legal is probably shorter than the list of what isn't. Check out THE LAW first, before you order the pet you want or you could be dealing with the wrong end of the law.

2. HEALTH

Health is an important factor. Does anyone in the house have allergies? If they do they are prime candidates for problems with most fur and feathered creatures. Even if you say no, no one has any allergies, someone might and you may not be aware of it. Most people that are allergic to the dander from the fur bearing animals may not show any signs of an allergic reaction until they have been exposed to concentrated amounts of the dander.
Respiratory discomfort can be another problem associated with the dust from both the animals and their litter.
To get an idea to see if any of these problems may occur in your household you should test yourselves. A good way to do this is to find a friend that already has some furry pets or spend some time at your local pet shops handling the furry critters. This is actually a two-fold test, first to test your health, second to help you gain some confidence handling different animals.

3. YOUR LIFESTYLE

Choose an animal that will best suit your lifestyle. If you think that you can change your life to suit a pet, you'd better think again, most people can't. So it is better to pick an animal that will fit in.
If you have young kids, pick an animal that is tolerant of kids. Quite a few animals are spooked easily by loud noises, sudden movement, and the unexpected, all things that children excel at! It would not be fair to bring an animal like this into this kind of environment, and some animals could become aggressive in this situation if they feel threatened enough. That could be quite dangerous for all.
Decide how much time you would realistically have to offer the animal. Some animals require allot of attention, time, and devotion for both their well being and to keep them tame. The latter kind may withdraw into themselves, or feel resentful for the lack of attention that they feel they should have. This can lead to many unfavourable personality disorders.
NOTE: Buying a pet during summer break while the kids are home from school can also cause a lot of problems. It seems like a great idea, the kids can spend some time with the new pet before they go back to school, unfortunately the pet doesn't understand how come it received all this attention and then the kids are gone and it feels abandoned. If you get a pet under these circumstances try to limit the attention to the same amount that it will get when the kids are back at school, this way the pet will settle in a regular routine and it will hardly notice he kids are back at school.
These are some of the more common problems that we have seen when lifestyle and animal needs clash. So consider your lifestyle very carefully to determine if the animal you are interested in is suitable.

4. THE ANIMALS LIFESTYLE

The animals that you are interested in may have requirements that you may not be able to provide. Check carefully. Some may require caging that is much too large for you to accommodate. Some animals are almost wholly nocturnal, some require live food, and some have a very strong odour. These are some of the things to look into before you go too far in purchasing an animal. It would be almost cruel to try to keep a coatimundi in a 2'*3'*4' as they are very active and quite large. Mind you I haven't heard of many animals complaining about too large an enclosure.

6. EXPERIENCE AND PERSONALITY

Experience and the animals (sometimes humans) personality go hand in hand. Generally an inexperienced pet owner should not be buying a pet with a personality that takes experience and time to learn how to deal with their little (often-big) quirks. Basically a first time pet owner shouldn't go out and buy a monkey or a large cat (very dangerous). If you are just starting out we usually recommend that you start off with something that is fairly easy to keep and deal with. By doing this you will gain some valuable experience in the care and management areas. Plus you begin to understand first hand that every animal has its own needs and quirks that have to be dealt with. Never assume that you can handle any animal after keeping a few, even the most experienced animal handler runs across animals that are extremely difficult to deal with. Even when you are moving up within related species, there can be some very big differences in their personalities. A good example of this is someone who has had domestic rats and wants to move up to pouch rats. Even though they are technically both rats, the domestic rat is a very easy animal to house and handle due to its many years in domestication. The pouch rat on the other hand is very new to the pet market and it still displays a lot of its wild traits and requires some patience to earn its trust and to keep it.

7. HOUSING

The housing requirements of the pet that you are looking vary widely. Some small animals will do just fine in a small cage, but a lot of the larger exotics require a lot of room when they are caged. Are you prepared to give a coatimundi a minimum 6' * 10' cage (ideal is 8' * 20' or bigger)? Consider that it may not be safe for a lot of these exotics if you leave them uncaged. Coatimundi are literally very nosey and have to get into everything, a pouch rat could chew you out of house and home. Therefore providing the proper caging and enough toys and things for them to do is very important to both your sanity and the animals well-being.

8. DIET

The diet of these animals also varies widely. Some eat seed, some green material, some insects, some meat, and a lot of them are omnivores (they will eat anything). If you are not prepared to feed live food, then rule out any animal that requires live food.
Dog & cat food is not a very good diet for most exotics. These diets are designed for domestic dogs and cats, not for an exotic. Make sure that you can get a good diet that is meant for the animal it is being fed to.

9. SUMMARY

So far we have covered a lot of ground here, and we've only just touched the tip of the iceberg.
Do your research and ask lots of questions. Consider if the animals' lifestyle will fit into yours. Start with something easy to get your teeth wet. You wouldn't want to get behind the wheel of a Boeing 747 the first time you fly a plane, would you? Don't forget the housing and dietary requirements. If you don't have the room for the animal, don't get it.
Good luck finding the right animal for you. Taking the extra time to start with will more than pay off when you get an animal that suits you, you'll both be happy!


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Last updated

February 2009