What is an exotic pet?


Today, in honour of exotics month here on the blog, we wanted to tackle the important question… What the heck is an “exotic” pet anyways?

If you have found yourself wondering this you are not alone! In fact, we found several different definitions while looking for the answer!

  1. Anything that isn’t a cat or a dog. This definition is the one we use at Calgary Humane Society. For us, an exotic pet is anything that is not a cat or a dog. Why? Well, it’s to help us communicate with our adopters. Many veterinarians will only see cats and dogs. This means if you are adopting something else, you may need to hunt around for a vet. When someone is thinking of adopting we will encourage them to make sure they have access to an ‘exotics’ veterinarian that will treat the species they are thinking of adopting.
  2. Domestication. In some articles about exotic pets, ‘exotic’ is used to talk about any species that is not fully domesticated. Domestication is a process in which animals are selectively bred to create a new species that is genetically different from the original population. Typically when you are talking about domestication, these animals are selectively bred to be dependent on humans as well as selectively bred for appearance. There are many animals, like birds and snakes, that could be considered “semi-domesticated”. This means that humans have started the process of domestication, but it is not complete yet. “Semi-domesticated” animals are often less reliant on people and display more “wild” animal behaviors.
  3. “Unusual, rare or interesting”. This definition was one of more subjective definitions we found. Certainly, unusual, rare or interesting is the definition of exotic, but who is to say what is interesting? Also, what is unusual or rare in one place may not be that rare or unusual in another place. While this definition may be subjective, it does a good job of highlighting the fact that an exotic pet in Canada may not be all that exotic in Australia!
  4. Illegal pet trade. This is probably the weakest definition for ‘exotic’ pets because it does not capture the full range of exotic animals but rather only the ones that are illegal as pets. This definition is also weak because different locations have different rules regarding what can be kept as a pet.

So… what’s an exotic pet? Well, that’s going to depend on the article you are reading. That being said, at Calgary Humane Society you will likely see the word ‘exotic’ used to describe anything that is not a cat or a dog, even if the animal we are talking about is a common pet.We have chosen this definition to reflect the specialized vet care and husbandry that these animals require.

Do you have a different idea of what an ‘exotic’ pet should be? Is there a specific exotic pet you would like to see featured on the blog this month? Let us know by commenting posting on our Facebook page!

Looking to add an exotic critter to your family? Calgary Humane Society has many to choose from! Check out the adorable adoptables on our website or visit our adoptions department to see them in person!