Monday, April 8, 2013

Responsible Animal Ownership

Yesterday, I happened to see one of my Twitter friends ask a general question about what kind of small animal she should get as a pet. The choices were two domesticated animals, and one wild animal. All small mammals, all common pets, but very different from each other.

Basically, when it comes to wild (exotic) animals, there's a point where I draw a line. To be fair, animals like sugar gliders and chinchillas (even though chinchillas are sold in the pet trade, they are still wild animals!) can make perfectly fine pets, if you do your research and understand what you're getting into. Hedgehogs are common pets in many areas, and, from what I hear, in Japan pretty much anything goes.

Small mammals, for a responsible, well-informed owner? Sure. The problem is anything outside of that.

My line? I draw it at carnivores/ predators, especially cats, birds of prey, wolves and wolf hybrids (most of which are just huskies, by the way), etc. Have people had these animals successfully as pets in the past? Sure. Should you? No.

I'm sorry to say it so bluntly. But I work with these animals for a living and I wouldn't want one as a pet.

Back to small animals.

If you do your research and understand what you're getting into, go for it. You have my blessing. BUT if you fall into any of these categories, please, do the animals and yourself a favor, and don't do it:

Not financially stable enough to provide proper veterinary care, housing, food, or enrichment. A lot of people don't realize that exotic animals = expensive animals. They often require special diets and housing, and vet bills, due to their exoticness, can be far more expensive. Really take a step back and assess your finances before you make the decision to purchase even a small exotic pet.

Not doing enough research to understand the species and their unique care. There's a reason certain domestic animals are popular pets. Cats, for example, are fairly self-sufficient. But a lot of exotics aren't exactly throw-in-some-kibble-and-go animals. Sugar gliders, for example, require fresh-- not frozen-- fruit every day, which must be cut into glider mouth-sized pieces. On top of that, gliders often succumb to a calcium/ nutrient deficiency if given a poor diet that can actually cripple them. If you don't do your research and know this before you purchase one, you could wind up with a very sick pet. Certain animals can't eat certain things: even things like iceberg lettuce and celery can be deadly to bunnies, but people often think that an animal that eats greens can eat anything . . . green.

Not in it for the long haul. Is this an animal that you can see being part of your life for the next (if you did your research you'll know how long the average lifespan is) years? Are you planning to have kids, or move to a state/ country where this animal is illegal? Can you find proper care for this animal when you go on vacation? A lot of times, this is where pets end up left behind. Purchasing an animal is an investment and commitment not to be taken lightly. Think about the other end of things. When you're done with this animal, what will happen to it? What if you can't find another home for it, and it has to go to an already over-crowded shelter?

Parrots can live as long as humans can. If you buy a bird when you're thirty, who will take care of it after you're gone? (I mean, we can hope you and the bird both make it your 100th birthday... but yeah).

These are all things to think about before you get into a commitment that's not as easy to get out of.

So there. Sorry for any rantiness but this is a subject close to my heart, which breaks a little every time I see an animal listed on Craigslist because they are too loud/ too noisy/ too smelly/ too aggressive/ too expensive/ too hard to care for.

As always, I'm an advocate for you, too. If you have any questions or want any resources on responsible animal ownership, you have but to ask.


  1. This is a great article. Owning a pet is really a decision that people need to think over thoroughly. Animals aren't something that you could just take care and throw away when you don’t like them anymore, especially when the animals are wild animals like sugar gliders and chinchillas. Thanks for sharing this post. I hope this serves as a great reminder to all animal owners or to others who are considering of owning a pet.


  2. People should really think first if they are 100% ready for all the responsibility that having a pet entails, and even more so when it comes to exotic ones. This is because, compared to common pets, exotic animals such as sugar gliders require extra care and attention. Anyhow, this is a great reminder. And I hope through people like you spreading awareness, people in general will practice being a responsible pet owner.

    Sherri Briggs @ Pet Glider