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Exotic Pets

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Reality Check for Potential Owners of Exotic Pets

Owning an exotic pet is a big decision for anybody and should be given a deep
thought before it's taken. There are many constraints which should be
considered like expenditure, permit, laws, care, time devotion, etc. The owner
should not take a step forward unless he is able to make a lifetime commitment.
There are chances that the owner might simply get bored of taking care of the
pet and even the animal can develop behavioral patterns which are dislikeable
later on. If the pet is adopted very late, it would be difficult for it to
accept the new owner. If the owner is tired, it would be really difficult to
find a new owner and setting them free is also not advisable as it is dangerous
and will put the animal's life to risk.

Firstly, what species of exotic animals you want to adopt as pet should be
decided upon. Then, understand the qualities, needs, and problems related to
the particular animal like humans are different from the other, so are animals.
A brochure or a website might give a generalized view. But only when an in-depth
study of the individual animal is done its true personality can be determined.
The owner should also understand that some animals even after perfect training
grow up to be more aggressive and undisciplined and on the other hand sometimes
abused animals grow up to be perfect pets.

The owner and family members must question themselves whether they will become
responsible owners or not. The size of the animal, when it is young and when it
is fully grown should also be considered, as this is important factor deciding
upon the environment to be provided to the animal. Initially potential owners
portray a picture of cuddling and playing with the pet. This sure is feasible
only if the exotic animals do not grow very big. If a household exotic pet is
desired, its fully grown weight should range from eighteen to forty pounds to
be adopted as a pet. Some exotic animals become more of a threat when they grow
and the owners decide to confine them to a cage due to this reason. This results
in pet missing sleeping with the family members and also missing the freedom of
moving around the place. The problem with the smaller animals is that when they
grow up they begin to spray on everything in the house.

When a potential owner does research before buying the pet, he will surely come
across conflicting views. On one hand there will be animal rights activities who
will sound completely in love with the animal and will go on and on and paint a
beautiful picture. But on the other hand, there will be testimonials of owners
who write down about the problems they had faced with the animal. The potential
owner should choose the more realistic information. If time permits, potential
owner should work voluntarily with some organizations which deals with the
animals you want to have as a pet. This real time experience will be a true
lesson.

Owning an exotic animal is very costly. Costs such as buying, legal work,
feeding, habitat building, and veterinary costs should be jotted down before
adopting a pet. The smaller the animal the more affordable it is. Bigger animal
grow more rapidly and so will the cost associated with it. They will become more
dangerous also by the day. This doesn't exactly mean that the animal will attack
the family members, but it can cause harm for instance while playing. The pet
like relation will no longer remain after they grow up. They will simple become
captive animals locked up in a cage for the rest of their life.

After the decision is being taken, next step is the law regarding the adoption
of the pet. The potential owner must study the federal, county, city and state
laws about the ownership of that particular species. The regulations are heavy
and many requirements are usually have to be met. The endangered species status
should also be checked for the desired pet because of legal issues. Additional
permits if necessary would have to be taken. Also the laws and legislations
change from time to time, which should be kept track of. If situation arises,
the owner should also be ready to fight for the custody of the pet. In many
places, owing an exotic animal is banned.

Diet for Exotic Pets

Exotic cats demand exotic food. Their nutritional requirements are different
from domestic cats. Their diet should consist of very high levels of fat and
proteins. Also important is the arachadonic acid which is found in animal
cells. This fatty acid derivative is one of the essentials, along with vitamin
B and nicotinic acid. Otherwise it can affect the growth and the reproductive
system of these animals and will lead to reproductive system failure and
metabolic diseases.

Problems such as blood clotting, immune system malfunction, vision problems and
even heart failure can occur if their diet lacks taurine or amino acid. When the
animals aren't fed with whole animals and just meat products, they can develop
deficiencies like cystine, arginine, and methionine. This especially applies to
the bigger cats. Exotic cats' digestive system cannot modify the provitamin
cartenoids, like beta carotene, to change them into retinol or vitamin A.

The young ones should be fed with diet rich in calcium. They can get this from
milk and even bones which they eat along with the meat. The bones contain the
right amounts of phosphorus and calcium to facilitate the growth of healthier
bones and joints. They also help the healthy development of gums and teeth. So
it is really important to give meat with bones and not just meat chunks. If
they eat only meat, the balance is lost and cubs become prone to bone and joint
diseases such as rickets. Even when the matured ones are fed with only meat
minus the bones, they become prone to bone and joint diseases such as
arthritis, osteomalacia and get other problems such as joint pains and soft
bones.

The calcium content should be at least one percent of the whole food given to
them. Twice or thrice a week they can be given bones with very less meat on it,
for example, ribs, tails, thighbones, vertebral bones, pelvis, necks and beef
shanks. Oyster shells can also be fed, as it contains three times more calcium
than other food products. Most of the captive cats have tartar, which can only
be removed with proper calcium enriched food. If the tartar development is not
controlled, it could lead to teeth loss and bacterial development which could
poison the bloodstream. The poisoned bloods will then flow to other internal
organs and damage them. If the animals aren't fed with sufficient calcium
enriched bones, a quantity of twenty smashed tablets of calcium carbonate
weighing seven hundred and fifty milligrams can be given along with four pounds
of meat. Extra amount should be given to pregnant and nursing females.

The respiratory and digestive systems are dependant on the supply of vitamin A.
Insufficient amount can conjunctivitis, blindness, pelvic limb paralysis and
tract infections. In males, it reduces the sperm count; both quantity and
quality wise, and can actually lead to sexual organ failure. By looking at an
animal it can be determined that it has vitamin A deficiency, if it has thin,
lusterless and poor fur. A great source of vitamin A is liver.

Fat is also very essential and usually the chunk meat is lean. The larger the
size of the animal, the more fat it requires. Insufficient quantity of fats
leads to irregular excretion, coarse fur, and dandruff. Chicken backs are a
good solution to this problem.

On an average, bigger animals eat between nine to eighteen pounds daily, when
held in captivity. This figure is less that what animals eat in the wild,
because captive animals burn lesser calories. Some animals like lions and tiger
have the ability to eat hundred pounds at once and then go without eating
anything, for days. Bigger cats can be given meals for five days and can be
made to fast for the rest two days of the week. The food should also be stored
below zero degree so as to retain its nutritional value and freshness. Frozen
meat can also be given to the animal or the meat can be thawed just before
feeding.

Metabolic Bone Diseases in Exotic Animals

Other than diseases which result from infection from bacteria and viruses,
diseases can also be caused due to deficiency of proper nutrients in the diet.
The metabolic bone disease is caused if there is a deficiency of vitamin D,
calcium, and phosphorus. The condition specially aggravates when the problem is
not treated for a long period of time. The major cause of this disease is due to
improper care in dietary needs of animals. According to some doctors, the
disease can also be caused due to high consumption of proteins.

Metabolic bone disease is also known by other names such as osteoporosis, cage
paralysis, nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, rickets, and paper bone
disease. Even if the ratio between calcium and phosphorous is disturbed, the
disease is impending. A well balanced diet and close monitoring can result in
the proper absorption and retention of calcium in the bones.

As long as the young one is totally dependant on mother's milk, it has very
rare chance of developing this disease. But once it starts eating other food
and completely leaves mother's milk, it can face the risk. Also animals which
live in the wild have lesser chance of developing metabolic bone disease. The
animals are able to eat the prey as a whole and the meat is combined with skin,
fat, fur, bones, feathers, intestines, etc. Different parts of the prey provide
different nutrients and the animal feeding on it gets a balanced diet by eating
it.

The major cause of this disease is the unbalancing of calcium. Chunks of muscle
meat which are provided to animals in captivity contain minute traces of calcium
and high levels of phosphorous. This high level of phosphorous decreases the
capacity of the body to absorb the available calcium. Calcium deficiency can
also occur when the animal is not fed with fully grown animals and only
neonatal prey. The actual ratio of calcium and phosphorous that has to be
consumed is 20:1. And this ratio is reversed when only meat is given to the
captive pet, which results in nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. Even
worse, organs such as heart, kidney and liver will have calcium and phosphorus
in the ratio of 1:44 which is alarming.

Even when vitamin A is taken in excess, it suppresses the absorption capacity
of vitamin D and even of calcium. The rate of vitamin A consumption increases
when liver is fed a lot. When the required quantity of vitamin D becomes less
it causes rickets disease. In this disease, the bone density is reduced at
joints and they become pliable and brittle. The bones become more prone to
pathological fractures. Other than that neuromuscular abnormalities and poor
motor reflexes can also be caused.

Calcium is not only required for proper bone growth but also for the proper
functioning of muscles. It also enables the blood clotting, activation of
enzymes, and activation of enzymes. The function of vitamin D is to maintain
the proper ratio of calcium and phosphorous in the blood stream.

The diet should be well balanced. Twice a week, the animal should be given
bones which have scanty meat on it like ribs, necks, thigh bones, etc. A more
simple way is to give the animal a whole prey to feed on. Commercially designed
diets already have the required composition, but that can be more expensive.

Bottle Feeding Exotic Cubs

Cubs should stay with their mother for nearly six weeks, after which they can
be separated. When cubs and kittens are separated they still need to be
supplied with calcium enriched diet to help the healthy growth of bones, teeth,
gums and joints. Bottle-feeding is also done so as to make a strong bond between
the owner and the animal. Experts say that guests and strangers who visit the
owner's house frequently should also bottle feed the animal so as to help the
animal overcome initial hesitation.

There are many compositions which be used to make a perfect bottle-feed. A cup
of unflavored pedialyte or distilled water can be mixed with a quarter cup of
zoologics milk powder and one ml of poli vi sol liquid baby vitamin. A teaspoon
of calcium powder can also be added, along with half a teaspoon of taurine
powder. Half a cup of fat free plain yogurt can also be added to make the
formula concentrated. The bacterium also helps to digest the food properly, but
no sugar should be used as that can lead to diarrhea. After few weeks, very
small amount of plain puree chicken baby food can be added to the formula,
which can be increased over time. All the ingredients can be mixed in a blender
and then the mixture should be used within a day. If not used within twenty-four
hours it should be discarded. Before feeding, the mixture, which has been
refrigerated, can be warmed and then used. The mixture shouldn't be stored back
into the refrigerator once it has been warmed.

Care also must be taken while heating up the formula. It should never be heated
up in a microwave, instead heat some water and place the bottle in the cup of
water for some time. The formula temperature should be checked before feeding,
otherwise if the formula is more than warm, it can hurt the animal internally.
Also the animals have the habit of drinking the formula very fast, so it will
be too late before realizing that the milk is really hot. The bottle should
have a special nipple called the vet nipple, which is small and not round at
the end. The cub should be not be laid on it's back like how the human babies
are fed as that would make the formula enter it's lung and cause pneumonia.
They should be fed in upright position or while sitting on the stomach.

When introducing the cub to a new formula, give him time to adjust to it. Start
by giving diluted mixture and then increase the concentration gradually. If the
animal suffers from diarrhea, decrease the concentration immediately. It could
take weeks for the animal to start feeding on actual concentrated formula. A
log can be maintained about the concentration of the formula, the status of
stool and its weight. It helps to determine the cause of diarrhea and also
helps to improve the diet of the cat. Also if the animal is taking lesser
formula as well as its weight is decreasing, this could be an indication of
some disease. If the diarrhea isn't treated promptly, the cub can die out of
dehydration pretty soon.

They should be fed with meals, which are five percent of their body weight
until they become mature. This principle must always be kept in mind, as there
is always a chance of over feeding. Instead of giving less often, large doses
of formula, give frequent small doses. Also the animal should be encouraged to
go to the bathroom before the mealtime, when it has crossed four weeks. The
cubs pass a lot of urine and the owners should be ready for that. The animal
will refuse to feed on normal times; it might be because its bladder is full.
But if the animal refuses to have anything for twenty-four hours, it should be
taken to the vet. Exception is when the cub has been separated from its mother,
as it will take about forty-eight to start bottle-feeding.

Tigers

Tigers are felines which are extremely popular among pet lovers who have
immense passion for exotic animals. At the same time they are also the most
dangerous of all the exotic pets. In the first place, it is really difficult to
get a permit for them to be kept as pets. And even if the owner gets the permit,
they have to face other issues like finance, responsibility, threats, and
regulatory issues so much so that even the local inspector drops by every now
and then to inspect the animal and the living conditions provided by the owner.
Although owing a tiger sounds impressive but it is more like building castle on
clouds.

Potential owners shouldn't get turned down, but they should very well
understand the challenges they have to undergo during the whole process. They
should work as a volunteer at a zoo which has adult tigers to understand in
depth about what they are going to do.

Cubs usually like to cuddle and sleep with humans around. They can be fed with
milk bottles like a human baby. They need to be taken out for a walk,
frequently. They won't complain if the owners keep other pets along with them.
Tigers like to play wild games around the house. They attack a piece of
furniture multiple times and drag them from one corner to other, because of
their wild instincts of hunting. They will get companionship and would enjoy
playing with each other, inside the house as well as outside. Problem arises
only when the tiger outgrows other pets, as they start biting and attacking the
weaker one. They should not only be moved out of the house, but also will
require a bigger cage, if a smaller cage was built earlier. The expense for
building a larger cage will be huge. When they grow, they need to be shifted to
a cage which is at least eighty-seven feet long and thirty-feet tall. A small
swimming pool should also be built for them, which they can enjoy in the
scorching sun.

But when they grow, they become very heavy and the owner finds it difficult to
take it outside for a walk as he will find it impossible to manage the leash
with the animal's weight on it. The animals will then begin to miss out the
freedom and will sometimes get aggressive and start roaring a lot. To keep them
occupied, the owner can place things strategically, so that the animal gets
involved in the activity of sniffing out things and food. They can be given
toys to play with, but they won't last for long and should be replaced by new
ones frequently. They even throw the toys outside their cage, which the owner
should get it back for him to play again. When the owner leaves the house, even
for a while, the animals should be securely tied within the cage. There are
chances that they can break open and attack humans in the neighborhood.

After the passage of eighteen months, tigers shed their baby teeth and grow
four inches canines. That's when most of the owners freak out because although
till then they had tamed the animal, but the wild predator will always dwell in
the animal. The owners no longer go inside the cage to feed the animal, and even
if they do, they carry a pepper spray along with them. Special protective
measures should be taken to ensure the safety of people not only in the house,
but around the house as well.

One of the most hectic parts is cage keeping. There are chances of algae growth
which requires lot of scrubbing and water. The old hay should be thrown out,
which makes really big pile and not to forget animal waste. The water in the
swimming pools should also be replaced often. As they are fed with whole
animals, the remains accumulate which should be cleaned as they will start
decaying. Especially during the summers, maggots grow rapidly if even one cage
cleaning schedule is missed.

Bobcats

Bobcats are small cats belonging to North America. They inhabit the wood areas
and deciduous forests stretching from west to southeast America and Mexico.
Some even occupy parts of south Canada. They have a small body structure. Their
fur is of color yellowish brown or reddish brown with black or dark brown
stripes. They have noticeably long ears with black tips. Their weight ranges
from twenty four to thirty five pounds.

Owners relate their pet bobcat to a tabby cat, but their requirements are far
from those of a domestic cat. They demand special care and extra attention.
Like Servels they also have the habit of spraying. They also are very hyper and
aggressive by nature. They need to be bought up in mostly in outdoor location
where they have lots of space to play, like they do in the wild. If they don't
get adequate place outside, they run around destroying things in the house.
Some owners are very content with their pets, but it is recommended that
potential owners should do their homework before making up their mind.

Their diet shouldn't be like any other domestic pet. Since they are exotic pets
and come from the wild, they have different nutritional requirements to be
healthy. At a time, they eat a whole chicken, which should be presented with
feathers intact. They can also be given fresh killed squirrel, rabbit, and
beef. They do not eat much during the summers, but make up for it during the
winters. They also require special medicine and vaccine doses. A normal dose of
sedative given to other domestic pets while declawing can kill them. It would be
good for their health if they have their claws, or if the owner has made the
decision to declaw them, only the front claws should be removed. Their canines
should never be removed. Otherwise, the owner has to cut the food into small
bits in order to feed them, as they would not be able to eat a whole chicken
without their canines.

Other than their playtime they can be kept in a two-cage home which is fourteen
feet tall and twenty-four feet wide and which is connected by a six-foot
walkway. The cage in which they are kept should have ramps, platforms, toys so
as to keep them occupied. Some are really affectionate and like to lick the
face of their owner, but again be ready for their tongue, which feels more like
sandpaper. The trained ones even sleep with their owners, but the owner should
get habituated to their loud purring. They also get up early in the morning
like five and start playing, which means that they will start playing in the
bed itself. They play really hard putting in all their energy.

Bobcats also have a liking towards water and they like it especially when it
rains. If there are puddles, there is a high chance of the entire house getting
messed up. Other than keeping the toilet seat down, also no container filled
with water should be left unattended. When they roam around in the house, it is
a really bad idea to do the dishes or mop the floor. Bobcats are good with
people whom they are familiar with, they get very anxious when guest drop in.
At such times, they are better kept in the cage. They become motionless; they
hide and remain scared till the stranger leaves their territory. And when the
guests leave they come out and sniff all around till they are content.

Owners wouldn't be able to go out on long vacations or even party out on
weekends, by leaving the animals alone at home. If a babysitter is appointed,
care must be taken that it shouldn't be stranger, but a friend whom the pets
are familiar with. When owners start to realize that they have got more
responsibility than they had asked for, they start thinking of giving up the
pet by either releasing them in the wild, which is extremely dangerous, or give
them to someone else. In the later situation, bobcats find it extremely
difficult to trust and bond with its new owner. Some states in United States
and even other countries it is illegal to keep a bobcat as a pet.

Cheetahs

Cheetah is one of the exotic animals which are kept as pets since five thousand
years and can be dated back to Ancient Egyptian civilization. Initially they
were used for hunting. Scientifically known as Acinonyx Jubatus, they are
fastest of the wild cats and also amongst the animals but aren't good at
climbing trees like other cats. They are capable of reaching a speed of seventy
mile per hour and within merely three seconds they can accelerate from zero mph
to seventy mph. The length of the cheetah's body ranges from forty five to
fifty five inches and the weight ranges from ninety to one hundred and forty
pounds.

They originated from Africa, and can be found in other parts of the world such
as Central Asia and Iran. They have an elongated body with a small head and
narrow waist, which facilitates aerodynamics. Cheetahs have semi retractable
blunt claws which help them to get good grip during fast pursuits. The color of
its coarse fur is tan and has small black spots. A rare kind of cheetah known as
King Cheetah is larger in size with big merging spots. Its thirty three inch
long tail is encircled with five to six black circles and it helps in taking
sharp turns as it acts like a rudder. Black lines which start from its eyes and
run along the sides of the nose towards the mouth are called tear marks. These
lines enable them to see long distances and minimize the glare of the sun.

Cheetahs can be trained very easily and also they are very caring animals. They
make noises such as chirp, yowl, yip, growl and hiss and their purr is very
deafening. But they do not have the ability to roar like other big cats and
also are diurnal, where as others are nocturnal. They are carnivorous animals
and hunt for small mammals and young ones of larger mammals. Cheetahs hunt when 
it isn't hot, like at dawn and dusk. They also do not go after animals which 
they cannot get hold of easily and they hunt not by smell but by vision. Nearly 
fifty percent of attempts end in failure as they give up fast. One of the 
reasons can be the immense heat which is generated while running, which can be 
serious for the animal. They rest for at least half hour after the intense chase. 
They also have the ability to make sounds of some birds, in order to catch them.

Cheetahs always eyes for the animal which is distant from its herd. It chases
the animal and then trips it. After the animal falls, it suffocates the animal
by biting underneath the throat as it does not have the strength to break the
neck. For some reason they do not hunt weak and old animals. During high speed
chases, cheetahs can get adequate oxygen with the help of big nostrils. They
also have an enlarged heart and lungs which utilize the oxygen to the maximum
by increasing the respiratory rate while running.

Cheetahs also fall under the category of endangered species. Many organizations
and acts have been implemented to conserve them. One of the reasons for their
endangerment is that they are environment sensitive and are the most
vulnerable. When held in captivity, they should be provided with their natural
habitat. Studies have proven that there is a lack of genetic diversity in
cheetahs which are held in captivity. They don't reproduce regularly like other
felines and find it difficult to breed. Also their lifespan decreases and the
rate of survival are low. In residential areas, they have been killed by
poachers on large scale for protecting cattle. Such farmers are now being
provided with dogs that can guard the livestock and scare away the wild
cheetah. It has also being hunted for its fur with beautiful pattern.

To obtain a permit to keep cheetahs as pets is not only a big problem for
individual owners but also for big zoos. People who have passion for cheetahs
and haven't got the permission to own them can donate generously to conserve
the species.

Bengal Cats

Bengal cats are a hybrid variety of cats, which are very homely and friendly by
nature with a very wild look. They are also very intelligent and alert. Along
with being friendly, they are very good at sports. Their distinct features are
markings such as spots and rosette. It has very close resemblance to the Asian
Leopard Cat and from its taxonomic name was the word 'Bengal' derived.

Bengals have an average build. Males weigh up to fifteen pounds and females
weigh up to ten pounds. The horizontal lines on the side of their face, which
starts from the end of their eyes and go up to the back of their neck, are
known as mascara. Their bodies have spotting which is usually rosette or some
even have a marbled coat pattern. Bengals with spots, with more than one color,
are the ones, which are more in demand. The color of spots varies from rust to
chocolate brown to cocoa to gray and black. Their tail, hind legs and fore
limbs has symmetrical stripes. Bengals cats win championships in most of the
competitions held to award the most exotic pet because of their looks,
intelligence and friendly nature.

Bengals are a result of years of selective crossbreeding techniques. Jean Mill
of United States developed Bengals in 1970s. They are a hybrid breed created
from crossing other breeds of domestic cats like American shorthair, Egyptian
maus, ocicat, Abyssinian and other shorthaired pet cats. Basically, they
originated by crossing small Asian Leopard cat or ALC and domestic cats. This
gives them the wild and exotic look with a friendly nature. Breeders are still
working all over the globe to develop more qualities in this breed. The
foundation generations of the filial are the first three generations of
Bengals. Most of the males of these generations didn't have the ability to
reproduce, where as the females were. After the fifth generation, they were no
longer crossbred; instead breeding was done between two Bengal cats.

Presently there are three kinds of Bengal cats available as pets, the Cheetoh,
the Toyger, and the Serengeti cat. The Cheetoh are hybrid cats derived by
crossing Ocicat and Bengal, to get a breed of spotted cats. The Toyger are
hybrid cats, which are produced by crossing domestic pets that results in a cat
with stripes. The Serengeti cat has been produced by crossing Siamese or
Oriental cats to get a cat that looks like an African Serval.

Based on their patterns they can be named as brown marbled tabby, brown spotted
tabby, seal mink marbled tabby, seal mink spotted tabby, seal sepia marbled
tabby, seal sepia spotted tabby, seal marbled lynx point, and seal spotted lynx
point. Other than the mentioned colors, they also come in blue, grey, and black,
but still yet to get recognition across the world in these colors.

Unlike other domestic cats, Bengals get fascinated with running water and are
easy to bathe. They get attracted to tap water, shower and instantly jump
inside the tub. They are also trained to vocalize so as to interact with their
owners. They are good with sports and play hide and seek and also learn games
very well. Young ones need human attention and can be bonded with by playing
for at least an hour during the day and evening. They are attention seekers and
always try to be involved in human activities. They follow their owners, but do
not like to be placed on laps. People who have made their minds to keep Bengals
as pet should be aware that they have to spend lots of time with the cat,
otherwise it will get bored. And if the cat gets bored it can get frustrated
and can trouble a lot. They have a very high energy level, which they need to
let out, that can only be done by keeping them occupied with activities. Owners
who do not have time to spare should certainly keep Bengals in pairs, so that
they can play with each other. But both the Bengals should be given equal
attention, otherwise the neglected one tends to become envious of the other.

Clouded Leopard

The striking pattern of clouded leopard outdoes all other patterns, stripes,
spots and shades. It can be better explained as marble blotches and hence,
clouded leopard is sometimes called marbled cat. No one blotch is similar and
the larger ones are more beautiful when compared to the
smaller ones. Clouded animals are on the verge of extinction and the Endangered
Species Act has been passed for them. Some states even say that it is illegal to
keep them as pets and even in states where they are allowed, they come for a
huge price.

There is major difference between weight of males and females. The males weigh
up to sixty pounds where as the females weigh thirty pounds. Since the natural
habitats of these animals are found on high altitudes, they have a long, thick
and furry tail. They have the longest canine teeth among the cat family. The
structure of the body in front is compressed and powerful. Clouded leopards
have short but muscular legs with huge front paws.

Since the animal comes from the mountainous region, it is very found of
climbing. Its cage should be built at least ten feet high and it would be even
better if trees are provided within the captivity. Climbing trees and reaching
great height is a must exercise for them to satisfy their psychological needs.
But extra care must be taken when they are outdoors and on trees because if
they escape they are very quick and difficult to catch. The cage can also be
equipped with hanging toys, which they can leap to reach. Other than that other
toys can be included.

Clouded leopards can be fed with fresh chicken, pigeons, chunks of beef,
rabbits, rats and even with fresh blood. Before consuming the food it does a
ritual which aids their digestion process. They have a very unique way of
hunting it prey. The prey is killed first, after which the clouded leopard
plays with the deceased prey for more than an hour. At the end, it eats its
prey. And if a tree is provided in its living habitat, it will take its dead
prey up the tree and eat it there. Clouded leopards can make up to forty sounds
and have very good vocal chords. They mimic many birds and also monkeys in order
to trick them and subsequently kill them. Other than the regular food they
should also be given daily vitamins supplements and giblets. Their daily diet
should comprise of at least one chicken, a rabbit and a rat.

Clouded leopards make partners for life and bonds very early in life.
Unsuccessful attempts are made to breed them by introducing the pair to each
other post adolescence which is too late. In order to be successful, the pair
should be introduced very early so that they can take time to develop the
comfort level and build love. The pair shouldn't be separated till death, as
that will affect both of them immensely. After the birth of the offspring, it
can be kept with the mother for six weeks, after which it can be paired with
the opposite sex for bonding. If the cub is separated earlier than that, it can
be fed with bottled milk, which also helps to develop a relationship with the
owner.

In zoos, too, these animals shouldn't be exposed a lot to the public, which
drags them into extreme stress and eventually untimely death. Also they
shouldn't be transferred frequently and separated from their partners after a
certain age.

Macaws

Macaws belong to the family of New World parrots. They are extremely colorful
and are largest in the parrot family. These birds inhabit the rainforests in
Central America, tropical South America and Mexico. Some of them even live in
savannas and woodlands. They are very intelligent organisms. Macaws are known
to live for hundred years, but on an average they can hit fifty. Mini macaws
live up to thirty years. The lifespan, of a captive macaw, totally depends on
the nutrition and care provided to it.

Although there are many species of macaws, the most popular in pet trade are
scarlet macaws, military macaws, gold and blue macaws, and hyacinth macaws.
Their size can vary from twenty inches to forty-two inches, which includes
their long tail.

Macaws feed on fruits and nuts. They also eat clay, which neutralizes the
effect of poisonous nuts and seeds, which they eat accidentally. This happens
in the wild. In captivity, the bird can be fed with vegetables, fruits, grains,
dry fruits, nuts, etc. Care should be taken that the total fat shouldn't exceed
ten percent, as that can be harmful for the bird. They are also known to chew
on objects. Because of their intelligence and curiosity, they should be
monitored constantly. Macaws make partners for life but the ones that are kept
in captivity and don't have a mate, usually bond with their owner. They feel
the need of communication and hence, the keeper should talk to the bird
constantly. This is also a technique used for bonding with the animal. Macaws
that aren't interacted with suffer mentally and physically. They are not shy to
new people. If a stranger is accompanying the keeper, they do not hesitate to
accept the new face and be friends with them.

Sometimes, macaws have some behavioral problems when kept in captivity. Because
of stress development they start to pluck their feathers, bite and even scream.
They also have a large beak, which they sometimes use to harm people around
them. Their voices are so loud that they can travel pretty long distances. Even
their vocalizations are very loud and their screeches are even worse. They can
even mimic, but they aren't as good as the amazons.

They are extremely playful and active. For this reason their cage needs to be
very big and strong as well. It should be big, because the bird can move around
freely and it should be strong because the bird is very intelligent and stands a
chance of escaping. They even have strong beak strength. The material used can
be stainless steel and the dimensions should be forty by forty-eight by sixty
inches. The expenditure is usually huge in building a cage for the bird. The
bird is very fond of chewing things, so the cage can be filled with wood pieces
or toys, which the macaw can chew on. Hanging toys and toys on which the bird
can climb on are also a good choice.

The macaws are considered as an endangered species and five of the species have
become totally extinct. The problem of their extinction is deforestation and
illegal trading. Therefore, in some states it is legal to sell macaws, which
have been born in captivity only. In other states, they are banned completely.

Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders are marsupials belonging to Indonesia, Australia and New Guinea.
They are small gliding possums and weight up to three to five oz. They have a
silky fur of the color pearl grey with patches of colors cream and black. The
black color is usually on their ears and end of the tail. They are named sugar
gliders because they are able to glide because of the patagium or the skin
membrane which connects first toe of the hind foot with the fifth finger of the
forelimb, on either side. They expand them to create an aerodynamic plane to
glide from one tree to another.

Sugar gliders have the habit of nibbling on each other, and this shouldn't be
confused with biting. They nibble to do many things like testing food, to show
affection, force, groom, etc. Babies initially are taught by biting. When they
are angered, they get aggressive and bite really hard. So, new owners should be
alert until the pets becomes familiar and stops biting. Care should be taken
that this biting shouldn't turn into a habit. Incase, if it turns into a
regular behavior, the animal should be held firmly when it bites, so that it
cannot move and gets tired of crabbing. Although this takes a long time the pet
will eventually get over its natural instinct. The animal must submit to the
owner and it shouldn't be given the feeling it has won. He should also be
released very slowly; otherwise it will bite again and flee. Also, they can be
fed with some food, to appreciate their discipline when they start learning.
They also become comfortable with humans, when they eat in front of them.
Usually female sugar gliders are tough to tame, especially those which come
directly from the wild.

Sugar gliders come from a very rough environment. They are basically hunting
animals. So they should be provided with a rich environment so that they don't
get disturbed mentally. The cage should be very big so that they can leap
freely. Small cages hinder the health of the animal. They are also very active
and need exercise. Their cage should be equipped with toys like exercise wheels
with a diameter of eleven inches. They are also very inquisitive animals, so new
things like cardboard boxes, should be introduced in their cage from time to
time to prevent boredom. The food can also be placed in different places to
keep them on their heels. Food can also be hidden in branch holes, which they
can dig out.

The cage of sugar gliders should be cleaned every week to ensure their hygiene.
The urine should be spot cleaned as the ammonia in it can be very harmful to the
respiratory system of sugar gilders. Also the moisture can encourage the growth
of harmful fungus. If the cage isn't cleaned for a long time, not only will the
occupants become sick but also the house will be filled with odor. Some
precautions should be taken while cleaning the cage and also it should be
sprayed with disinfectant so as to kill the germs and bacteria.

Sugar gliders are habituated to living in groups. That is the reason why they
are never kept alone as pets, as this will adversely affect their health. It
also requires attention from humans around it. They cling onto each other when
they sleep, so as to keep warm. They communicate with each other by squeaking,
crabbing, chirping and barking. They have a good memory and can retain a grudge
against a human after receiving harm from him, even if it was caused by accident.

Females have the ability to beget offspring every seven to ten months. They
give birth to a baby sugar glider after sixteen days of pregnancy, which
usually weighs only 0.2 grams. After the birth, the baby shifts to the mother's
pouch, where it stays for seventy days and feeds on milk from the nipples. Both
the mother and father have equal participation of bringing up their offspring.

Capuchin Monkey

Capuchin monkeys had their name derived from the Franciscan Capuchin whose cowl
is similar to the coloration of the monkeys. They belong to the Cebinae family
and Cebus genus. These monkeys are found in Central America and South America.
Also known as sapajou, these species of monkeys are considered to be the most
intelligent of all present species of monkeys.

The face, neck and chest of capuchins are white colored where as the rest of
the body is either brown or black colored. Their body grows up to twelve to
twenty two inches in height and their hairy tails are also usually the same
length as the body. Their average body weight is two pounds. The males weigh
more than the females. When they are held in captivity, they can live up to
forty five years, but in the wild habitat they can live only for fifteen to
twenty five years. They stay awake during the day and sleep at night except for
the midday nap they take. During the day, they spend most of the time looking
for food and at night, they sleep on the branches of the trees.

Capuchins are very social and live in a group of eight to forty males, females
and their children. The area where the whole group lives together is marked
with the smell of urine and intruders are not welcomed. A strong male controls
the whole group and mates with the rest of the females in the group to produce
offspring. Male and female capuchins smell each other to know whether the other
is sexually mature or not. A female capuchin monkey has the capability of
reproducing after every two years. Their pregnancy period lasts from five to
six months.

The offspring clings onto the chest of the mother and when they grow big
enough, they shift to their back. They expect their mothers to babysit till
they are three months old. Male capuchins have no participation in the
upbringing of their offspring. But if people want to keep them as pets, before
keeping them as pets, they can be neutered. The whole group finds solace in
grooming, which they also use as a means of expressing their feelings. They
even reduce millipedes to pieces so as to rub that on their body to repel
insects and mosquitoes.

Capuchins are very intelligent mammals and have been known to use various tools
which assist them in their daily life. They drink the juice of palm nut fruits
from the tip and then let them dry. After they dry, they will collect them and
break them with the help of a big boulder collected from the rivers. They have
the ability to walk on their feet with food and tools in their hands. They are
also clever enough to find food on ground as well as on trees. Unlike other
monkeys, they are omnivorous. Along with eating food like seed, nuts, fruits,
flowers they also feed on eggs of birds, small birds, insects, spiders,
reptiles, bats and even small mammals. Some of them who live near water bodies
also feed on shellfishes and crabs, which they crack open with the help of
stones.

They aren't fussy about their environment; hence it is easy to maintain them as
pets. People also favor to keep them as pets because they are good organ
grinders and also as service animals. They are also kept as pets to help
quadriplegics (people whose all four limbs are paralyzed) around the house.
They are trained for this purpose by many organizations. They have capability
to open bottles, microwave food and even wash the face of the patient. They are
also safe around kids in the house as they are very gentle in nature. They can
also be taught tricks and some have even starred in movies. Capuchins are also
the most oppressed among the pet animals. They also become troublesome when
they reach sexual maturity, which often confuses the owner.

Raccoons

Raccoons are sometimes called the masked animals because of the black fur near
their eyes which resembles a bandit's mask. Their fur is usually of the colors
white, black, grey and brown. They can be found in major parts of North America
and Europe. Their native habitats are deciduous and mixed forests.

They have five long fingers on each limb which help them in easily opening
latches, boxes, jars, open trash cans and turn knobs. There prints have great
resemblance to human baby's handprints. Raccoon's tracks are found mostly on
mud near water, where they usually wander in search of food. Their body weight
can vary from six to thirty-five pounds and the length of their body can vary
from twenty-four to thirty-six inches. Their bushy tail measures up to ten
centimeters and has an alternate coloring of white and black. The black circle
around their eyes, make them look mischievous and give them an image of a
thief. That is substantiated by the fact that they are often sighted in urban
areas stealing human garbage or eating other pet animal's food.

Raccoons are omnivorous and apart from eating nut, berries, corn, mice, human
garbage they also eat fish, shellfish, salamanders, egg, bird, frog, insects
and amphibians. They have a habit of washing their food before consuming it,
especially those who live in captivity. Pet raccoons can also be fed with cat
food, as they enjoy it very much. A female raccoon gives birth to four to five
offspring at a time. Raccoons mate in January or February and following by
birth in April or May. They don't hibernate in winter, but do become inactive.

Besides rabies, raccoons can also be the carriers of parvovirus, canine
distemper, and roundworm. Nearly thirty-eight percent cases of rabies are a
result of raccoon bites, in United States. If any unknown raccoon is spotted in
the locality at daytime, the local health department should be contacted
immediately. Raccoons show no sign of rabies and their body fluids will have
the virus if they are infected.

It is illegal to keep raccoons as pet in majority of states of America because
of the reason that they are carrier of rabies which could risk human life. In
states where they are permitted, special exotic pet permit should be taken.
Orphans raccoons which are rescued from the forest have a higher risk of being
rabies carriers. They should not only be vaccinated, but also tamed. Raccoons
can be bought from special breeders who would have taken care of everything
before hand because taming a raccoon is a really tough job. They have really
wild instincts which require thorough and strenuous training.

They have a natural tendency to bite, contaminate the food of other animals by
excreting in it and are nocturnal. All these weird habits of raccoons require
complete dedication of time and hard work. They can be even made to sleep at
night. But raccoons held in captivity face health problems like obesity and
develop a strange diet. The problem aggravates due to lack exercise. As they
are omnivorous, they should be also fed with non-veg. diet, which is difficult
for people who are vegetarian. When people make decision of keeping raccoons as
pets, they should be ready to keep it forever, because captive raccoons face
lots of dangers when released in the wild.




Skunks

Skunks are famous for their ability to produce foul smelling odor to defend a
prey. These mammals belong to the Mephitidae family. Eleven species of skunks
are known. The types of species can be divided into four in general: Spilogale
or spotted skunks, Mydaus or stink badgers, Conepatus or hog-nosed skunks, and
Mephitis or stripped and hooded skunks. Skunks are found in North America,
South America, Canada, Philippines and Indonesia.

Lengthwise they vary from forty centimeters to seventy centimeters and in
weight they vary from one pound to ten pounds. They have front claws which help
them to dig easily and have short muscular legs, which go with their reasonably
long striped body. Commonly, their fur is of white and black colors, but there
are skunks with gray, brown and cream colored fur. Skunks are stripped from
birth. A thick stripe runs from their tail to the top of their head. Some many
have two thin strips, broken strips or white spots. Some Skunks legs are also
stripped.

Some countries have laws about keeping skunks as pets. It is legal to have a
skunk as a pet in United States. Usually mephitis species are preferred pets as
they are very social. Before selling a skunk, the pet retailers remove the scent
glands of skunks. They are supposed to live longer in captivity when compared to
living in wild. Their lifespan is from ten to twenty years. It's usual with
Pilgrims and European settlers, in United States, to keep skunks as pets.

Skunks feed on both plants and animal and hence are omnivorous. Coming to
animals they eat insects, earthworms, lizards, frogs, rodents, salamanders,
snakes, moles, birds and eggs. When they cannot find meat, they feed on wild
fruits and seeds. Some skunks even feed on garbage, in urban areas.

Skunks are crepuscular animals. Skunks stay aloof when not breeding, but stay
in communal dens in the winters. They do not hibernate in the winters, but
become inactive and do not eat much. They live in burrows dug by them or man
made pits or natural pits, depending on their necessities and situation. In
winter, a huddle with one male and nearly twelve female live a den. They use
the same den, every year in the winter.

Skunks have superb hearing and smelling sense. But their vision is not good.
They can not see clearly more than three meters and that is the reason why most 
skunks are killed in road accidents. According to a study, nearly fifty percent 
skunks die due to road traffic and not more than ten percent cross three years 
of life.

Skunks have the ability to carry rabies. Almost thirty one percent of them are
infected with it, but all the human rabies cases result from dog and bat bites.
Before keeping them as pets, they should be vaccinated to avoid any mishaps. And
incase, a skunk bites certain measures should be taken. Clean the wound
thoroughly with antibacterial solution and water. If the wound is bleeding,
apply ice pack or pressure to stop it. Emergency service should be called
immediately. After getting to the doctor, insists on taking a tetanus shot. Try
to catch the skunk, either dead or alive, so that it won't spread rabies to
others in the neighborhood. Also test can be performed to determine whether the
skunk had rabies or not.

Chinchilla

Chinchillas are of small sized crepuscular rodents belonging to the
Chinchillidae family, almost the size of rabbit. They are found in the Andes
Mountains of South America. There are two different species of chinchilla,
Chinchilla Lanigera and Chinchilla Brevicaudata. Although they look almost
similar, the tail and ears of Chinchilla Brevicaudata is shorter, its shoulder
and neck are broader and is found in the wild. The Chinchilla Lanigera species
can be kept as pets. Their standard color is grey and they can also be found in
ebony, beige and other colors.

Chinchillas are endangered species. They can be kept as domestic pets, but are
very shy animals and are not good with small kids. Because of their fragile
bone structure, they should be handled with care and that might be the reason
why chinchillas don't like it when people hold them in their hands.

The life period of chinchillas is about fifteen years, when kept in captivity;
some even survive till twenty or more years. They are noisy animals and make
noises like squeaks, barks and chirps. They make noise to express their moods.
They use a sweet chirping sound to attract another chinchilla for mating. They
bark loudly when they get aggressive or scared. Chinchillas are social animals
and can be kept together. When keeping the chinchillas of opposite sex, they
should be neutered. A group of same sex chinchillas also does well, except that
there is a chance of them fighting when a younger or older member is introduced
in the group.

Chinchillas are very playful animals. Arranged shelves can be kept in their
cage, which they can jump on. Toys like large wheel measuring more than eight
inches in radius, hanging wooden toys, and paper towel cylinder can also be
placed in the cage. Care should be taken that none of the objects should have a
mesh structure as there is a possibility of chinchillas getting their legs stuck
in it. Adding to this, when they are given wooden toys or wooden chew stick, the
material shouldn't be conifer wood, because it contains resins which are
poisonous to them. Even plastics should be avoided for the same reason as they
will block their intestines I swallowed. The cage should be very airy and the
bedding again shouldn't be of cedar wood. Birch, apple tree, willow, and
Manzanita are good options for wood.

Temperatures should be maintained below seventy-seven degree Fahrenheit,
because chinchilla don't have sweat glands and do not sweat. When the
temperatures get really high, they get overheated and get a heat stroke. Since
the animals are hyper active they should be made to spend at least half an hour
outside their cage to exercise, in supervision. They clean their fur many times
a week by taking dust baths. A container filled with special chinchilla sand
dust and fine pumice should be kept in their cage for bathing purpose. The
chinchillas shouldn't be given wet baths because their fur has the property to
retain moisture and this could aid fungus growth. Even if they are given wet
bath, they should be dried very fast with the help of blow dryer on a low
setting.

Chinchillas shouldn't be given a sweet and fatty diet, like nuts and fruits, as
their digestive system is very delicate. Their main diet can comprise of hay
based pellet and loose hay. They can also be given small pieces of papaya and
raisins sometimes. If they are fed with sugar products, they have a tendency to
develop diabetes or diarrhea. Even fresh vegetables block their digestive system
which can be very dangerous.

The cause of extinction of chinchillas is that they are killed on a large scale
for its superb soft feeling fur. Also, they have a very evenly colored fur which
makes it most apt for small apparels and as lining for bigger apparels.
Although, now the wild species aren't hunted for fur, but domestic species are
especially bred for this purpose. There are fur farms where chinchillas are
bred in larger numbers. They are kept in really bad conditions.

Alligators

Alligators are the most dangerous of the exotic pets. It is a crocodilian,
which comes from the family of Alligatoridae. The name was derived from
Anglicization of a Spanish word, which was used by Spanish explorers who were
settled in Florida, United States. Alligators are found mostly in America and
China.

There are two species of alligators, Alligator Mississippienis or the American
Alligator and Alligator Sinensis or the Chinese Alligator. The American
alligator weights around eight hundred pounds and is thirteen feet long. The
record for the longest alligator is of nineteen feet two inches, from
Louisiana. Comparatively, the Chinese alligators are smaller in length and
measure not more than seven feet in length. Alligators live for more than fifty
years. The oldest living alligator was of seventy years, at the Belgrade Zoo,
Serbia.

There are many features of alligators that distinguish them from crocodiles and
both of them belong to different taxonomic families. Alligators have a broader
snout and their eyes are located near the upper side. When light is flashed
over the eyes, bigger alligators have a red glow and smaller alligators have a
green glow. This can be of help, when searching for alligators in dark. When
looking in daylight, it is also observed that alligators have brown eyes and
crocodiles have green eyes.

When alligators close their jaws, only the upper teeth are visible where as in
crocodiles, the upper as well as the lower teeth are visible when they close
their jaws. The shape of an alligator's mouth is like a "U" and that of the
crocodile is like a "V". Although both the animals have a darker hide, almost
black, the color depends on their habitats. The Chinese alligators have a light
pattern, alligators living in algae growing water are greenish black and waters
with high tannic acid released from hanging trees have a darker hide.

Alligators can eat anything they can find because of the gastroliths (stomach
stones) present in their stomach. Young alligators feed on crustaceans, fishes,
snails, and insects. As they grow so does their need for larger prey. Bigger
alligators feed on turtles, bigger fishes, birds, and, other reptiles and
mammals. They even eat deer, razorbacks, small alligators and carcass of
animals when they are extremely hungry. Few attacks on humans have also been
reported, but the number is on the rise. People get overconfident about this
fact and enter alligator habitats without much care, resulting in provoking
their aggression. But alligators do not immediately attack humans, like
crocodiles.

The alligator farming industry is seeing a rapid rise in Florida, Louisiana and
Texas. The purpose of such farms is to get alligator hides and nearly forty five
thousand hides are distributed annually from these farms. The hides are very
expensive and a seven-foot hide costs as much as $300, but the prices vary
every year. The meat of alligator also has great demand, which is approximately
three hundred thousand pounds every year.

Alligators now have become very protected and regulated animals. Special
processing is to be undergone to get the custody of an alligator. Usually baby
alligators can be bought from Florida. Owners are given a special license and
must be aware of their responsibilities. It's against the law of many states to
remove an alligator from its natural habitat. Alligator pets should be provided
with large and wet habitat, similar to the subtropical, to live in.

Alligators are bound to get aggressive and dangerous at times, which can prove
fatal to people around. Owners should be prepared as their pet can grow more
than twelve feet. Some owners panic when they start getting bigger and longer
and decide to free it from the captivity. But this can be extremely dangerous
to residents of that locality because by then the animal would loose its
natural fear and will attack humans. When decision is taken for adopting an
alligator as a pet, the owner should be firm enough to make a lifetime
commitment.

Crocodile

Crocodiles belong to the Crocodylidae family. Crocodiles can be traced back to
the Cretaceous period and the Triassic period. This family also includes
alligators and caimans. Crocodiles are huge aquatic reptiles and live in fresh
water bodies such as rivers, wetlands, lakes and brackish water. They are found
in America, Africa, Australia and Asia. Crocodiles are often confused with
alligators. Crocodiles have a V shaped head and alligators have a U shaped head.

Crocodiles are recommended for those who have a past experience with dangerous
exotic pets. They are certainly not advisable for beginners and even
intermediate pet owners. People that are interested in reptiles can opt for
agamid, geckos, skinks, and small snakes. Crocodiles are for extremely
experienced hobbyists. They are extremely difficult to handle, housed and the
expenses just keep on increasing. Even small juvenile crocodilians become hard
to handle after one year. As they grow older, they become more dangerous and
stronger. It is only after this, the owners realize the harsh truth and they
release the crocodile illegally in the wild. The matter becomes even worse,
because since the pet gets habituated of human company, it will loose fear and
will become more confident and attack people more easily and frequently.

These reptiles are often underestimated, but they are very strong and fast.
Lots of practice should be done before handling a crocodile. In fact, the
larger the crocodile, the more the number of people required for handling it.
If untrained or inexperienced team handles a crocodile, they are prone to
getting serious injuries and might even die on the spot. No amount of training
can tame the crocodile. Most of the owners are in delusion in this regard. A
lot of hard work and many years of time would have be invested to tame a
crocodile.

Crocodiles have a streamline body, which facilitates swimming. While swimming,
they tuck their limbs to the side of their bodies, which help them to swim even
faster as that decreases the water resistance. Their webbed feet help them to
make fast and sudden turns. Muscles that are involved in closing the jaw are so
powerful that the jaw can shut with a pressure of three thousand pounds per
square inch. Their teeth are very sharp which they use to tear flesh of their
prey. They also have very sharp claws.

But the good thing is that the muscles that are used to open the jaws are
extremely weak. Incase of an attack, the victims should hold the jaw and
shouldn't allow the crocodile to open its jaw. That is the reason why, when the
crocodile is being transported, the jaws are kept shut with big rubber bands
made out of automobile inner tubes. The lateral movement of the neck is
restricted by nature in this reptile, so when a human faces an attack on land,
he can save himself by getting behind a small tree with the crocodile at the
other side.

Crocodiles eat both vertebrates and invertebrates. For example, they eat
mammals, reptiles, fishes, crustacean and mollusks. They can live up to minimum
of thirty years and can even cross hundred years of age. Owners should be
certainly aware of this fact and make preparations in advance because there is
larger possibility that the pet outlives the owner. Crocodiles can grow from
five feet to six feet and can weigh nearly three thousand pounds. At birth they
measure twenty centimeters only. This is also one of the factors, which tempts
owners to keep them as pet and when they begin to grow, the owner panics and
starts thinking of abandoning them.

Hermit Crab

Hermit Crabs have no directly relation to crabs. They come from the super
family Paguroidea. They are named as 'hermit' crabs because it is their
characteristic to occupy abandoned seashells. They do this to protect their
delicate abdomen. Nearly five hundred species of hermit crabs are known to
exist and most of them live in water. They live in colonies of approximately
hundred occupants.

As the hermit crab grows it changes its shell and searches for a bigger one.
Also, hermit crabs with well fitting shells grow faster than the ones with
tight shell and the later ones becomes a prey very easily. But the availability
of abandoned shells is less and hence the hermit crabs fight each other so as to
get ownership of a shell. The number of shells available depends on the
population of gastropods around. Very rarely do hermit crabs trade each other's
shells. The new shell will be selected if it is at least one-third bigger than
the present shell. The hermit crabs also have a tough exoskeleton, which
doesn't grow with the hermit crab. But the crab shed this exoskeleton and grows
another one very fast. This process is known as molting. Molting cannot be
determined before hand, but hermit crab does become inactive and may bury
itself in the gravel for two weeks. A small hermit crab molts once a month and
larger crabs molt once every eighteen months.

Hermit crabs are even kept as exotic pets. Pet owners like them because they
are the one requiring least-maintenance of all the exotic pets. They do not
grow more than the size of a peach and can be kept in a normal aquarium. They
are scavengers and feed on algae and debris formed in the aquarium. Many of the
species of the hermit crabs are part of the marine aquarium trade, some are
herbivorous and some are omnivorous. Blue legged crab, zebra hermit crab, red
reef hermit crabs, common hermit crab and red tip crab some of the types of
hermit crabs which are kept as pets. The most desirable of them is the red reef
hermit crab or scarlet hermit crab. It has a bright red body with yellow colored
eyestalks. But some even grow to nearly twelve inches and feed on clams, corals,
and crustaceans.

The aquatic hermit crabs live in salt water with salinity ranging from 1.023 to
1.025. The temperature should vary from seventy-five degree Fahrenheit to eighty
degree Fahrenheit for the tropical species. The aquarium gravel bed should be
filled with algae and they should also be provided with different types of
shells for the hermit crab, to choose from. If they have a larger option they
will change their shells frequently, which is an interesting activity to be
watched. Food dishes can also be added as a landscape, but the dishes should be
low so that the hermit crab can climb out of it. Even other activities like
digging, climbing, etc. are very interesting to observe.

They should be fed and watered daily. Commercial food is available at the pet
store. But along with that, fresh vegetables and fruits can also be added to
the diet. Care must be taken that the fruit or the vegetable shouldn't be left
in the aquarium for more than one day or else it will contaminate the water.
The gravel must be removed and the tank should be washed every month. They also
must be watered, meaning that everyday they need to be sprinkled with lukewarm
water. This applies for land hermit crabs.

It is very easy to train a hermit crab. Training is more like playing. The hand
must be held out and the hermit crab must be allowed to crawl on the palm. If
the hermit crab pinches and doesn't let go, run the area under a little
lukewarm water and it will immediately let go.

Serval

Servals are African wild cats and are also known as Leptailurus Serval. Its
most distinctive features are the tall oval ears which are placed very closely
to each other. It is mostly found in African countries such as Ethiopia, Benin,
Tanzania, Mozambique, Congo, Angola, Togo, Uganda, Transvaal, and Algeria.
Spread all over Africa, they are found where water can be found.

The average length of the body of a serval is about thirty-four inches and the
tail is about sixteen inches long. It can live from twelve years to twenty
years. Its weight can range from twenty to forty four pounds. It tawny fur has
a pattern of round black spots. Some even have freckled spots. Servals have
melanin in their skin which sometimes gives them the appearance of a black
panther. A kind of serval is known to exist with white fur and grayish silver
spots.

Servals which have high melanin content can be found in the mountains, while
the rest belong to the savannas, bush lands, marshlands, grasslands, reed beds
marsh, bamboo forests and open woodlands. It is not habituated to live in
desert, semi-desert areas and its habitat should have a water body. Since its
environment should have water and trees around, it also has the ability to swim
and climb trees, when required. The servals have the longest legs among the
cats, when the body and leg ratio is considered. Apart from having long ears,
it also has long neck which helps it to see its prey when it is hiding in tall
grass. The ears are so sharp that they can track rodents which are moving
underground. It increases concentration while listening, by closing its eyes.

Before pursing its prey, it pauses for few minutes and listens to the animal's
movements. Serval relies on its hearing rather than its visuals. It has a
characteristic hop which makes it easier to catch birds. They have terrific
leaping and pouncing abilities. They can jump as high as ten feet and can make
a precise jump from even as far as three to twelve feet. They can even dig
burrows and look for rodents deep in the ground. With all these qualities,
serval is a very good hunter. It feeds mainly on rodents apart from eating
bird, fish, frog, insects, hare, reptiles and hyraxes. Servals eat their catch
really fast and sometimes when the prey is big, it throws out the food as it
gets stuck in its throat and chokes it. They hunt at mid-night and early
morning.

When kept in captivity, everyday they need to be served with one to three
pounds of raw meat with bones. Care should be taken that the meat shouldn't be
cooked. Apart from that, they can also be given premium natural cat food, beef,
turkey, chicken, canned tuna, and canned salmon. No exotic pets can be trained
to use the letterbox properly, but this habit can vary from animal to animal.
Owners who don't have time to devote to train a serval, shouldn't go for one.
Even after thorough training, the pet does develop undesirable bathroom habits.
Pet servals have a fascination for water, so its better if the toilet lid is
closed at all times.

The pregnancy period of female serval lasts for nearly three months. At a time,
the female can give birth to two or three cubs. Very rarely, even five cubs are
born at a time. They are brought up behind shrubs or even in abandoned burrows.

Because of the human interference with the natural habitats of servals, they
are decreasing in number. They are diminishing in numbers because of large
scale hunting for their fur. That is the reason why they have been given the
endangered species tag and are being protected in many nations. They are
classified as exotic pets which are not threatened with extinction but will be,
if their hunting is brought to an end. They have now become rare in the Sahara
and almost extinct in the South African Cape.

Snakes

Snakes are limbless, cold-blooded and scaly reptiles belonging to the order of
Squamata. Keeping snakes as pets can be easy only if their requirements are
understood deeply. Their needs are different from other reptiles. Owners must
also understand that some of them grow very large and can become dangerous
with the passage of time. There are different types of snakes available for pet
owners with different preferences. Every snake has a different diet and need
different environment to live in. Snakes, which are kept as exotic pets, range
from common garter snake to pythons. Snakes sometimes also cross forty years of
age; so potential owners should be aware of this fact and be ready to make
lifetime commitment before thinking of keeping snakes as pets.

Snakes can easily escape from their owner's custody. They always look out for
enclosures, which will let them out of the captivity. The owners must be
extremely careful in this regard and also should build an escape proof
enclosure. Snakes are carnivores. They do not eat vegetation at all. The
favorite food for snakes is rats and mice. Bigger snakes are fed with squirrel,
rabbits and other small mammals. Some species even eat insects and fishes. As
the snakes eat small animals, it is advisable to kill the prey before it is
given to the snake. If this job is left to the snake, it could be risk to its
life.

Usually snakes that have been bred in captivity are an excellent choice as
pets. Wild snakes carry lots of diseases and parasites with them, get really
stressed out with the transportation and are very difficult to be tamed. King
snakes, ball pythons and corn snakes are popular choices. Their diet and
environmental needs aren't as complicated as other species of snakes. They are
also small in size, but the king snakes can sometimes grow up to seven feet.
Ball pythons have eating issues. They like to feed on a live prey instead of
pre-killed prey. Also, they sometimes stop eating food for months together.
Ball pythons that have been bred in captivity have lesser eating issues. And
before buying a ball snake, the owner can test whether the reptile eats a dead
prey readily or not.

The more challenging snakes that are kept, as pets are red-tailed boas, water
snakes, Burmese pythons, and any other pythons and wild snakes. The most
dangerous of them are Burmese pythons. They can completely swallow a human
being. So it is recommended to have people around while feeding the reptile.
Burmese pythons are very strong snakes. They grow more than twenty feet and
weigh more than two hundred pounds. Even red-tailed boas grow up to ten feet
and weigh more than fifty ponds. They are also difficult to be managed by one
person. All these species demand right temperatures and humidity in their
environment.

Reticulated pythons and anacondas are extremely dangerous exotic pets. Some
strictly recommend against keeping them as pets. Another variety that is fatal
is venomous snakes. They not only are a threat to the owner and his family
members but also to people in the neighborhood, if it escapes.

Snakes are also bred for their skin, which is used to make belts, bags, shoes,
etc. They are also eaten as a delicacy in many countries and even in Western
America. In many of the Asian countries, the snake's meat and blood is consumed
for medicinal purposes.

Lizards

Lizards are cold-blooded reptiles belonging to the Squamata order. They have
four legs, visible ear opening and maneuverable eyelids. Their size can vary
from few centimeters to as long as three meters. They are also very-good
inexpensive pets. But if the owner wants to get the right type of equipments,
the whole affair can become quite expensive. The cost can be cut down a bit by
not relying on the pet store completely and doing some self-research.

Before thinking of buying a lizard, the most important factor to be considered
is the full-grown size of the lizard as some of the species can grow up to six
feet long also. They need extra care and lots of space. Naive pet owners should
certainly opt for the ones, which are easier to handle, and certainly not for
the ones which grow very big. The favorite is the leopard geckos. They are
small in size, require less maintenance and do not demand special conditions
such as big terrariums with special UV lightning. Following closely are bearded
dragons. They sure are easy to handle but they require a big terrarium with
special UV lightning. The investment is quite big. Anoles are another good
option. Like bearded dragons they too are easily manageable but need a big
terrarium with special UV lightning. Following next are blue-tongued skinks,
green anoles, fat tailed gecko, Madagascar ground, Tokay gecko and day geckos.

The bigger the lizard the more challenging it becomes to have them as pets.
They need a bigger environment; there can be handling issues and many other
factors. For example, iguanas sure are very good pets, but they need lots of
space along with lots of care. Other animals that pose challenge as pets are
chameleons, savannah monitors, iguanas, white tegu, geckos, and Argentinean
black.

Lighting and temperature are very important factor. Most of the lizards are
very specific about the temperature. The temperature of their terrariums should
be exactly matching to that of the natural habitat from where they come.
Although lizards are cold-blooded, they require warmth for healthy growth. In
the wild, the reptiles move to areas where they find desirable temperature.
They stay out in the sun and even live in shade depending on the condition. So
a temperature gradient is a must so that the appropriate temperature can be
provided to the pet. Lizards are omnivorous. They eat fruits, leaves, insects,
and smaller mammals.

Potential owners must carefully observe the lizard before buying it. Usually
most of them get stressed out with all the travelling and changing
environments. There are signs that give indication about whether the pet is
healthy or not. Firstly, the body should be fleshy and not flaky. The skin
should be shinny and should not have wrinkles or any scratches. They should be
very healthy and not bony. If the tail and hipbones are visibly, they are
definitely sick. Swelling on the abdomen or on any other part of the body
should also be checked out.

The eyes should be clean and should not have any discharge. If the reptile has
any respiratory disease, its eyes will be swollen and there will be mucus
formation around the nose. The overall sanitary conditions should also be
checked. The more unclean the surrounding is the more the chances of reptile
having a disease. Also, ask for handling the pet. This should be done to test
the strength of the lizard. The limbs should be firm and strong.

Stick Insect

Stick insects belong to Phasmatodean Family. Other insects that also belong to
the same family are leaf insects, ghost insects, and walking sticks. There are
nearly two thousand and eight hundred species within the Phasmatodean family.
The striking feature of this family is that the species have a body structure,
which helps them to camouflage with the surroundings. Stick insects belong to
areas having tropical climates and some of them have wings. Stick insects that
are kept as pets can grow four inches and can live up to one year.

Among all the insects, which are kept as pets, stick insects are the most
desirable. Some of the favorites are Indian stick insects; Vietnamese thorny
stick insects and pink winged flying stick insects. They are desirable because
they are low-maintenance and their unique appearance. Their surroundings in
captivity should be similar to that of their native surrounding. The
temperature and humidity should match almost exactly with their original
habitat.

Also the food resources provided to them should be close to the foliage
available to them in their natural habitat. Blueberries are among the most
favorable foods of stick insects. Other than that, they can be given raspberry,
ivy, oak, privet, oak and hawthorn. These insects can be kept in a vivarium or
circular jar, which has some holes on the top. The length of the jar should be
three times that of the insect and it should be tall in height. The holes
shouldn't be so big that the insect can escape from it. To be extra careful, a
net can be placed over the holes, to completely prevent them from escaping. The
vivarium can be filled with ivy, bramble and privet.

The temperature within the jar should be maintained around seventy to
seventy-five degree Fahrenheit. At night the temperatures can be lowered to
sixties. The humidity within the vivarium should be moderate. Stick insects are
very fragile insects and should be handled with extra care. A covered water
container can also be placed and the insect should be allowed to drink from it
only under invigilation, as the animal can fall and drown in it.

Stick insects shed skin often, which they eat. When the insect shed for the
sixth time, it indicates that the insect has reached sexual maturity. All of
the Indian stick insects are female as they reproduce by parthenogenesis or the
eggs are laid and they do not need fertilization by a male. Owners that are
interested in breeding can spray water on the eggs and wait till they hatch.
After eggs are hatched, offspring can be managed with the help of paintbrushes.
Sometimes the tail has some remains of the egg, which can be gently brushed off
with the help of the paintbrush. Also, care must be taken to not to leave pools
of water as there can be a chance of insects drowning in them and dying. And
owners that aren't interested in breeding should completely destroy the eggs by
boiling, burning, or crushing them.

These insects should not be left out in the wild, from captivity. Since they do
not belong to the environment, there is a possibility that they can harm the
ecosystem by reproducing young ones. Insects, which dwell in environments other
than their natural habitats are known as pests. In United States, Indian walking
stick insects are supposed to be plant pest. A special permit is needed to
import them.

Tortoise

Tortoises are turtles, which live on land and belong to the reptile family of
the order Testudines. They too have shell like sea turtles. The top part of the
shell is known as carapace and the bottom side is known as plastron. They have
both exoskeleton and endoskeleton. They are active during the day and are very
shy animals.

They are very fascinating animals, but their dietary habits are different than
others. Different species have a different diet. They consume huge amounts of
food and the calcium and phosphorous balance should be maintained in their
diets. The tortoises are also temperature sensitive. Usually it is a good idea
to bring the tortoise indoors at night. And when the weather is cold, they
should be kept inside totally. But this can be a big problem if the tortoises
are big in size. Some species also hibernate during winter. This can be really
stressful for the animal as well as the owners. The owners should provide the
pet with special provision for hibernation otherwise the pet will suffer with
stress.

A pen can be constructed in the yard, where the tortoise can live. The pen
should be really strong and the fences should be buried deep as some of the
tortoises have fascination of digging. They are also very strong reptiles. They
can easily break weaker walls. Also some tortoises are good climbers, so the pen
should also be provided with a roof. The roof also saves the tortoise from other
dangers such as dog bite, bird attack, etc. The owner must check out for
possible threat to the pet, also within the pen itself. Some plants can be
harmful if the tortoise feeds on them. So plants that are edible only should be
planted or kept in the den.

They should also be provided with water, but the water body should be shallow,
so that the tortoise won't drown in it. Other things which are sharp or which
can be chewed and not digested by animal shouldn't be kept in the pen. Steps
should also be avoided within the pen, because while they are climbing they can
trip and fall over their back, which is very deadly for them.

Some species grow really big, so this factor should also be considered while
building the pen. In fact, this factor should be considered when buying itself.
Different species grow to different sizes; have different dietary habits, living
conditions, and temperature adaptability. Beginners should certainly go for a
captive bred, as they are less troublesome than the ones that come directly
from the wild. Also when tortoises are captured from the wild and transported,
there are chances that they can fall ill or even die because of high levels of
stress. Also such types of animals carry a wide range of parasites, which can
be harmful for the owner as well. When the potential owner thinks of buying a
tortoise, it should get it thoroughly examined for parasites and other diseases
from a vet.

Tortoises prefer to stay alone. They shouldn't be mixed with other pets and no
two male tortoises should be kept together as they can fight and injure each
other very seriously. Tortoises have a very long lifespan. They can live up to
hundred years. There can be possibility of the pet outliving the owner, so the
owner should have everything planned and should make a lifetime commitment.

Degu

Degu belongs to the family of rodents. They are very friendly and intelligent
pets when compared to other rodents. They are hassle free and demand less
maintenance. Some people compare degus to chinchillas, squirrel and even
gerbils. They have a tweed brown color and have a long tail with brush like
hair at the end. The tail is nearly one to two third of the body's length. They
use it to maintain balance while climbing and while walking they keep it in
upright position. Their belly is creamed color and there are circles around
their eyes. Their ears are surprisingly big as well as their whiskers. They
hinder the growth of their claws by nibbling on them, so they the claws don't
require grooming. Degu's forelimbs are longer than their hind limbs. They are
born with yellow teeth that turn orange after reacting to the chlorophyll
present in plants, which also turns their saliva into orange.

They are originally found in Chile and are exported to other countries. There
are some import restrictions on degu in America, so it is uncommon to find
degus at pet shops, but they can be found in pet stores, all over Europe.
Initially other countries brought them not as exotic pets but to conduct
laboratory experiments. They do not have the ability to digest sugar, so they
were used to test diabetes.

When young, their size can be compared to hamsters and when they grow to their
full size they can be compared to hamsters. They grow in size within few
months, so all the equipments should be bought with keeping these constraints
in mind. The cage should be big and must have a running wheel. Their average
body weight is 160-230 gram when they grow into full adult.

Degus are very playful animals and lots of toys are generally kept in their
cage. Baby degus do not fight at all and are always involved in playing. It
would be a bad idea to keep their cage in the bedroom, as they will keep people
away with all the noise they make. Although they are diurnal, they sleep for
short periods and chances are that they stay awake for few hours at night. They
are at peak of activity in mornings and evenings and otherwise, shut their eyes
a little. Since they are sociable and not afraid of humans, it is recommended
never to keep a degu alone. They should be kept, at least, in pairs. If they
are kept alone, they life period decreases and they get really depressed, in
spite of human attention. They also become aggressive.

Degus have the tendency to shed their tail in defense when animals attack them.
So it is recommended never to tug the tail. The tail bleeds and nearly half of
the tail dries slowly and falls off or gets chewed by the degu. Even worse is
that the tail doesn't grow back. They even don't like to be held very tightly
and for a long time. Never lift them from top as they have the natural tendency
of getting scared as the degus in forests get carried away by birds. Owners can
gain familiarity by stretching out their palms and calling out to them calmly.
The degus develop voice familiarity and get trained to climb onto the palm of
the owner.

In the forests, the degus can live up to less than a year and less than one
percent live up to two years. But in captivity, they can live up to five years
and more. Females, who live with males, die fast as they become weaker because
of constant pregnancies. Their pregnancy periods last for eighty seven to
ninety three days. Therefore, it is recommended that members of the same sex
should be kept together as pets. If the owner is interested in breeding them,
opposite sex can be kept together, but should be careful about not exhausting
the female with regular pregnancies. Keep In mind, that they shouldn't beget a
child more than once a year.

Chameleon

Chameleons belong to the lizard family. Chameleon has been derived from the
Greek words chamai and leon meaning earth lion. The structure and size of
chameleons varies a lot. They can be from one inch to thirty-one inch long.
Chameleons are kept as exotic pets because of their characteristic color
changing capability. They change colors so as to camouflage, communicate with
each other and to regulate temperature. They also have a very long tongue to
catch prey.

Chameleons do not have the ability to change colors from birth. They are either
brown or grey color when they are born. They start by changing to one or two
colors and when they reach five months, they gain total control of the color
changing ability and are able to change to many colors like green, black,
turquoise and blue green. Various colors show emotions such as stress, sense of
temperature change, excitement and to communicate with other chameleons.
Brighter colors exhibit good mood; darker colors such as black, grey and brown
depict stress. Few other colors are also seen when the chameleon takes
transition from color to another.

They even have very long tongue, which they use to catch flying preys.
Chameleons have the ability to stretch their tongue up to one and half the
length of their body. This way they can catch flying preys as well as preys,
which are placed far off. They have three toes with two of them facing one side
and the third in other direction. This structure helps them to get a firm grip,
which facilitates their tree climbing habit. They spend most of their lives on
treetops. Some of them also are gifted with prehensile tails, which are also
used to take good grip while climbing.

Another amazing fact of chameleons is that they rotate their eyes in two
different directions. Both the eyes are independent of each other. The
structure of the eyes is globular which they use to rotate and get view of a
larger radius. The eyes are used to watch out for enemies and as well as hunt
for food. Along with insects and slugs they also eat plants.

Chameleons are kept as pets because many people find them very fascinating. But
they are very difficult to be maintained and naive pet owners should not
certainly start with them. Although they aren't the toughest of all exotic
pets, they are also not the easiest to handle. Their requirements are very
comprehensive and owners simply get tired of them after one point of time. But
if the owner has made up his/her mind, they should certainly go for a
chameleon, which has been brought up in captivity and is trained. The ones that
come directly from the wild are more dangerous, they have a possibility of being
infected and it is very difficult for them to adjust to new environment. They
will also be more stressed out, which will be a big hindrance in training. Also
when the wild chameleons are caught and shipped to destination, there is a
possibility of it dying on the way itself.

While selecting the pet, the health of the animal can be determined by close
observation. The chameleon should be able to change colors and also should be
active. They should be brightly colored and the flesh of the body should be
smooth and not scaly. Males are easier to maintain because their nutritional
requirements are less.

Species that are kept as pets are Panther Chameleons, Veiled Chameleons and
Jackson's Chameleons. Chameleons basically are solitary animals and their
camouflaging ability explains it very clearly. They simply don't like to be
handled. They shouldn't be kept with other pets and it is a really bad idea to
keep two male chameleons together as they will fight and injure each other.
They should be put in a cage with lots of foliage, which can cater to their
needs of climbing trees and as well give them the desired privacy.





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