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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