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Exotic pets

More unusual animals kept as pets are known as non-domestics or exotics. Examples include snakes, terrapins, lizards, scorpions, frogs and sugar gliders. 

We have concerns about the welfare of these animals when kept as pets, due to how difficult it can be to meet their needs. Exotic pet species, as wild animals in captivity, have the same needs as they do in the wild, linked to a specialist environment, diet or behaviour. It can be challenging to look after them properly, which you must do by law under the Animal Welfare Act.

The RSPCA are opposed to the trade in wild-caught animals. Some exotic species, such as primates, should never be kept as pets as they have complex needs that can't be met in a home environment.

We dedicated Pledge 5 of the RSPCA Pledges to them.

Challenging pets

We would urge anyone considering an exotic pet to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs and whether it is a realistic pet for you.


  • How long the animal will live and how large it will grow.
  • What it eats and how much. 
  • What environment the animal needs. Many exotics (such as reptiles) require a carefully-controlled environment, or they may become sick and even die. The environment must allow for natural behaviour, such as burrowing, climbing or basking. 
  • Size of enclosure - this is likely to increase as the animal grows! 
  • Should the animal be kept alone or with others
  • Whether the animal will be active at night (nocturnal) or during the day?
  • Is there an exotics vet nearby who can treat this animal if it becomes sick?
  • Do you need a licence or other legal paperwork to keep it?

Information is available from books and leaflets, your exotics vet or by looking online for a reputable specialist organisation.

We’ve produced care sheets for some of the more commonly-kept exotics, downloadable from the right of this page. This is basic information only so you’ll still need to do some research!

Want to know more?

Exotic pet trade
Handle with Care (2004) (PDF 990KB)

Reptiles in captivity
Far from Home (2002) (PDF 536KB)

Illegal trade in tortoises
Shell Shock (2001) (PDF 1.67MB)