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Reptiles and other exotic pets

Exotic pet species, like reptiles and other wild animals in captivity, have the same needs as they would in the wild. So their environmental, dietary and behavioural needs can be challenging.

Commonly-kept reptiles include bearded dragons, corn snakes, royal pythons and leopard geckos.

Before you decide whether you’d like to care for an exotic pet, make sure you’ve done plenty of research before committing to taking one home.

However complex, owners must meet their exotic animal’s needs by law under the Animal Welfare Act.

What to consider

We urge anyone considering an exotic pet to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs and whether they’re a realistic pet.

Think about:

  • Their environment - many exotics need a carefully controlled environment. For example, they may require specialised heating and lighting, or they may become ill.
  • The environment must allow for natural behaviour, such as burrowing, climbing or basking. 
  • How long they’ll live and how large they’ll grow.

  • What they eat and how much.

  • Size of enclosure - this may need to increase as the animal grows.
  • Whether the animal needs to be kept alone or with others.
  • Whether the animal’s behaviour fits in with your lifestyle - will they be active at night (nocturnal) or during the day (diurnal)?
  • Is there a specialist vet for the species nearby who can treat this animal if they become sick?
  • Do you need a licence or other legal paperwork to keep them?

Our pages on bearded dragons and corn snakes have more information, and all of our care sheets can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

Find out more by reading specialist books and leaflets, speaking to a local exotics vet and looking online for advice from a reputable source.

Know the issues

We’re opposed to the cruel wild-caught animal trade, so making sure your exotic pet hasn’t been taken from their home in the wild is important.

We’re also opposed to some exotic species, such as primates, being kept as pets as they have extremely complex needs that can't be met in a home environment. Read more about primates being kept as pets.

Our commitment to improving exotic animal welfare is outlined in our fifth pledge, which is part of our overall mission to improve the lives of all animals.

Read more about our concerns about keeping exotics as pets or download our report handle with care (2004) (PDF 990KB)