Caring for reptiles and other exotic pets | RSPCA - RSPCA
Caring for reptiles and other exotic pets
Exotic pets, such as reptiles and other wild animals in captivity, have the same needs as they would in the wild. This means that caring for them properly can be difficult. Before deciding to get an exotic pet, do plenty of research. Exotic animals can have more complex needs than your average domestic pet.
Here's what to consider if you're thinking about getting an exotic animal.
Some exotic animals shouldn't be kept as pets
We're committed to improving exotic animal welfare and oppose the cruel wild-caught animal trade. So make sure your exotic pet hasn't been taken illegally from the wild.
We're also against 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.
What to consider before buying an exotic pet
If you've considered the costs and risks and are confident you can care for the complex needs of an exotic animal, please consider the following before buying a new pet.
Many exotic pets need a carefully controlled environment. For example, access to specialised heating and lighting to stop them from becoming ill.
Reptiles can live longer than you might expect, so make sure you'll be able to commit to this.
Some reptiles can grow to a large size - carefully consider the size of your enclosure.
Exotic pets will most likely need specialist food, which can be expensive once you work out how much they eat.
Exotic animals will need space for burrowing, climbing or basking.
Find out whether the animal needs to be kept alone or with others. Social animals can't be kept alone, as this will damage their health and well-being.
Will the animal's behaviour fit in with your lifestyle? They might be active at night or during the day.
Is there a specialist vet for the species nearby who can treat this kind of animal if they become sick?
Some exotic pets will also need a licence or other legal paperwork to keep them, so check this before getting one.
Looking after exotic animals in the cost of living crisis
Despite the increase in the cost of living and energy bills, it's important that you don't turn down temperatures or light sources for your exotic pets. This can lead to serious health problems for exotic animals - and potentially high vet bills in the future.
Exotics can be expensive pets at the best of times as they require specialist care to ensure their needs are met. The majority of exotics, including reptiles, need a carefully controlled environment requiring access to specialised equipment for lighting and 24-hour heating.
Additionally, many exotic animals can live for decades, making ownership a very long-term responsibility for an exotic pet keeper.
There are some things you can do however to save money while maintaining a happy and healthy exotic pet.
Make DIY toys
Pet birds need lots of enrichment, but this doesn't have to mean buying expensive toys - you can make your own. Something as simple as a cardboard tube stuffed with newspaper, with pieces of food hidden inside, can encourage them to forage for their food. You can also try to scatter feeding, giving them whole nuts to crack, or freezing food in ice blocks to keep feeding time interesting.
Make DIY perches or stands
Instead of buying new perches or stands for your cage or aviary, create some using natural branches using different types of wood and thickness. Use twigs from safe fruit or nut trees, with the bark left on, and don't treat or spray them with anything before you give them to the birds.
Share heat sources
If you're struggling with the costs of heating and lighting for reptiles, move multiple animals into the same room so heat sources do not have to work as hard. Take care that animals do
Search for cheaper tariffs or payment plans
Speak to your energy supplier if you're struggling with the energy costs for your pets, as they may be able to offer a cheaper tariff or payment plans.
You might be able to find second-hand equipment for sale such as heat lamps or UV light tubes. Use a thermometer or solarmeter to check that they're still giving out the right levels of heat or light, as they can wear out over time.
If you're unable to care for your exotic animal
If you do, sadly, find yourself unable to care for your exotic pets, be aware that not all rescue centres will be able to take them. Start looking for help as soon as possible and try searching for rescue organisations for your species, specialist keeper forums or groups, and exotics specialist vets.
Species specific exotic pet care and advice
We have guides on the following pet reptiles:
Want to learn more? Read our report on understanding the motivations of beginner reptile owners.