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Caring for Exotic Pets

Petkeeping Television

It's human nature to want things that are different, such as a unique piece of furniture or jewelry. But when it comes to animals, it's important that we know what we're getting into before buying an exotic or unusual pet.

Do Your Homework 
Before taking home any new pet, research the animal's proper living conditions, diet, health concerns, life span, and behavioral tendencies to make sure it'll be a good fit with your lifestyle. Consult organizations associated with that particular pet to find a local veterinarian with that specialty -- and to find out if the animal you want is even legal to keep in your area. Consult your vet before taking on a challenging animal, and schedule regular examinations to make sure your pet is healthy and happy.

Popular Exotic Pets 
Oftentimes tarantulas, scorpions, insects, and other invertebrate animals are used for shock factor, especially on television. While it's true there are some dangerous spiders and scorpions in the wild, the ones kept as pets, like rose-haired tarantulas and African black emperor scorpions, are actually quite gentle. Following are some care tips for a variety of popular exotic pets.

Scorpion 
African black emperor scorpions are native to West Africa, where they crawl about the warm, moist forest floor. To duplicate that environment, the bottom of their vivarium should be a wet moss or peat-type substance. Keep water available in a shallow dish they can crawl right into to avoid dehydration.

Mantis 
Another fascinating invertebrate is the mantis, an insect that is very un-insectlike in its mannerisms in that it uses its first pair of legs like arms and can turn its clearly discernible head. Keep your mantis alone in a glass tank with a wet, mossy bottom that's kept very clean. Mantises will eat each other if kept in pairs or groups. Feed your mantis crickets.

Tarantula 
Chilean rose tarantulas are gentle creatures, but some people develop an allergy to the long, brittle hairs on their legs and abdomen. Also, these tarantulas have been known to fling the hairs as a defense mechanism, and they can get embedded into your skin or eyes, so it's important to keep them away from your face.

Walking Stick 
A female walking stick can reproduce without a male, so know that you may end up with quite a few more walking sticks in your vivarium than you started with. They are happy eating a diet of leaves, ivy, and bramble.

Hedgehog
These cute insectivores can't climb, so their cage does not need to be very tall. But they will need a lot of floor space with clean, absorbent, dust-free substrate, such as aspen bedding. Hedgehogs require a high-protein diet: A dry cat or ferret food will suit them just fine. Exercise caution when picking one up for the first time, as their spikes can be prickly. Hedgehog owners will need to keep an eye on their pet's nails because they can overgrow quickly. They are also prone to skin mites, which can cause your hedgehog's quills to fall off.