One of the real pleasures of keeping an exotic pet is knowing you can care for something that not many other pet owners have the opportunity to do. Having an exotic pet is a privilege and, for those who aren’t hamster or puppy people, there is a unique selection of animals to suit the quirkiest of owners.
This newt-like creature may look like it belongs in a sci-fi film, but axolotls are actually an aquatic amphibian. Whilst they are critically endangered in the wild, a flourish in captive breeding means that there are a number of much loved axolotls in homes around the world.
Axolotls are actually larval salamander so, as long as they remain in water, they will stay in this form. In the wild, when water dries out, axolotls transform into adult salamanders and meander on dry land trying to find more water.
If you decide to invest in an axolotl as a pet, be aware that they can grow up to 30 centimetres in length. They are best housed in unheated aquariums on their own as they enjoy living the single life best. Do not place any fish in an aquarium with your axolotl – they are carnivorous predators!
Life span: 10+ years
Food: small pieces of meat, commercial fish food, live insects as treats
African Pygmy Hedgehogs
This relatively uncommon breed of miniature hedgehog has gained popularity in the UK as a petite pet. This exotic pet is perfectly legal to home in the UK but, there are charities and organisations which are concerned about the hedgehogs’ welfare. For this reason, it is imperative that potential owners are 100% certain that they have the time to dedicate to a pygmy hedgehog.
Due to their delicate frames, pygmy hedgehogs aren’t suitable pets for small children. They need gentle owners who have the time to patiently handle them as they get used to new surroundings, smells and voices.
African pygmy hedgehogs are a relatively low maintenance pet, particularly for those who have owned other critters before. Obesity is the only common issue for many hedgehogs and owners should monitor their diet strictly as carrying extra weight can shorten their life span.
Life span: 3 to 5 years
Food: chitin, high protein/ low fat cat food, fruits, vegetables, live insects as treats
Available in a number of colours and patterns, Burmese pythons are one of the most popular large snake species to be kept as pets. Their docile nature and undemanding requirements make them a favourite with reptile fanatics. However, we would not recommend a Burmese python as a first snake as adults can reach 20 feet in length.
Burmese pythons are constrictors, which means they kill their prey by coiling around and essentially crushing it to death. Even as hatchlings, Burmese pythons will show this type of behaviour. However, with ample handling they will realise you are friend, not food. To be on the safe side, when handling any python over eight feet in length, there should always be an extra person present. If you pet does coil, simply unwind the snake starting with the tail.
Owners of Burmese pythons should be aware that they will need a huge tank when the snake reaches its adult size. Furthermore, special measures must be taken with diet and feeding, so these incredible animals need an owner with time and experience.
Life span: 25+ years
Food: mice, rats, rabbits (dependant on age and size)
These playful and athletic cats have become one of the most sought-after luxury breeds in the UK for their stunning coat. This majestic breed looks as if it belongs in the jungle, which is not surprising when you learn that is derived from the wild Asian leopard. Known scientifically as Felis bengalensis, you can now see where the Bengal gets its name.
Bengals are large cats and can weight between eight and 15 pounds when they reach maturity. They are a highly active and intelligent breed and interact with family members and other pets more so than other breeds. However, unlike the majority of cats worldwide, Bengals love water and you will sometimes have a guest in the bath or shower with you if they are given a fraction of a chance! Lively days lead to snoozy evenings, and you will often find your Bengal nuzzled up in your bed ready for the night.
Life span: 12 to 16 years
Food: high protein quality commercial cat food, raw meat
If you envisage a tranquil fish tank full of serene, beautiful creatures, please do not purchase any piranha. They are feisty carnivorous fish and, in the wild, are known as wolves of the river as they hunt in packs. Therefore, you must always purchase three or more.
They move extremely quickly, which is why you must not feed them with your hands; we assume you value your fingers! Therefore, they aren’t ideal pets for children either. They need a lot of maintenance, particularly as they are messy eaters, tearing worms and insects apart as treats. They also like to chomp on vegetable matter, lean chicken, and worms.
Whilst piranhas have been the subject of many horror films, they do not deserve their fearsome reputation. They are great pets for those who are experienced fish keepers or have the time to dedicate to ensuring their fish have the best life possible.
Life span: 10 to 15 years
Food: fish, prawns, worms
Also known as the Blue Parrot, Hyacinth Macaws are incredibly beautiful birds. As adults they are around 40 inches in length and can live beyond the age of 60 depending on how well they are looked after. They are gentle giants of the bird world and are loved for the strong bond they forge with their owners. Hyacinths are also incredibly intelligent and, given ample training and praise, they will follow most instructions given by their caregivers.
Hyacinths in captivity should be given a diet of vegetables, fruits, leafy greens and nuts. They require more carbohydrates in their diet compared to most parrots, so a handful of macadamia nuts is a very welcome treat.
With an average wingspan of four feet, it is imperative that you have the space to let your Hyacinth out to stretch their wings. Usually they are quite happy meandering round the house for one to two hours a day and this will build up their muscle. If you do own a Hyacinth, purchase toys and activates for them to interact with and to keep their beaks from chewing your furniture.
Life span: 50+ years
Food: nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables