Are you one of the animal lovers who is taking the road less traveled when looking for pet companionship? With ferrets, rats and mice leading the pack of exotic animals, pet alligators and other reptiles, hedgehogs, insects, crustaceans and sugar gliders are not far behind. Exotic pet supplies ensure that the animals receive the types of habitats and nutrition they require for a healthy life.
Examples of Commercially Available Supplies for Exotics
James Harding from the Michigan State University explains that constructing a healthy snake habitat should include store-bought aspen shavings, artificial turf grass and cypress mulch. Yet there are also the sub-par substrates. Cedar shavings and cat litter are inappropriate.
Other specialized must-haves include products that cater to the hygiene needs of the animals. Writing about chinchillas in her book “Clinical Laboratory Animal Medicine,” authors Karen Hrapkiewicz and Leticia Medina explain that these pets require commercially available dust that is sanitized prior to being sold. They warn against the use of talc and playground sand.
In some cases, the needs of animals overlap. This is especially true for the habitats of reptiles, rodents and other small mammals as well as insects: All types of these exotics require a well-ventilated but escape-proof habitat with a tight-fitting screen or cover.
Where to Find Appropriate Supplies
Large pet stores are generally not the best locale to find supplies for exotic pets. Granted, there is bound to be ample bedding choices for rats, mice and even ferrets, but when it comes to aspen shavings for hedgehogs or appropriate ferret cages, an exotics expo or online retailer that specializes in selling species-appropriate items is most likely the best choice. Remember that online retailers charge shipping; be sure to factor in this cost when considering whether an exotic pet is realistic to own on your budget.
If $10 for a bag of aspen shavings is a bit steep, consider recycling old newspapers. Rip them up and place them into the habitat for burrowing, defecating and hiding. Empty cardboard tubes and short lengths of PVC piping replace costly plastic tunneling systems that the pet store offers for rats and mice.
Even so, homemade pet supplies are not always a good option. For example, when litter box training a ferret, using a commercially made corner box with the heightened back and sides is a must. Using a simple retired baking dish works in a pinch but fails to factor in the animal’s ‘backing up’ when defecating, which in turn prolongs the litter box training.
Should you be Making Your Own Food?
Commercially formulated foods have fallen out of favor even with some dog and cat owners who now subscribe to a homemade fresh-food diet. The same holds true for the owners of exotic pets; more often than not, the reason for the homemade approach is the lack of adequate commercially available diets. Of course, supplying an exotic pet with the proper nutrition is frequently not quite as simple as it sounds since even the experts disagree on what constitutes a healthy, nutritionally sound approach.
Take for example the opossum. While some suggest that a mix of 10 percent raw beef liver and 90 percent kitten chow – also known as the Modified Jurgelski Diet – suffices, the National Opossum Society explains that for the omnivorous possum this is a dangerous idea. Instead, seeds, nuts, fruits, insects, earthworms and gastropods factor into the diet as much as leaves and other nutrient sources.
Remember that finding just the right exotic pet supplies can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor. Factor in potential supply problems and costs before choosing an exotic animal for a pet. Moreover, tread lightly when replacing commercially manufactured goods with homemade choices. Unless you are certain that the substitution is in the animal’s best interest, opt for the store-bought products.