It must be noted that in most areas an exotic pet is anything other than a cat, dog, fish, or livestock. As such even rabbits are classified as exotic pets. This link is devoted to some quick comparisons between various exotic pets to help a prospective owner decide if a pet is right for them or not. Before getting your heart set on any of them make sure you check area laws to see of they are allowed where you live. Pets are listed in alphabetical order.
Birds – There are many kinds of birds from small short lived finches to larger long lived parrots. As such a great variety do exist it is best to research them separately. It must be noted that most birds are social, they need to be kept with a friend or two, or have an owner who is home a lot and can devote time to providing companionship to their bird. Some birds, such as the Partridges pictured above, can be kept as outdoor pets.
Chinchillas - These furry little critters can live 9-12 years and have been kept for their fur. As pets they are nocturnal and may not be everyones first choice despite their cute looks. They have very specific needs including the requirement for a dust bath area. These should not be considered as pets for beginners or young children.
Ferrets – The average lifespan of ferrets is 5-7 years. They are not a pet for beginners and require a lot of interaction with their owners, as such they should be out of their cage a minimum of 4 hours a day. They are often descented to remove their offending smell. As carnivores they must have a good meat source; while premium quality kitten food will work in a pinch they really need proper ferret food.
Frogs and Toads – Lifespans vary according to species. It is important to note that in most areas frogs and toads cannot be caught wild and kept as pets. Rather they should be purchased from a reputable breeder or store. Frogs and toads have very specific needs, some like tall cages, others prefer longer ones. Humidity and temperature are concerns that should be checked depending on species.
Guinea Pigs – Also known as Cavy's, their lifespan is 4-8 years. They are not an overly cuddly pet, but are enjoyable because they “talk” and make a variety of sounds to indicate mood. Guinea Pigs can be kept together only if purchased together when young, introducing older animals will result in a fight. Guinea Pigs need special food formulated for them with Vitamin C. They are awake in the day making them a more suitable pet than most exotics. Hairless Guinea pigs are called Skinny Pigs.
Hamsters – These small pets are often sold in pet stores, their lifespan is 2-5 years. They are nocturnal, meaning they are awake at night and will be active/noisy when you are trying to sleep. They will bite, although the males are generally friendlier than the females. Misinformation is often given at pet stores and many people go home with too many hamsters in too small a cage and will often have one animal kill the others.
Hedgehogs – Another nocturnal pet, their lifespan is 5-7 years. Except for bedding concerns they are often considered good pets for people with allergies or asthma. Hedgehogs need to eat protein and should be fed special hedgehog food, however an excellent quality kitten food will work for short term emergencies. They can also be fed insects, but if feeding insects from your yard be sure none were sprayed with insecticide.
These pets do not require a lot of space, expense, or care, but they can live more than 10 years so are a long term commitment. They are small crabs that use discarded shells for their homes and need these replaced as they outgrow their old shells. They are typically kept in small aquariums with sand and water. They can be handled but care should be taken that they are never dropped.
Insects – Many species of insects can be kept as pets, including walking stick insects. Some insects are herbivores which is great for people who have gardens. Assuming you do not spray chemicals on your plant some can be picked and fed to your pets. Other insect pets, such as the Praying Mantis and Spiders need to eat other bugs. Lifespan of each vary.
Lizards – Lifespans can be from 3 years to many years. The main concerns with lizards is that they have very specific requirements, including heat, and lighting. The cost of the set up is usually high and getting everything right is often tricky. Special consideration should be regarding how large the animal gets at maturity and what size tank it will need then. To the extreme adult Iguanas often need an 8x8 foot room when they are mature.
Rabbits – Rabbits make terrific pets and live 8-12 years depending on the breed. With so many breeds, from small to large, short fur to long, there is something for everyone. Although many people keep rabbits in hutches outdoors year round this is not the ideal way to house your pet. Fly strike is a deadly problem for outdoor bunnies and not a pretty thing at all. Rabbits do not like getting picked up or put down, but do enjoy being held and can be taken out on a harness and leash. They are awake in the day making them a more suitable pet than most exotics.
Rats – Rats have one of the shorter lifespans, being only 2-4 years. They have oodles of health problems, some of which can be avoided through proper care and good bedding (never use cedar shavings). Their shorter lifespans make them an excellent pet for people who do not want to make a long commitment. They are very friendly animals when handled from a young age and are amazingly smart.
Sugar Gliders – These are trendy pets from Australia, their lifespan is 10-12 years. These are not low-maintenance pets. For their own mental health they must be kept with others of their kind or carried virtually all the time in a pouch (which they will pee in). They are nocturnal and have very specific feeding needs. Many people get them because they are so darn cute, but get tired of them later because they are so much work.
Turtles - These are longer lived pets, with lifespans of over 25 years depending on type. They are known to carry Salmonella so children who keep them should be advised to wash their hands before and after handling their pet. As turtles will grow it is imporant to be sure you can provide them with enough room when they reach their adult size. Because they have a long lifespan it is important to be sure you really want one before getting a turtle.