Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.
When considering adding a new pet to your household, the price might be something that plays a part in that decision. The price range of exotic pets can vary tremendously, from as low as $5 to thousands of dollars for rare or high-demand species. At first, some of these prices can seem ridiculous to some people. Why spend so much money on an animal?
When the price of a pet reaches three or even four figures (an amount that most people would rather spend on a nice piece of furniture or car payments), they might shop around seeking pets that are more "reasonable." It truly isn't wise to shop for an animal the same way you would a futon. Because pets are living things, they demand care that will cost us more than just the initial buying price. In fact, it can be argued that their purchase price is the least expensive part of pet ownership, even if they do cost over $1000.
There are many factors that determine the price of an animal. Some of these include:
- Difficulty of breeding. Many animals, especially less common exotic pets, are difficult to breed in captivity or produce limited numbers of offspring. Some animals like wolves/wolfdogs and prairie dogs are seasonal breeders, only producing offspring in the spring time.
- Morph, color, or breed. Ball pythons are a very common snake available in the pet trade for around $20-70 for 'normal' colored animals (depending on where you get them from). However, some breeders have produced different morphs of the reptiles and some of these have sold for up to $50,000. This example shows how extreme the price range can be for certain species when they have specialty coloration and the demand for it is high.
- Expense of care. There is a lot involved with the care of neonate animals. Many exotic pets are hand-raised, and this is worth paying extra for. This critical step in raising animals often determines how socialized an animal is capable of being. Other exotic pets, like toucans, require constant feedings throughout the day when they are young and require many weeks before they are old enough to go home with their owner.
- Rarity. A few exotic pets are extremely rare. When very few people are actually selling an animal, the price people are willing to pay obviously rises significantly.
- Demand. Whether or not the animal meets any of the above criteria, if the demand for it exceeds supply, the price will be adjusted accordingly.
Determining What's Inexpensive
So how do you figure out what a pet is actually 'worth', and what makes one inexpensive or cheap? I'll be judging this by comparing the animal to other similar species relative to their size and availability. In order to do this, I need to separate exotic pets into two groups: conventional and uncommon.
Conventional exotic pet simply describes exotic pets that are commonly available, such as those you would find in chain pet stores like Petco. Many of them are domesticated but are still considered 'exotic', and others are reptiles/amphibians/arthropods that are not very large or venomous (not cobras, alligators, Burmese pythons, etc.). Conventional exotic pets include sugar gliders, ferrets, 'pocket pets', chinchillas, hedgehogs, cockatiels, and aquarium fish. Prices of animals in this group can vary but there are some that cost under $50 that would be considered 'cheap'.
Uncommon exotic pets are animals most people think are only found in zoos. Animals in this group tend to fetch at least $1000, therefore I consider prices below this figure to be 'inexpensive'.
Conventional Exotic Pets Under $50
Unfortunately, many of these animals are impulse buys. Their very low price tag is a big part of the reason why. Cheap as some of these animals may be, almost all of them will require at least $100 worth of supplies if they are cared for adequately. Should care be lacking, or if you have bad luck, the animal can become ill, and that's when the real expenses can pile in unexpectedly. Vet bills often start at around $50 for the appointment alone, but can easily soar into the thousands. It is unethical to not provide vet care for an animal you took responsibility for just because its initial cost was low.
1. Green Iguana: $15–25
Iguanas are some of the most prominent victims of suffering inadequate care from their presence as cheap animals in chain pet stores. It is my belief that they shouldn't be sold there, especially if they will be displayed as tiny babies with no photos of the 4-7 foot adults. With their ridiculously low purchase price, people fail to realize that they require very expensive upkeep. They'll need fresh vegetables prepared for them daily, a very large enclosure (even if you build one, you'll spend hundreds on materials), expensive UVB/UVA lighting, and more.
2. Degu: $10–20
While chinchilla prices start at $100, their less well-known close look-alike, the degu, is about the same price as a gerbil. These exotics have high populations in the pet trade but not many people know about them. Still, being small rodents, they breed prolifically and can end up in animal shelters, so it would be a good idea to check there before purchasing one. Their upkeep is also not terribly expensive, being very similar to rat care in cost.
3. Budgerigar: $10–35
These tiny popular parrots are found everywhere. Their small size and downright cheap pricing will make them easy victims of impulse buying for 'ornamental purposes'. Parrots are actually very social so it is a bit of a conflict that these birds are so easy to acquire yet often don't have their welfare considered to the extent that people tend to give larger birds. Birds are also traditionally given not much space. There are many cheap small budgie cages available but they are often too small.
4. Hermit Crabs: $5–35
Hermit crabs are first pets for many. They are definitely popular 'disposable' pets that are purchased with the expectation that they won't live long. They are cheap and often replaced after surviving a month or 2. Tragically, pet hermit crab species can live for 20+ years, but they are woefully inadequately cared for. This isn't really even the owner's fault. Their care is advertised as needing a small plastic tank with sand, water dish, and commercial crab pellets. The proper care of hermit crabs is a lot more involved, and if it is done correctly, hermit crabs aren't really so cheap, but the costs can still be reasonable. Provide a large aquarium with deep substrate, branches to climb on, fresh and salt water, and maintain high humidity of about 70%. They shouldn't be kept alone.
5. Axolotl: $15–35
These bizarre-looking creatures are amphibians and they can be kept relatively inexpensively. One axolotl can be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium. They need (or require) no lighting, no heating, gravel, or fancy water. Just provide them with dechlorinated tap water or spring water and make sure to maintain their water quality with frequent water changes or decent filtration.
Uncommon Exotic Pets Under $1000
These exotic pets are very unconventional but can be kept with the proper care without an issue. Because so few people keep animals like these, they are severely regulated in the United States, being illegal in at least half of the states. This is very unfortunate because they pose just the same of less threat to the public than dogs and cats. These rarer animals cost hundreds of dollars, but they are well worth the money when you figure how few breeders there are to offer these species as hand-raised specimens.
6. African Crested Porcupine: $500–800
As other porcupine species are at least $1000, this stunning African porcupine is pretty inexpensive. Due to their size, they will need outdoor space or a place to roam indoors (and this can be a prickly venture if you are crammed in with them). This caging will obviously increase their expense.
7. Red Fox: $300–500
It's a pity that red foxes and their numerous color variants are illegal in most states, because they are relatively low-priced for an exotic carnivore. Non-native foxes all exceed $2000. The true expense of owning a red fox is the worry you will acquire if someone decides to change or re-interpret a law that will threaten your pet with confiscation, in addition to the expense of an outdoor pen. These smelly animals are typically not kept indoors.
8. Patagonian Mara: $300–500
These strange deer-rodents that are actually closely related to guinea pigs and capybara are relatively common in the uncommon exotic pet trade, often being touted as good 'starter' exotics. When socialized, they can be quite affectionate and calm. It is recommended that they have an outdoor space.
9. Coatimundi: $700–800
The price of the coatimundi is only the tip of the iceberg for this extremely active and playful raccoon relative. You will also need to construct a cage sturdy enough to hold this dexterous exotic pet and lay enrichment objects throughout the enclosure. Such a pet is time-consuming and new owners should have experience with exotics.
10. Skunk: $250–450
For an exotic mammal that's relatively uncommon, skunks are low priced. As a domesticated species, they can come in other colors. They can be kept in a similar fashion to ferrets and fennec foxes.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
nobody on September 02, 2020:
I told my mom that if I got ANY pet I would not ask for anything for my next 3-4 birthdays and she said NO.
person on August 30, 2020:
none of these pets are legal in my state
Big Boi on August 24, 2020:
what should i get??????/
kenzie on August 24, 2020:
JAKAJSKC ive wanted a fox since grade 3, and this is gonna help lots :D
BübbleGümBlōssøm on August 06, 2020:
I really want a pet fox!!! It's my DREAM pet. My mom says I'm crazy and it will eat our dog -_- it's my favorite animal and a would do ANYTHING to have one!
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 06, 2020:
Person 92: Depends on the turtle. Aquatic turtles are relatively demanding. Box turtles are very long-lived. Degus would be a good choice.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 28, 2020:
LORELAI : Degus sound pretty good for a beginner. I can't designate pets by age, it all depends on your situation: financial, interaction time, cage space, ect.
LORELAI on July 28, 2020:
Hey! I've been looking at Sugar Gliders (basically miny flying squirells) but they can cost up to 1,000 dollars just to buy! My dad said I can get at least two exotic aniamls. I was wondering what the best one for teenagers are? I was also looking into Degu's, and they seem like a nice pet. Any advice?
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 19, 2020:
Chloe: Red foxes cost less than that, but they are not pets for people on a budget, unless you are handy with cage-building and can save money for vet care.
Chloe on July 18, 2020:
I’m just looking for a place where a fox isn’t 2000 DOLLARS
Ryan Keating on June 28, 2020:
lets all be honest we are all kids trying to convince our parents to let us have exotic pets....
Aaron Carrillo on June 09, 2020:
Recommended for You
I love animals my dad recently let me get baby peafowl and I’m very exited to raise them we also have horses a donkey and sheep, I’m 12 years of age, and I’ve been wanting a zebra or a camel but they are WAY to expensive, does anyone know anything similar for cheap
indi on May 20, 2020:
i want a exotic pet but the ones i like are all ilegal in colorado
maddie samons on May 15, 2020:
i really really want a skunk, i wonder if it would spray me?? i wanted a chimp but my mom said no...
Person 92 on May 12, 2020:
I really want a exotic pet but I have 2 guinea pigs a fish and a cat so would a degu be a good pet to have? My mum doesn’t want another pet so I would have to persuade her and I was also considering a pet turtle so what do you think? Also this was very useful to read! Thank you x
GrantP14 on May 05, 2020:
I really want a hedgehog but there so expesive !!!!!!
Macy Shields on April 14, 2020:
I wanted a cat but my family is allergic.. so then I wanted sugar gliders but I go away every summer so the US. So... can’t do I do that. Then I saw Spotted Genet! Super super expensive.. I can’t have a ferret because I hear there too much work and and my mother hates them.. what do I pick I want something similar to a cat...
charlie on April 14, 2020:
i wish i had a fennec fox but they are way too expensive
reader 32 on April 13, 2020:
I wanted a sloth and my dad said no
michiel mcdonah on April 06, 2020:
I wish I could get a red fox I have been wanting to get one for as long as I was 5 years old now I know about them I always study them but I'm just a kid (9) years old :( so my mom would freak out of a fox coming but it will be my dream until I'm older then ill get it!
I hope :(
Nile45 on April 01, 2020:
I have a fennec fox and there so cute
Donald on March 13, 2020:
What about leopard geckos
Classified Classified on March 05, 2020:
I really love foxes, and really want one once I have the money... I am very dedicated, or at least I will be. This will be like baby-proofing a house.
njsdkjd on February 09, 2020:
Eli on November 05, 2019:
Can I have the fox
Jayden Lee on September 02, 2019:
You forgot guinea Pigs under 50
Hi on June 05, 2019:
Thanks for the incfo dude
bookpaw on March 07, 2018:
cindy gentry on February 02, 2018:
hey I would love the red fox. I used to have one and that was the best pet in my whole life. ever since mine died of old age I have been waiting another one so I can feel that same love again.
pinkwave on January 23, 2018:
awesome this is really good for my report thanks
Scott on August 12, 2017:
I think skunks are illegal in my state. :-(
AP on August 02, 2017:
Also, for your second category, I might have suggested sugar gliders ($150-$250 for normal colors), prairie dogs ($150-200), and tenrecs (~$700), since they're small and interesting mammals which are legal in many states. Hedgehogs and STOs might also get an honorable mention. (Most parrots and reptiles are legal in most states.) Though sugar gliders admittedly have a somewhat expensive diet when cared for properly, from what I've heard on par with the diet for a mynah.
AP on August 02, 2017:
Oh, and thank you for pointing out the problems with people treating these animals as expendable or "starter" pets on every entry.
AP on August 02, 2017:
True about the care costing much more than the animal. That's probably true for all but the most expensive animals. Quakers are some of the most inexpensive parrots (you can get one for under $200 at times), yet I ended up spending almost $1000 in vet bills just after I got mine (fortunately, she survived and is thriving). Now that's an extreme example, my previous worst single vet bill was $600, but I've had parrots for a long time, and the vet bills may well be the worst part of parrot ownership.
Also I'll note that my quaker was an older parrot I adopted, and unexpected vet bills are probably the biggest argument against adopting. With parrots, adopting is almost always cheaper than buying babies, and you know what you're getting personality-wise (which is a huge plus with parrots), but you risk encountering unexpected health problems (which is also why you should quarantine them from other birds), whereas a reputable breeder will usually guarantee the bird's health for 2-4 weeks.
ROBIN GRANT on May 21, 2017:
GREAT LIST THANKS FOR THE POSTING
Kayce on May 15, 2017:
Great list, thanks for posting!
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 14, 2017:
Possibly, it depends on the person.
ManNewt on May 13, 2017:
So... Would a striped skunk make a good exotic for beginners?
GalaxyRat on May 12, 2017:
OK. My sister might enjoy Degus, as she has wanted a chinchilla for a while! Thanks for the list.