5 Irrefutable Arguments That Support Exotic Pet Ownership
1. If you support keeping birds, reptiles, or cats as indoor pets, you already support exotic pet ownership.
Many people believe that exotic animals have not adapted to being kept as pets in the same way that domesticated species have. Well, the truth is that no animal has! There is little or no difference between subjecting a domesticated pet or an ‘exotic’ pet to captivity. The quality of the captive situation varies as does the species being subjected to it.
It is often the case that those who oppose exotic pet keeping on the grounds that they are ‘unsuitable for captivity’ do not logically consider the welfare of traditional pets, applying their same logic.
Domesticated cats are probably the most popular animal kept as pets on Earth, and at least within the USA, it is a common practice to keep cats exclusively as house pets, which is a practice (intelligently), promoted and recommended by many vets, animal rescues, and animal rights organizations for the safety of the cat as well as outdoor wildlife. But no cat is ‘built’ to live inside a house (consider learning more about proper indoor enrichment).
Many behavioral and physical disorders that are seen in cats are often secondary to stress from lack of appropriate stimulation.— AFFP Position Statement
These misconceptions arise due to the domestication myth—a notion that makes people believe that domesticated animals are biologically or mentally suited for living in a modern indoor household while that could never be acceptable for a 'wild' animal (although not all exotics are kept inside). In actuality, the same conflicts that exist for exotic pets also exist for domesticated animals.
In fact, considering their extreme popularity, it can be argued that domesticated animals may be worse off. Domesticated animals are overbred and many are an invasive species. Just like wild animals, pet birds (an exotic pet that sometimes may not be considered as such), hamsters, and indoor cats require, and unfortunately often do not receive, a mentally stimulating environment, socialization relevant to their species, and an outlet for their energy.
It is not realistic to assume that all cat keepers are aware of the commitment involved that should be carried out with all pets in captivity—in fact most people view cats as 'easy care' pets that don't require much attention from the owner. Many indoor cats have behavioral problems, weight gain, and neurosis as a result...which is not unlike what occurs with inadequately cared for exotic pets or zoo animals.
Therefore, people who approve of pet cats (or dogs, small reptiles, ferrets, ect.) being kept as pets cannot declare any moral superiority over people who keep exotic pets, because both 'trades' have the same exact conflicts. The severity of the problem may vary in extent (i.e. a monkey may have more significant problems in captivity than a tabby), but a ‘lesser evil’ is still an evil.
Note: There are those who believe that cats should never be kept exclusively indoors (a dominant belief in some places like the UK), a belief in favor of encouraging a destructive invasive species (another conflict associated with the exotic pet trade), unnecessary killing native wildlife, and spread of disease to wildlife and humans via fecal contamination.
2. Is keeping exotic pets selfish? So what! Keeping any pet is selfish.
Selfishness is inherent to every organism. In fact, it is humans that have invented the concept of selfishness and have set criteria for attempting to avoid the poorly viewed attribute while no other animal has. Lack of excellence in selflessness leads many people to believe humans are the scum of the Earth, despite no other animal even taking a monk-like lifestyle into consideration.
Humans consume. We build large, resource-consuming homes that we don’t need on top of the homes of hundreds of other animals. We then continue to build more of these structures for frivolous pleasures: nail salons, restaurants, Build-a-bear workshops—you name it—a resource-consuming structure will be built for it.
And then to top it all off, we keep millions of human-engineered carnivores that must subsist on the deaths of other animals…but if I pick an uncommon pet, all of the sudden I am viewed as extra selfish. I think my selfishness level does not exceed that of most modern people.
Some people like to claim that keeping exotic pets will save them in the wild but I think that’s untrue in most cases, so I apologize for that on their behalf even if they don’t agree with me. The reason people may be saying this is to salvage any possibility that their beloved animals won't nonsensically be made illegal.
Exotic pet owners keep exotic pets for the same reasons that domesticated animal owners keep domesticated pets, which is the hope of a symbiotic relationship with their creature of choice. No one intends to harm animals by keeping them as pets even though this can unintentionally occur. Since that is not our intention, and since it’s perfectly feasible that an exotic pet can thrive in captivity, the act of keeping pets is not immoral. Exotic pets may also have the advantage of receiving individualized attention unlike many zoo animals.
3. Exotic pets do not harm the environment any more than domesticated pets.
Most exotic pets do not pose a threat to the environment and those that do don't have as severe of a footprint as many domesticated pets.
Keeping in mind that lack of being more damaging than another type of animal is not by any means meant to be taken as an attempt to make light of the negative environmental impact that some of our pet-keeping decisions are responsible for, the most popular pets in America that are recommended as moral alternatives to exotic pets are indeed the most damaging to the ecosystem. And not just in the United States, but worldwide (think feral dogs, cats, pigeons, swine). The garden plant trade is also equally damaging.
It is rather astounding that owners of bonafide invasive species would become enraged that some exotic pets have also become invasive. The Burmese python is the most popular animal that people complain about; however despite the severity of the nuisance, its presence is restricted to one region in Florida (they cannot survive in most states).
The domesticated cat is established in all 50 states, and there is a powerful lobby to not only stop cat removal for the protection of wildlife, but currently owned pet cats are routinely released to add to the devastation of invasive feral cats which include excessive small animal predation, diseases spread by feces to wildlife, and adding to the number of animals that motorists have to swerve past to avoid emotional upset.
It is becoming crystal clear that many things humans do as mere hobbies and pleasure have negative impacts for our world, but laws seem to be made only when people are wrongfully intimidated by something. Exotic pets are singled out due to lack of cultural acceptance only. Also keep in mind that there are no mammals from the exotic pet trade that are currently invasive in U.S.
4. Any animal of a certain size can bite.
How many times have you heard of an animal, let’s say an exotic cat or monkey, biting someone in the news? Generally, the first reaction a typical person has is “of course! What do you expect from a wild animal like that!?” But dogs and cats bite too. A lot. It is estimated that 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year (!) with insurance companies paying more than $1 billion in dog-bite claims annually.
And I’m not one of those people who say ‘Chihuahuas bite more than pit bulls!’—failing to realize that a pit bull bite is far more severe than a little dog’s. Not only do domesticated animals hurt people, but they kill too.
Animals don’t even need to attack to hurt or kill. Horses, cows, and other large herbivores have caused deaths because of their sheer mass alone, and countless injuries that would never make the major news unless a celebrity was the victim. Why do people tend to overlook this strikingly obvious fact about the nature of all pets?
Some say that the difference between 'wild' pets and domesticated pets is that the former are inherently dangerous. This is partially true, it is far more dangerous to be locked in a cage with any tiger picked at random compared to a random canine.
But generally, humans are intelligent enough to treat each species accordingly with the present danger. Tigers will not be kept in living rooms and dart out the front door when the owner leaves. In fact, despite the vivid imagination of law makers, no ‘pet’ big cat has escaped and attacked a member of the "uninvolved" public (people who aren't the owner, or voluntarily visiting the animal) in the U.S.
Despite the small number of bad scenarios involving exotics, people still hold exotic pet owners, as a whole, 100% responsible for every incident individual owners cause, but dog owners are never blamed for attacks and fatalities caused by other dog owners (this means that there would have to be zero exotic pet-related incidences in order to ease people’s fears, and sometimes even that isn’t enough!).
So basically, the logic being exercised here is that since domesticated animals are not supposed to bite or kill humans, their consistently occurring attacks and even fatalities are not relevant, and only reflect on the individual. If a 3 year old is attacked and killed by their parent’s dog who has ‘never shown any aggression before’, the child is somehow less dead than if killed by a wolfdog.
Despite expectations, will unforeseen deaths by domesticated pets ever end? Of course not. But these animals still maintain more acceptance as pets than exotic pets like small wild cats that have no human fatalities on record. The presence of wild-looking spots still unnerves most people more than rowdy dogs kept loosely confined in backyards. While not all dogs are attackers, you don’t know which ones are, and that alone heightens the danger.
People who seek to resolve the perceived public safety threat of exotic pets are hardly saving many human lives by proposing bans. If preserving the safety of the public is the ultimate goal, efforts would be better spent addressing large domesticated animals, which are a bigger threat due to how they are traditionally kept. As for occupational or personal risk, high-risk extreme sports are similar to situations where people choose to interact with dangerous animals.
5. Bans only eliminate problems by eliminating animals.
It’s true, there are problems with the exotic pet trade, and I’ll never hesitate to admit this. There are also problems with the trade of all animals. From rats, to dogs, to goldfish, to cats, despite how easy it might seem to care for these animals, there are people who will acquire them and will cause them to have a poor quality of life and/or premature death. Banning the ownership and breeding of these animals will solve these problems! But is that the right thing to do?
Where should we draw the line with what is in need of being eliminated to provide an instant resolution to the bad stuff associated with it? If you hate that people keep exotic pets, it’s easy to be optimistic about them being forced into extinction. I would certainly enjoy a law that would prohibit people’s attempts to ban my pets and lifestyle, but I know that wouldn’t be ethical.
People have the right to free speech and to push their laws, but I wish they would consider the unfairness of targeting exotic pet owners. I’m sure there are exotic pet owners out there whose care and expertise could appeal to even the most diehard anti-captivity advocate, and since they exist, the right to keep alternative pets is worth protecting.
Captive exotic animals dangerous?
- Exotic Pet Statistics | Lion, Tiger, and Big Cat Attacks and Fatalities in the United States (1990-2
The final, irrefutable truth about exotic cat incidences in the United States. Are big cats in captivity a threat to public safety?
- Diseases from Exotic Pets: Separating Fact From Fiction
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.