Exotic Animals for Sale: Dos and Don’ts

Updated on November 26, 2016

Exotic animals for sale.net is a website dedicated to providing a place for sellers to post classified ads for a very unique clientele. 'Exotic animals' are typically defined as those uncommonly kept as pets and many of them are what you'd expect to only find in zoos. Other variations of this page include soft bills, pigeons, and livestock for sale, but this article applies to any venue, such as craigslist and others, where exotic mammals and birds are offered for sale to the private sector.

The animals listed may range from ferrets to tiger cubs, although the latter is uncommon and 99% of the time only offered to USDA facilities with the proper permits (as they should). Ads on the site may be from breeders, people seeking to re-home their pet, brokers, closing zoos, and educational exhibitors who sell their animals.

Will you buy a tiger online?
Will you buy a tiger online? | Source

Can one of these websites provide your next unusual family member?

Buying animals always entails potential consequences for the owner and the animals. It pays to remain vigilant when buying anything online, especially when it comes to high-maintenance species. Here are a few tidbits that I can offer that will encourage a healthy and ethical exchange in seeking uncommon pets.


Do not spontaneously buy an exotic pet, or any pet for that matter, if you are not clear on the care of that animal.

For reasons that should be obvious, this is exceptionally true for exotic pets. I will say this; many of these animals are uncommon pets for a reason. They generally require either high-maintenance care or housing; do not behave in a ‘docile’ manner despite cuteness, or have very poor ‘house manners’ such as a strong smell, bad bathroom habits and hyper, destructive tendencies.

Some examples include: Spraying with exotic cats, as these animals should really be provided with outdoor housing. Marmoset monkeys have a deceptive appearance as a great 'pocket pet' because they are so small, but their housing should be extremely large relative to their size. Keepers report that they have a heavy smell that cannot be vanquished.

Genets, one of the exotic mammals I own, may trick some people into thinking they are cat-like when it comes to accepting handling, but they do not allow people to hold them with the possible exception of their main caretaker. These are all things to keep in mind when selecting an animal whose care is not common knowledge.

Do not buy pets for Christmas


Do not buy without investigating the seller

Animal rearing takes time, expertise, and compassion when it’s done properly; hence why many exotics typically range from $800 to the upper thousands. This is about the same cost of many unfortunate puppy mill puppies that are sold in pet stores and responsible breeders alike. These prices are quite reasonable for such a treasure (you get what you pay for), but if the price of the animal sounds intimidating, I must caution that vet care and husbandry will probably easily raise that sum significantly.


Anyone selling warm-blooded animals MUST be USDA licensed

Some people may use classifieds to sell an unwanted animal. It is essential to be aware that in order to sell warm-blooded animals (not reptiles, fish, insects etc.), one must be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. You can give away a pet, but if money is exchanged, doing so is in violation of federal law without the license. Exceptions are made for small-time hobby breeders with less than 4 'breeding females'. Ask if the seller is USDA licensed if such information is not readily available on their website or Facebook page.

A statement about older exotic animals

Many sellers will list animals with words like “not a pet”, “breeder animal”, and “not tame”. This is very significant. The difference between an exotic mammal that has been hand-raised and has enjoyed continued human interaction will be a fundamentally different pet from a ‘parent-raised’ animal or an animal that has received little exposure to humans throughout its life.

Many exotic mammals may revert back to a wild' state and this is often permanent. Such animals may never be comfortable with handling and should be kept like as 'display animals’, as in they should be provided with large housing where they can remain comfortable and undisturbed, along with mostly ‘hands-free’ interactive time with humans (also for your own safety). It should be noted that such animals cannot be expected to live in smaller housing since they will not be offered time outside of the cage to play. It is unfortunate that many people who, in a lapse of judgment, re-home these special pets after they grow out of their cuteness when they exhibit the ‘bad behaviors’ of a mature adult.

Sloths are very difficult to care for
Sloths are very difficult to care for | Source

Avoid scams: Do not send payment via Western Union

If a seller wants you to send money via Western Union it is probably a scam. This is a favored method of scammers (many in African nations) because once the money is sent, it can't be traced. Scams are somewhat easy to detect. Usually rare or impossible to find animals are offered for absurdly low prices (i.e. king cheetah cubs for $3000). Run a reverse-image search to insure photos are not stolen. Stolen pictures are usually good-looking, professional quality photos and are simple to trace back to their real source.


Do anticipate a different disposition upon sexual maturity

Never buy an exotic because of how it appears as a baby! As previously stated, many exotic animals may appear to potential owners to be amazing conventional pets, only for them to discover that when they hit a certain age, they become more aggressive and destructive.

An unfortunate reality is that many higher maintenance pets are re-homed when they are purchased on a whim by people who think that if an animal is for sale, it must make a ‘reasonable’ pet with characteristics like domesticated cats and dogs. This is often not true.

Serval kitten
Serval kitten | Source

Do check to see if the seller is honest about the characteristics of an exotic. Beware inflated positive claims.

“*Insert name of animal here* makes an amazing pet!” They smell like clean babies!” “Extremely docile!”

I would instantly be suspicious of a seller that markets their animal as a miracle pet. Once again, they are unpopular pets for a reason. Simply put, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Exotic pets vary tremendously, not just by species, but as individuals.

One person’s pet may not spray, while another person’s pet of the same species may deposit smelly urine everywhere. One thing all potential exotic pet owners must do is fully anticipate these problems. Even if a person selling their exotic claims their animal has a certain level of docility, it’s possible that this may disappear when the animal is forced into a new situation.

This is why exotic pet re-homes, if at all possible, should be discouraged, highlighting the importance that buyers must know what they are getting into. This is also a problem that exotic pet bans create.

Foxes are hyper!

Do Acknowledge Life Span

On average most exotic mammals will live about 15 years. Others may live up to 40+! Strongly consider if you will still be interested in a demanding pet for such long lengths of time, once the novelty is long gone.

Do visit forums and message boards about an animal you are interested in

The internet is an amazing resource that wasn't available in the past to exotic animal owners. They used to have to rely on the library and being lucky enough to know people who worked with their species. Exotic pet forums give prospective pet owners the opportunity to learn from people who have years of experience. While care sheets (including mine which are posted on this site) are useful, they are no substitute for real life experience. Consult with those who've owned the animals, and if they have had several of the species, that is more ideal. Once again, individual animals can be very unique to each other!

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        AP 23 months ago

        This all seems like common sense, and yet I imagine there are people who need advice on all of these things. Sadly, I imagine most of them won't see this.

        The unlicensed breeder thing really ticks me off. I see so many of them selling sugar gliders and small parrots on Craigslist, asking a "rehoming fee" to get around the prohibition on selling live animals. I could report them, but it seems that CL doesn't investigate reports, they just take ads down if they get a lot of them. Even if they did investigate, it's so easy to repost. Generally, breeders will advertise that they are selling babies, while people rehoming their animals will talk about how hard it is to give the animal up and note that the animals come with cages, toys, and often food.

        I think another problem is that your generic neighborhood pet stores often sell animals with difficult care requirements. if they can sell them for cheap. This is particularly true for reptiles and small parrots, but I've also seen sugar gliders, chinchillas, flying squirrels, and hedgehogs. Selling them at the same place you buy dog food and that goldfish you're going to kill to teach Junior about responsibility makes it seem like these animals are easy--which they generally are for exotics, except large parrots, but not compared to cats and dogs.

        The plus side is that I've noticed that the selection of small "exotics" at pet stores tends to be smaller than in the past. I no longer know of any non-specialist pet stores near me that carry parrots other than budgies, cockatiels, and lovebirds for example, not any that carry mammals other than small rodents. Most stores seem not to carry iguanas anymore, though I swear I'm seeing more stores selling Sulcatas, which is almost as bad.

      • profile image

        ManNewt 24 months ago

        Thanks for this guide Ms. Smith. I am sure it will assist me in my future.