Why Do People Keep Exotic Pets?
Why Own an Exotic Pet?
As an exotic pet owner through and through, I am coming forward to answer this question; a question that is often rhetorical and disdainfully thrown without any anticipation of a real response. To many, I am justifying my self-inflicted insanity and selfishness. I am massaging my ego in desiring to own an exotic animal all while leading my pet down an endless road of unbearable suffering in captivity. My pets are essentially prisoners. They are furred humans with 4 legs that dream incessantly about romping free in the wild paradise that they were ‘meant’ to be in.
I will not attempt to justify my pet choices by saying “there is no wild for these animals to return to,” or pretend to be holding a species conservation program in my own room. I don’t believe in any of these "excuses" or find them logical, and I believe they only feign a savior appearance for a personal choice.
Allow me to attempt to explain what the appeal is in owning such non-domesticated animals for my own personal gain.
Unsurprisingly, humans are unique individuals, and resultantly, they have unique and individual desires. Through my own perspective, I often wonder how people could not want exotic pets. Ever since I got my first pet as a young child (those cheap Petco brand goldfish), I simply believed it was the job of parents to dislike everything that was amazing about life.
My parents didn’t enjoy my cartoons, barred me from eating too much sugary cereal, and they didn’t leap at the opportunity to buy pets. To this day, I still find it bizarre how some people don’t, immediately upon buying their own homes, run out and fill it with animals. It’s been my number one goal in life from the start and my only motivation to get my own residence; so I can finally get all the animals I want. Without that, the idea of leaving my parents’ house is 100% pointless.
I find the prospect of preparation for a new and exciting animal intoxicating. I longed for a dog for most of my childhood, eventually achieving that goal in high school. I thought that would end my constant pining for animal additions (and I informed my parents that this was so), yet, while having a dog was a wonderful addition, it did little to ‘complete me’ the way I thought it would.
A dog is a wonderful companion. It is an animal you can actually take with you on vacations and a motivation to leave the house and go outside to enjoy nature. But exotic pets serve another enchanting purpose. Owning an exotic pet is like the pleasure of going to the zoo times ten thousand.
Instead of simply viewing the animal in the congested environment of the Saturday crowds, in your own home you get to personally care for, interact with, touch, and come into an intimate understanding of an animal that few people keep, which is an experience that can only be realized by that animal’s main caretaker.
While for many, the word "non-domesticated" equals "bad pet," for me, it rings "exciting and enriching challenge." "Amazing and unique behaviors to observe." "A unique relationship like no other." Compared to this, the mere thought of a dog or cat makes my mind groan. I honestly wonder how so many people could only want traditional pets.
I detest nature documentaries and find them to be glorified animal snuff. Observing animals in the wild or on television is just not my thing, no matter how un-politically correct that may sound.
Many exotic pets are an exciting and stimulating challenge; caring for them invites a profound understanding of their behavior, how they think, and their needs that no other experience can possibly substitute for.
I wonder why this is so hard to identify with. When people observe unique animals in the wild, and are titillated from the experience, well, to me, caring for my own exotic is like that on steroids. My genet was the first time I had actually seen that animal live, in person. I imagine that genets are snubbed by many zoo displays due to their secretive nature, but when raised by a human, they will accept their caretaker like no other.
I’m far from one of those super naïve people who think I have an actual ‘bond’ with my pets to the same extent as my dog. I know there is a level of disconnect between that of a modernized, sapient primate and a primitive and survival-minded undomesticated pet. My genet for the most part, "tolerates" my appearances, although any person less skeptical than I would consider that my genet actually "likes" me from his seemingly affectionate behavior of hopping on my shoulders and rubbing up against me in the same manner as a domesticated cat.
I could also swear that I hear "purring." Many cat lovers suggest that cat bonding is superior to canines because you must earn the love of a cat. Getting little bits of behaviors like this from a normally "wild" animal is unparalleled by any other domesticated animal-owning experience.
Domesticated animals make great companions but as far as the challenge and the educational experience of unique behavior? There is no comparison, and I can’t stand being told I should "just" get a cat or dog instead of an exotic.
As for my ego in keeping exotic pets, I pretty much stand guilty as charged. Many people display their ego through the clothes they buy, the make-up on their face, or catering to people with ridiculous fake behavior. This is how some people choose to make their mark in the world and communicate to others that they exist. I prefer the success of keeping an unusual pet.
I have been told countless times that I should be more invested in my appearance and pleasing other people than with planning on which animal (or plant) that I’m going to purchase, despite huge expenses, time investment, and potential failure in these endeavors. But I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. This is what I like to do. For some reason, this is baffling to people.
I Strongly Identify With This Girl
Let me repeat that, this is what I like to do. I’m an individual. Other people like to get drunk at parties, becoming a danger to society that makes the risk of my pets look pitiful.
I want to spend all my time caring for my fauna collection. I think I have a right to exist, and my hobbies, which are actually a lifestyle, mark my existence as do other people who define their own existence with where they went to school, where they’ve traveled, how happy they are, who they are dating, children and other forms of reproduction-oriented activities, etc. Typical look-at-me postings that are common on Facebook.
My pets (that are hopefully happy and healthy, as this is my goal) are my badges of individuality and personal choice. And yes, I may want to show my animals off, as I think it would be great if other people could even have an appreciation for it, hoping they are as interested in these animals as I am (they all too often aren’t). Sometimes, my interest in pets and plants is the only thing that causes me to open my shy mouth and converse with people. This is as far as my ego extends. And so yes, I am admitting to it here and throughout, my choice to keep pets is selfish and egotistical.
The point of this passage isn’t to suggest that everyone run out and get exotic pets to experience this for themselves, please don’t. If you don’t currently have or have really pined for an exotic pet by now, it most likely isn’t the lifestyle for you. One of the only things keeping most exotic mammals from falling victim to the surplus rates or factory farm production of domesticated animals is the overall public disinterest in them and their lesser presences in pet stores. Therefore, they aren’t being marketed to the general public as much, which would inadvertently put pressure on the demand for them. I wish all animals could enjoy hesitancy of purchase from humans, but unfortunately, all animals fall victim to this.
I believe that good people do not deserve punishments for the actions of the bad. I think responsible owners should be able to pursue their desires even if there are influential organizations that oppose it. I hope people will begin to understand that issues are rarely black and white, and that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is never the solution to a problem.
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.
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© 2013 Melissa A Smith