An exotic pet is not for everyone. They’re often expensive and require care that many people are either unable or unwilling to provide. They can also present unwanted risks to your home, as rodents and birds can create a lot of damage if left unchecked. That said, there are times when it makes a lot more sense to adopt an exotic pet than it does to get a dog or cat. Some options make more sense than others because they have specific requirements (e.g., reptiles require basking lights and glass terrariums), and some exotic pets can live nearly as long as their wild counterparts. Here are 6 signs that your child is old enough to care for an exotic pet.
1. They’ve Shown Interest in Providing Care for Another Pet
Kids need to start somewhere, and some of the best children’s activities are ones they can learn while caring for a pet. Look for signs that your child is interested in caring for a pet. If they’re asking to help feed or walk other family pets, that’s a great sign. Similarly, if they want to clean cages or play with litter-mates, that’s equally good. Reptiles are somewhat low maintenance but have specific temperature and humidity needs that can make care challenging. Look for signs that your child can handle the added responsibility of taking care of an exotic pet before you leap.
2. They’ve Handled Other Small Animals
Many exotic pets are small animals, so it’s important that your child can handle one if they are responsible for another one in the future. If they’re interested in birds on their own, that’s a good sign. Even if they aren’t able to handle other small animals, it’s still a good idea to allow them to interact with some of the exotic pets in your home. Learning how to take care of an exotic pet will always benefit them in the future.
3. They’ve Taken Care of a Pet of Their Own
While kids often have a hard time caring for other animals over the short term, they often do very well in the long term. Look for signs that your child has done some or all of the following with family pets:
– Cared for siblings and pets (e.g., getting them bathed, dressing them, cleaning up after accidents)
– Groomed and fed their pets (e.g., making sure their pets got fed and watered)
– Groomed and cleaned up after pets
– Taught siblings how to take care of pets (e.g., showed them how to feed and groom)
– Helped get siblings involved in pet ownership by teaching them how to bathe, groom, and look after pets (e.g., reading a book on how to bathe a dog)
– Volunteered at an animal shelter or other pet-related place of business (e.g., read books to the animals, helped clean cages)
While some of the above activities can be done by adults and children alike, there are a few that only adults should be doing (e.g., tending to animals after surgery). Look for signs that your child is more than capable of taking care of a pet before you introduce them to one.
4. They’ve Spent Time With Other Pets
It’s important that kids have experience with other animals. While many kids will be able to handle other pets (or birds in the case of reptiles), they need experience first. It might be worthwhile to allow them to interact with a relative’s pet if they have no pets of their own or friends with an exotic pet. Many pets are far more energetic than their domesticated counterparts and require much more attention. Kids will also be able to see first-hand how much care a pet takes and whether or not they’re willing to put forth the kind of effort into caring for another one.
5. They’ve Participated in Husbandry and Care Programs
If your child wants to be a vet or biologist, it’s important that they learn about husbandry and care as soon as possible. Exotic pets have very specific needs. They’ll need to be fed on a schedule and receive the proper amount of food. They’ll also need to be watered (or given the proper water-absorbent materials) at certain times of the day. Dragonstone Ranch can offer various husbandry and care programs for kids of all ages on how best to handle exotic pets.
6. They’re Responsible at Home and Don’t Need Constant Supervision
Exotic pets should not be left alone all the time, even when they’re inside their cages. Even then, they’ll still need cleaning up, feeding, and attention on occasion. Kids who are responsible and can take care of their rooms at home (without needing to be told) are more than capable of taking care of an exotic pet. The same thing goes for school; they should be able to come and go from class with little issue.
When it comes to exotic pets, education is the key. Before you introduce them to your pet, you’ll have to talk with your kids about what they’re getting into. If your children have the following characteristics, they’ll be able to care for an exotic pet.