Thursday, June 11, 2009

How much is that iguana in the window?

My son has suddenly become charmed with the idea of having a pet shark. He doesn't want one of the little fish tank variety. He wants a big one. I'm not worried because the kid can't follow through on anything lately. (Really I love him, but it's been a long summer already.)

Go ahead honey, Google "pet sharks" all you like.

Having a pet is serious there's much more to consider than the cuteness or coolness of the animal. In addition to time and love they demand a good amount of money too. Veterinary bills, shots, food, supplies--it all ads up even for ordinary pets like cats and dogs. But what about the more exotic varieties. Well, they require even more of almost everything. (Maybe not so much love. I've never nuzzled a shark or invited a lizard to curl up on my lap. But, that's just me. Who knows maybe I'm missing out.)

Exotic pets often require exotic accessories like cages, environments and toys. Usually the food they eat doesn't come from the grocery store either. There is no Purina Rat Chow or frozen cricket in the freezer isle.

You can buy health insurance for your exotic pet. Like other pet insurance policies coverage is available for as much as you can afford. Basics to cover are vaccinations, health screenings, yearly checkups and booster shots as needed. Some policies will completely cover all of these costs. Other types of policies will only cover emergency types of care, such as surgery due to an accident. Some policies require you to make a minimum co-payment for each veterinary visit, while others fully cover such costs. If you own a really exotic pet some insurance policies and also cover theft of the pet.

Another thing to consider before committing to a less than ordinary pet is their long-term financial care. This is a choice to care for another life and shouldn't be discarded because of income loss--or even owner loss.

Know the lifespan of your potential pet. For example, some birds can live up to 50 years. Will you? That's quite a long-term relationship. If you should die before your pet who will take care of it? That's why some owners include their pets in their will. That, and the fact that pets generally won't argue over who gets what.

Average Lifespan of Exotic Animals
Rat - 3 years
Gerbil - 3 years
Tarantula female - 30 years after maturation (33 years total)
Rabbit - 10 years
Gecko - 15 years
Iguana - 15 years
Boa Constrictor - 23 years
Pot Bellied Pig - 15 years
Cockatoo - 40 years
African Grey Parrot - 50 years
Box Turtle - 50 years (100 is possible)

A friend's son once had an iguana. She didn't like the smell of it so she tried to give it a bath. After chasing the beast around the house she finally got it into the tub and then it bit her. Oh, don't get me started on wild exotic animal stories. Please, if you must own something unusual plan, on how to take care of it.

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