Animals and Your Health: Dangers of Exotic Pets
A quest for the exotic seems to motivate some people to pass up dogs and cats for nontraditional pets. When Junior asks for a sugar glider (small rodents imported from Indonesia), Gambian pouched rat, or flying squirrel, consider how it will affect the household.
Animal protection organizations discourage people from keeping wild animals as pets. Many of these animals never make it to the pet market because they die in transit. If they do make the journey, their behavior can be quite unpredictable.
Unlike dogs and cats, confining wild critters in a home will increase their stress levels. They aren't used to living with humans and rarely bond with their owners. Furthermore, we aren't used to living with them, which makes meeting their nutrition and physical activity needs quite difficult. Our inability to provide them with the lifestyle they require usually results in caging the animal or putting the animal on a leash for long periods of time. This can result in malnutrition and behavioral disorders, which may cause the animal to become aggressive and injure someone.
Even if the animal is not aggressive, exotic animals can still carry diseases that can be transmitted to people. Some examples include rabies, ringworm, salmonella, and monkey pox.
If you or your family members are interested in wildlife, there are other options to viewing and learning about them. For example, there are many reputable sanctuaries and zoos that you can visit. These organizations have the resources and training to ensure that their animals receive the best of care and that visitors are protected from harm.
Last reviewedFebruary 2014by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.