Exotic Pet Do's and Don'ts for the Holidays

Guinea pig in a gift box
Courtesy of Dr. Laurie Hess
Don't give a guinea pig, bird or any exotic animal as a gift this holiday season.

The holidays can be a wonderful time for both people and pets, but they also may bring some unanticipated circumstances. By following these do’s and don’ts, you and your pet can enjoy the season and avoid emergencies.


1. Give a bird or exotic pet as a holiday gift.
Birds and other exotic animals should not be purchased or adopted on a whim. Instead they require research and planning to help ensure that they’re a good match for your family, schedule and lifestyle. It is essential that all potential exotic pet owners educate themselves before getting the animal about what it takes to keep that particular species happy and healthy. The worst possible holiday gift is one that results in a disappointed or frustrated owner and a neglected pet.

2. Let your pet out unsupervised around holiday decorations.
Though we may know that what is in the gift box or under the tree is the actual gift, our exotic pets may not. Exotic animals, from parrots to guinea pigs to rabbits to bearded dragons, may chew on ribbons or other holiday decorations or gnaw on wires from holiday lights, potentially suffering life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction or electrocution. So keep your bird, reptile or small mammal safe by letting him get his exercise only when you’re watching him.

3. Allow guests to stress out your pet or handle him without supervision.
During the holidays, many homes are abuzz with company and little children running around. Many exotic pets are easily stressed out by the extra traffic in the house and by strange little fingers reaching into cages (which they may be tempted to bite). Worse yet, strangers may try to pick up your guinea pig or rabbit and inadvertently injure him by dropping him or holding him incorrectly. Avoid these kinds of disasters by keeping guests away from your pet in your absence and by moving the pet, if need be, out of the holiday hubbub.

4. Enable your exotic pet to get into holiday foods.
Some exotic pets can’t resist the sugary, fatty and salty holiday foods any more than we can. Ferrets go for chocolate, and birds love to crunch on salty corn chips. Don't risk their health by allowing them access to such treats. Keep them caged when these foods are out, because even a bite of some items can be deadly for small exotic pets.


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