Holiday Do’s and Don’ts for Exotic Pets

pexels-photo-largeHolidays are generally a wonderful time for both people and pets but also may bring unanticipated situations. By abiding by the following “Do’s” and “Don’ts,” you and your exotic pet will hopefully have a happy, safe, and enjoyable time!


  1. …give a bird or other exotic pet as a holiday gift!

Birds and other exotic pets should not be purchased or adopted on a whim but require research and planning to ensure that they’re a good match to your family, schedule and lifestyle. All potential exotic pet owners should educate themselves before getting the animal about what it takes to keep that particular species happy and healthy. No one wants a holiday gift that results in disappointment and frustration.

  1. …leave your pet out unsupervised around holiday decorations!

Just like dogs and cats, exotic animals of all kinds, from parrots to guinea pigs to rabbits to bearded dragons, may ingest on ribbons, gift paper, or other holiday decorations or chew on wires from holiday lights, resulting in fatal gastrointestinal obstruction or electrocution. So, be sure to keep your bird, reptile, or small mammal safe this holiday, and let him enjoy the holiday fun only when you’re watching him.

  1. …allow visitors to stress out your exotic pet or handle him/her without supervision!

Many homes during the holidays have revolving doors for visiting guests, including energetic loud children. Exotic pets can become stressed out by the persistent flow of traffic in the house and by unfamiliar little fingers reaching into cages. Even worse, strangers may try to pick up frightened exotic pets and inadvertently injure them by accidentally dropping them or holding them too tightly. Keep holiday visitors away from your pet and move the pet, if necessary, away from all the holiday buzz.

  1. …let your exotic pet have access to inappropriate holiday foods!

Some exotic pets can’t resist all of the tempting sugary, fatty, and salty holiday treats any more than people can. Ferrets seem to be drawn to chocolate, and birds love to munch on salty corn chips and pretzels. So, don’t entice them by allowing them to get into these tasty treats. Keep them away when these foods are out, because even a taste of some of these items can be deadly for small exotic pets.


  1. …give your exotic pet a holiday gift.

Don’t forget to include your exotic pet on your gift list this holiday season. A species-appropriate, interactive toy that keeps your pet busy while you are occupied with your holiday guests is always a great choice.

  1. …be sure to spend time with your exotic pet during busy holidays.

Quality time with our pets often falls by the wayside during the holidays, with all the parties and guests distracting us. Many exotic pets – especially birds – think of their human caretakers as flock-mates and can start to act out by screaming and biting when they are ignored. Even guinea pigs, ferrets, and rabbits can become depressed when they are isolated. So, even if your schedule is overbooked this holiday season, remember to save some time for your special pet.

  1. …ensure that your exotic pet gets enough rest, even if your house is very busy.

Many exotic animals are creatures of habit, anticipating the same daily schedule for eating, playing, resting, and sleeping. Although we adjust fairly well to schedule changes, pets may not be as adaptable. So, even if you’re up late, wrapping gifts or cooking holiday meals, don’t forget to tuck in your exotic pet or move him or her to a quiet place so that he or she can get adequate rest.


  1. …keep your veterinarian’s phone number (plus the number for ASPCA Poison Control) handy in case of emergency.

Even with the best supervision, in an instant, pets can get into the holiday candy, nibble tinsel off the floor, become frightened by New Year’s fireworks, or gnaw on the Christmas tree lights. Pet emergencies happen when you least expect them, and when they do, every second counts. Be prepared by having these critical phone numbers nearby.

The holiday season should be a time of joy and celebration. By following these holiday “Do’s” and “Don’ts,” you and your furry, feathered, and scaly family members should be safe and happy throughout this wonderful time of year.

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Positively Expert: Laurie Hess

Dr. Hess is board-certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in avian (bird) medicine and served as the President of the Association of Avian Veterinarians from 2009-2010. She is also an active member of the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians and the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians.


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