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AB Press: Passion High For Exotic Pets

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Posted by W von Papinešu on March 15, 2003 at 10:46:20:

CALGARY SUN (Alberta) 12 March 03 Passion High For Exotic Pets Strong Bonds Built Between Owners And Animals That Don't Need Daily Walks
Strange, creepy, boring and nothing you can cuddle.
We, here at Fur & Fin, have managed to avoid covering anything on the scaly, prehistoric-style sort of pets for many months.
But the complaints have come in.
Sorry, but the problem was partially not understanding the attraction to lizards, snakes, spiders and such. And, yes -- mostly out of ignorance.
If you attempt to understand the passion behind these kind of pets, you have to begin with the idea Iggy-the-Iguana is not going to be anything like Dingo-that-Dog.
And people who opt for less conventional pets will tell you it's all part of the attraction to exotic alternatives.
"Dogs and cats are very demanding, it's a labour of love, but this is so totally different," says Tony Platt, owner of 14 snakes (all boas or pythons) and several dozen tarantulas.
"A snake is not going to wag its tail when you come near or have its eyes light up -- a snake has an expressionless face and is not keen to be handled and some are bad-tempered and snap or bite."
But, says Platt, these fascinating pets come with freedom from the entrapments of daily walks and litterboxes.
The baby snakes eat mice about once a week while the adults dine, including Platt's favourite Letitia, on rats once every one to two weeks -- and they don't need to be cuddled.
"You don't buy a snake to replace a dog; it's a different pet," says Platt, conceding to a fear of frogs and toads.
"It's one notch up from the tank of exotic fish -- snakes are wonderful creatures which are fascinating and respond in their own snake-way."
Platt, who owned dogs for years, wasn't always a convert.
Itsy bitsy came into his life when his son bought a tarantula.
Years later, his grandson wanted a snake.
"I didn't want to part with it; I got really attached to it," says Platt, who now has a spare room where he keeps Molly and Desmond (spotted pythons,) Freddie and Athena (jungle carpet pythons) and about 50 tarantulas, who also have names.
Kestra Self, an animal-care worker with the Humane Society and owner of a box turtle, says learning more about exotic pets increased her comfort level.
"When I learned more, they became more fascinating," she says.
But many advocates for exotic pets caution people from getting one without doing the research first on startup costs and responsibilities which come with the creature.
Most, such as Iggy Kermit and Murphy the iguanas at the Humane Society, are given up by owners for that reason.
"Most people don't know how to look after them and aren't prepared to put in the time," says Cheryl Wallach.
"They are teeny, cute, things when they buy them and they don't realize they grow up to be five-feet long."
But reptiles, for the right folk, are perfect -- especially for those with allergies to "things with fur and feathers," says Dr. Kerry Korber, owner of Calgary Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic.
"The No. 1 reason we see sick reptiles is because of poor husbandry. You can get into trouble if you don't do your research."
A leopard Gecko or corn snake are perfect starter-pets for people looking to get into the exotic pet world.
"They are not like domestic animals; it's a different kind of pet. They are neat and fascinating to watch and it's more of a respect for a natural creature than a bond," says Korber.
"But I have seen people kiss their iguanas -- people can forge a relationship with a pet. It doesn't matter if it's scaly or furry."

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