Our research shows that the “cute” videos that potential buyers see on social media influence their decision to buy a wild animal: 15% of exotic pet owners surveyed found inspiration for their purchase via YouTube videos. Today is World Pet Day – the perfect day to remember the animals we share our homes with. While most people care about cats or dogs, there is a troubling trend to keep exotic animals as pets such as snakes, parrots, and even otters! The growing popularity of exotic wildlife has threatened wild populations. As more and more animals are uprooted from their homes, fewer individuals remain in the wild. Rabbits are a popular pet in the United Kingdom  and the United States , with an estimated population ranging from 0.8 to 1.2 million rabbits [48.50] in the United Kingdom alone and three million in the United States . Rabbits are also becoming popular pets in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, where they are traditionally kept for meat or fur . Despite their popularity, rabbits are not always kept properly, as the owner`s knowledge of proper housing, preventive medicine, nutrition, handling and behaviour of their pet is often lacking [50,52]. There is very little data on the exact number of exotic animals held in captivity in the United States. While we may not yet be able to give exact numbers, experts can conclude from what we know. For example, it is estimated that more than 5,000 tigers live in American homes; That`s more tigers left in captivity than there are in the wild.
Born Free USA has documented more than 2,000 attacks, incidents and escapes involving exotic animals since 1990. This is just one example of cruelty. The number of animals stolen from their wild homes for the exotic pet trade is shocking. It is estimated that 90% of commercially traded reptile species and 50% of individually traded reptiles are captured in the wild . Click here to see what we are doing to protect animals in the wild. A pet can be defined as an animal kept for companionship or pleasure. In recent years, there has been a tendency to keep pets other than traditional domestic species such as dogs and cats . Dogs have been associated with humans for thousands of years and are well adapted to life as human companions or workers through artificial selection . Cats are commoral and retain a more natural behavior, but again, there is a long and mutually beneficial relationship with humans. Dogs and cats are not usually confined to small enclosures, information about their care and well-being is plentiful, and there are many veterinary practices that have the expertise and facilities to treat them .
Over the past two decades, non-domesticated species of domestic animals such as reptiles, exotic mammals (e.g., degus), amphibians, and exotic birds (usually parrot species) have become popular as pets . These animals are not always easy to care for, as they can maintain wilder behavior than, for example, dogs and cats adapted to life with humans. Although dogs and cats have behavioral problems and are not always treated in a way that promotes optimal well-being, they are not inherently inappropriate as pets, and there is a large amount of information available about their proper care. In contrast, many exotic animals have special requirements in captivity that are beyond the reach of many pet owners [6,7,8,9]. Even some pets that have traditionally been considered good childhood pets, such as rabbits and small rodents, can provide low long-term owner satisfaction due to innate behaviors that may not match the owner`s expectations. The well-being of these exotic animals is often compromised by a combination of factors, including a lack of accurate information about their care, incorrect posture, and unrealistic expectations from owners. This situation is often exacerbated by the lack of specialized veterinary care  and a lower propensity of owners to seek such care . In this commentary, we examine the relevance of a number of alien species from the perspective of animal welfare and owner satisfaction, and make recommendations on taxa that suitable pets can provide. Approximately 70 per cent of exotic wildlife facilities in Ontario can be described as roadside zoos. Learn about roadside zoos and what you can do to help.
Despite our efforts, we are simply unable to provide wildlife with the care necessary to meet all of their intrinsic needs. Although keeping some exotic animals may be less cruel than others, no wild animal can fully satisfy its needs in captivity. Image: Asian otters, an exotic animal that is becoming increasingly popular in Japan and Thailand. Photo credit: Fernando Machado. You can defend wildlife by promising to keep wild animals in the wild and not buy them as pets. In the wild, rabbits are preyed upon by many other animals, which can be an important consideration when it comes to domestic rabbits. Rabbits should not be approached and ingested threateningly, ideally not from above, to avoid fear. Comprehensive rabbit handling assistance is required to avoid rabbit stress and prevent falls. Proper handling and restraint are also important to prevent back injuries in rabbits . Unfortunately, homeowners may use inappropriate handling techniques that cause stress or provide inadequate support. Rooney et al.  report that the majority of rabbits (61%) do not respond calmly when treated by their owners, suggesting that this manipulation can cause stress to animals. Many of these animals are not native to our ecosystems and become invasive, resulting in disruption of biodiversity and most likely the death of many other animals.
Pictured: Otters on a cattle farm in Indonesia. The farm is suspected of laundering wild-caught otters to supply the exotic animal market as well as a chain of interactive otter cafes in Japan. The British Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF)  recommends housing rabbits in buildings with a minimum size of 1.83 m × 0.6 m × 0.6 m (with a floor area of 1.10 m2), which should be attached to a safe runway of at least 2.44 m × 1.83 m (4.5 m2) . These dimensions are proposed to allow rabbits to move, stand up and separate feeding, resting and excretion areas .