An exotic pet is a rare or unusual animal pet, or an animal kept as a pet which is not commonly thought of as a pet. The definition is an evolving one; some rodents, reptiles, and amphibians have become firmly enough established in the world of animal fancy to no longer be considered exotic. Sometimes any unique or wild-looking pet (including common domestic animals such as the ferret and the domestic rat) is called an exotic pet. “Exotic” may also be used for a species which is non-indigenous to the owner’s locale.
Many major pet stores and service providers (such as veterinary insurance carriers or online retailers) tend to classify any animal besides cats, dogs, small rodents, small birds or fish as “exotic”.
Veterinary costs for treatment of exotic animals may be significantly higher than for a more conventional pet due to the increased specialization.
Some animals are known to carry diseases that can affect humans, such as salmonellosis and rabies. Similarly, some human diseases can be dangerous for certain animals (like strep throat). Many animals have zoonotic potential. Some of the most lethal viruses, the hemorrhagic fevers, are spread through contact with exotic pets, resulting in high death rates and disabilities for those who survive. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Animal Control Association, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and the CDC all discourage the private ownership of certain exotic animals.