Document Type


Publication Date



The keeping of non-traditional or ‘exotic’ pets has been growing in popularity worldwide. In addition to the typical welfare challenges of keeping more traditional pet species like dogs and cats, ensuring the welfare of non-traditional pets is complicated by factors such as lack of knowledge, difficulties meeting requirements in the home and where and how animals are obtained. This paper uses examples of different species to highlight three major welfare concerns: ensuring that pets under our care i) function well biologically, ii) are free from negative psychological states and able to experience normal pleasures, and iii) lead reasonably natural lives. The keeping of non-traditional pets also raises ethical concerns about whether the animal poses any danger to others (e.g. transmission of zoonotic diseases) and whether the animal might cause environmental damage (e.g. invading non-native habitats when released). The authors used these considerations to create a checklist, which identifies and organises the various concerns that may arise over keeping non-traditional species as pets. An inability to address these concerns raises questions about how to mitigate them or even whether or not certain species should be kept as pets at all. Thus, the authors propose five categories, which range from relatively unproblematic pet species to species whose keeping poses unacceptable risks to the animals, to humans, or to the environment. This approach to the evaluation and categorisation of species could provide a constructive basis for advocacy and regulatory actions.