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Arch Creek Animal Clinic
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Give us a call today! 305-945-1223

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North Miami Beach,
FL 33162

7 Things to Consider Before Adopting an Exotic Cat

February 15 2021

Have you always dreamed of having an exotic cat, such as a lion or tiger? It sounds great in theory, but in practice, owning a large feline can be quite challenging. While you can find some very pretty exotic cats for sale, you should definitely think very carefully before buying one. A local veterinarian lists some things to think about below.

Price

Exotic cats are quite expensive. In fact, they can cost thousands of dollars. The exact price will vary on the type of kitty you are getting. Mid-sized ones, like Servals, range from about $1700 to as much as $3000. Ocelots can go for as much as $15,000, while a tiger cub (which are now illegal to own in many places) can cost $7500 or even more.

Space

The typical housecat can do just fine living in a smaller home, such as an apartment. Exotic felines, however, are bigger and more energetic, and require a lot of room to run, play, and nap. You may need to build a fairly sizable enclosure for your pet. Keep in mind that a big cat won’t be happy in a bare pen or cage. You’ll need to provide plenty of furniture and toys.

Laws

The laws on owning exotic pets vary wildly, depending on where you are. For example, Savannah cats are illegal to keep as pets in several states, but not in others. If you have an HOA, you may also need to look at their regulations. This is also something for you to consider if there is a chance that you may eventually move to another area.

Veterinary Care

Another thing that is crucial is finding a good vet that is experienced with exotic cats. Most—if not all—veterinarians are very well-trained when it comes to providing care for domestic cats. Exotic cats, however, have different needs than the typical housecat.

Ethics

We understand the appeal of exotic pets: they’re beautiful, unique, and fascinating. Unfortunately, many of them just aren’t well-suited to living in captivity. This goes for kitties, too, as anyone who has watched Tiger King can understand. Consider donating to a reputable rescue instead.

Behavior

If you’re thinking that a tiger will act like a giant housecat, think again. Some bigger cats don’t take to litterboxes, while others dislike being handled. There’s also an element of danger. Those claws can be deadly! You may also find that bigger kitties just don’t enjoy domestication, and tend to ignore commands even more than the average housecat does.

Compromise

You may want to consider a Bengal. While these adorable, charismatic kitties are considered exotic, they’re no bigger than the average housecat, and they have tons of charisma!

Our Advice on Things to Consider Before Adopting an Exotic Cat in 2024

Are there any specific health issues that exotic cats are more prone to compared to domestic cats?

Exotic cats often face health issues not commonly seen in domestic cats due to their unique physiology and environmental needs. These include nutritional deficiencies from diets that don’t mimic their natural prey and stress-related conditions caused by confinement. They are also more prone to genetic disorders due to limited breeding populations. Common ailments include renal failure, liver disease, and heart issues. Additionally, exotic cats require specialized veterinary care that can address these unique health challenges effectively, which may not be readily available everywhere.

What is the average lifespan of various exotic cat species in captivity?

The average lifespan of exotic cats in captivity varies by species. Smaller exotic cats like ocelots and servals can live up to 20 years with proper care. Mid-sized cats, such as caracals, typically have a lifespan of 12 to 16 years. Larger felines, like lions and tigers, often live between 16 to 20 years in captivity, somewhat longer than in the wild due to regular veterinary care and the absence of environmental threats. These lifespans are contingent on adequate care, appropriate diet, and a stress-free environment.

How much time and effort is typically required for daily care?

Daily care for exotic cats demands considerable time and effort, far exceeding that required for domestic cats. Owners must provide several hours each day to ensure proper feeding, habitat maintenance, and enrichment activities to support their physical and mental health. These cats need specialized diets that replicate their natural prey, extensive enclosures for exercise, and environmental stimulation to prevent boredom and stress. Additionally, ongoing training and socialization are crucial to manage their natural behaviors safely and keep them healthy in a captive setting.

What are the potential risks to human safety when owning an exotic cat?

Owning an exotic cat poses significant risks to human safety due to their inherent wild nature and physical capabilities. These cats retain predatory instincts; even in play, their powerful jaws and sharp claws can cause serious injury. Additionally, larger exotic cats can display aggressive behaviors, particularly under stress or if improperly socialized. The risk extends beyond physical injury; exotic cats can also carry zoonotic diseases that are transmissible to humans. Handling and managing these animals require specialized knowledge and skills to minimize dangers to owners and others.

How do exotic cats typically interact with other pets in the household, such as dogs or domestic cats?

Exotic cats typically do not interact well with other household pets, including dogs and domestic cats. Their predatory instincts can make them see smaller pets as prey, leading to dangerous situations. Even larger pets are not safe due to the exotic cats’ strength and natural behaviors. Additionally, the stress from attempting to integrate these vastly different animals can provoke aggression or health issues in exotic cats. Therefore, it is generally advised to keep exotic cats isolated from other pets to ensure the safety and well-being of all animals involved.

Do you have questions about your cat’s health or care? Contact us, your local animal clinic in North Miami, FL!