Exotic Pets Need Special Care


An exotic pet is considered a rare or unusual animal pet or one not commonly thought of as a pet. However, many major pet stores classify any animal besides cats, dogs, small birds, or fish as "exotic". At Knoxville Animal Clinic, we often see the category of exotic companion animals call "pocket pets," so named because they are cute and small. Not all pocket pets will fit into your pocket, however, and this broad category can include mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, and rabbits.

Contact our office the day you bring your pocket pet home, to schedule a wellness exam and benefit from our guidance. Equipment, feed, and bedding for these pets is widely available at pet and discount stores, but it is helpful to learn about the care and needs of your pet in advance of bringing it home.

  1. Choose a safe, roomy cage with a solid floor, adequate ventilation, and room enough for your pet to run and play easily. Clean and sanitize the cage, exercise wheel, and other equipment every week with a mild bleach solution. Food and water containers must also be kept clean.
  2. Purchase absorbent, non-toxic bedding material from the pet store designed specifically for your pet. Newspaper or shredded paper is not recommended and can be toxic if eaten. Change bedding a couple of times a week or as often as necessary to keep the cage fresh.
  3. Select good quality commercial pellets recommended for your specific pocket pet, and follow the directions for feeding. We do not recommend commercial treats, which are usually high in sugar, but suggest you supplement your pet's diet with fresh fruits and vegetables a couple of times a week. Of course, a constant source of clean, fresh water is essential.

An inadequate cage, inappropriate bedding, or the wrong food can be harmful or even deadly to your pocket pet, so be informed. Our trained veterinary professionals are happy to assist you in making healthy decisions about the care of your small animal companions.

While pocket pets generally do not require vaccinations, regular veterinary check-ups are important. Your tiny pet's health can change quickly without any advanced or noticeable symptoms–avoid undetected diseases and complications with regular wellness care. Some pocket pets can carry diseases that affect humans called zoonotic diseases, such as salmonellosis and rabies. It is also true that some human diseases, such as strep infections, can be dangerous for certain pets. Read these CDC guidelines for preventing salmonella from passing to you and your family, and then browse the CDC's website for more information about zoonotic diseases.

Contact us to schedule an appointment for your exotic pet. If your pet is one that we do not typically see, we are happy to locate the right practitioner for you and make a referral. Small companion animals are the heart of Knoxville Veterinary Clinic and we look forward to meeting your newest little pet!

The Pocket Pet Connection is a great source for information about pocket pets such as hamsters, mice, rats, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, and more.

Read House Rabbits 101, the House Rabbit Handbook, or answers to FAQs such as litter-training, diet, housing, and toys for your companion rabbit at the House Rabbit Society website.