Winter pet care tips for exotic pets

snake

When it comes to seasonal changes, some pets adapt better than others. Reptiles such as lizards, snakes and tortoises, and some exotic birds, are gaining popularity as household pets. However, their natural habitats are often consistently much warmer than most of our seasons here in the U.S. This means that they require very specific types of environment within our homes if they are to be kept safely as pets, particularly during the coldest months of the year. Here is our guide to winter care for your exotic pet.

Heat

Temperature should be one of your biggest priorities when setting up an enclosure or environment for your exotic pet. The exact temperatures that are recommended will depend on the species and breed of your pet, and your veterinarian will be able to advise you what these should be. Lizards are unable to regulate their body temperature and so usually require two areas within their enclosure – one hot and one cooler – to help them stay healthy.

You can help to maintain adequate temperatures in your pets’ environment by installing a veterinarian-approved heat lamp. Adding extra substrate or bedding material will also give your pet more warmth, particularly if they like to burrow down. Some owners choose to completely cover their pet’s enclosure in a towel or blanket to add a final layer of insulation.
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Hibernation

When many exotic pets get too cold, their metabolism slows down. This means that they eat much less and can develop digestive issues. Some species, such as tortoises, will try to hibernate if it becomes too cold and dark. However, hibernation should only ever be intentional and duly prepared for.

Water

Even exotic pets who are used to dry, humid environments can dehydrate surprisingly quickly. You can help to keep your pet healthy by ensuring that you give him a supply of fresh water every day and keep an eye on how much he is consuming. Keeping some bottled water in your home is advisable if bad weather may threaten your regular water supply. Some reptiles require regular soaks in warm water to help them stay healthy and hydrated around the year, but especially in the winter when heating dries out the air in your home.

Food

It also pays to increase the amount of food you offer your exotic pet during the colder months. This is because your pet will be using calories to stay warm. However, just offering extra food doesn’t mean that your pet will eat it. Many pets, and reptiles inparticular, slow down during the winter, and appear to have less of an appetite. Your pet may need some encouragement to eat, and so offering the occasional treat can be enough to tempt them to the food bowl.

Avoid fumes

Many of us choose to burn candles or stoves in the winter to generate extra heat and light. However, the fumes and smoke emitted can be toxic to your pet, causing illness and even death. If you choose to light candles or stoves you should ensure that there are no pets present in the room. And don’t forget, you should never leave a burning flame unattended!

Back-up Plan!

Unfortunately, winter weather can be somewhat unpredictable. Blackouts, loss of access to drinking water and damage caused by harsh conditions can be inconvenient for humans, but without an adequate back-up plan, they can be potentially life-threatening for your exotic pet. Many pets are not accustomed to long periods without adequate lighting, and if they become stressed they could injure themselves, or escape and run away or hide and make themselves virtually impossible to find.

It is always beneficial to have a plan in mind for how you will care for your pet in the event of an emergency. Flashlights, emergency water supplies and a heavily insulated enclosure are just some of the basic provisions you should make.


Winter doesn’t have to be a difficult time for exotic pet owners. With the right preparation and care, your unique family member can be healthy, safe and warm even when the temperatures plummet.