Exotic Pet Basics

Philadelphia Exotic Pet

Here at Pawsitive Reinforcement, we welcome all types of pets. In Philadelphia, exotic pet ownership is rising, so we thought we’d put together a little basic care information with links to our favorite local vets and sites!


A reptile was the very first exotic pet I ever got; they are near and dear to my heart. All reptiles have different care requirements and getting their temperature and humidity right is key to good ownership. While reptile shows such as The Oaks Reptile Expo are a great place to get new reptiles, there are also a lot of adoptable lizards, snakes, turtles, and tortoises on petfinder! Wherever you get your new friend, we recommend taking it to a vet within a few weeks of acquiring it to make sure it’s healthy. One of our favorite reptile vets is Dr. Kim Bowers at All Pets Veterinary Hospital. Check out anapsid.org for many fabulous care sheets on different reptiles.

Small Mammals:

Rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters, gerbils: they can all make fabulous pets. If you are considering a pet for a child, we recommend going the guinea pig route. They are generally docile and respond well to gentle training for handling. Of course, there is never a guarantee with any of these animals being good with kids, so make sure you are ready to assume responsibility for your new mammal’s well-being for for anywhere from 3-15 years depending on what you get. We particularly love rabbits as sweet, cuddly pets, but they do tend to be fragile. According to Philly’s top rabbit vet, Dr. Becky Ehrlich at Radnor Veterinary hospital, “Rabbits, like other exotic pets, tend to hide signs of illness. For this reason we recommend yearly check-ups to catch problems early. Senior pets should be examined more frequently. Bring your rabbit to a vet immediately if you notice discharge from his eyes or nose, loose or decreased stool, a gurgling stomach,drooling, sneezing, tilting her head, bald patches, decreased appetite, or abnormal behavior” Check out rabbit.org for more information on house rabbits as pets.


As a certified professional bird trainer, I proudly hold the title of bird nerd. Birds can be extremely rewarding pets, but they also come with hefty care requirements and long lifespans. Parrots in particular are challenging pets, they have the intelligence and maturity of a human toddler for up to 120 years, depending on the species. However, forming a lifelong bond with a bird is an experience unlike any other. We highly recommend consulting with a trainer before getting a bird, as learning to communicate effectively through positive reinforcement can really help with problem behaviors such as screaming, problem chewing, and biting. Birds need to go to vets for regular beak, nail, and sometimes wing trims, so make sure you have a great exotic vet nearby. Dr. Heather DiGiacomo’s fear free practice at Newtown Square Veterinary Hospital is a great place to take chickens! Check out aav.org/basiccare for more bird resources.

Pawsitive Reinforcement would love to be your Philadelphia exotic pet resource. We provide experienced pet-sitting and training for any and every species.

For more information on Philadelphia exotic pets, contact us as pawsitivereinforcementpa@gmail.com

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