April 21, 2012 When I'm in a bookstore, I like to visit the pet care section, just to see if they have any new books on one of my favorite subjects.
In one bookstore I visited recently, fully three-fourths of the shelf space in that section was devoted to books about dogs and cats. Books about horses and birds took up about half the remaining space, with the rest going to books about all other kinds of pets.
These were what caught my eye. They were a reminder of all the different creatures we humans try to keep as pets.
There were books about the care of snakes, frogs and toads, tarantulas, iguanas, ferrets, hermit crabs, pot-bellied pigs, turtles, rodents, hedgehogs.
Many of these are considered "alternative pets" - pets for people who cannot have (or do not want) a traditional pet, but who still have a desire to keep and care for a living creature.
But having acquired an alternative pet, some folks find that what started with a lot of enthusiasm and the best of intentions may become a problem.
There is no such thing as a no-maintenance pet. Some of these animals have very special needs, and meeting those needs may prove difficult, or even distasteful.
Before getting a nontraditional pet, take some time to find out what is required to care for it.
Visit a pet shop where the staff is knowledgeable about the specific type of animal in which you're interested. If the sales person spends more time talking about low maintenance and less about meeting the animal's needs, find another store.
Remember to ask about legal restrictions against keeping that kind of pet in your area.
And if it doesn't work out – for whatever reason - never just release it into the wild. Ask if you can return it, even without a refund.
There are valid reasons why someone might want an alternative pet. Just remember that what you're taking home is a living creature, not a disposable one.
Think carefully before you take any animal home – when you're speaking of pets.