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Holidays With Exotic Pets

December 15, 2023

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season on behalf of Clermont Animal Hospital. As we enjoy heartwarming images of our canine and feline patients amidst the festive decorations, it’s crucial to remember that reptiles and exotics also require special attention during this time. In this article, a local Clermont County veterinarian offers tips on how to care for your exotic pets during the holiday season.

Avoid Holiday Stress In Exotic Pets 

Most pets are creatures of habit. Any disruptions in their schedules, care routines, and environments can be quite distressing for them. Loud noises and commotion can also frighten our animal companions, particularly the smaller ones. 

If you’re hosting an event, consider putting your animal companion in a quiet back room during the festivities. If their normal enclosure is too big for you to easily move, set them up with a travel enclosure. This is fine for a night, as long as you can provide proper conditions.

Keep an eye out for signs of stress or anxiety. The exact things to watch for will vary from pet to pet. Do some research and find out what to look for in your animal companion. For instance, a bird may pull her feathers, while a 

That said, there are a few universal things to look for:

  • Anorexia
  • Unusual posture or vocalizations
  • Trembling 
  • Hiding 

Ask your Clermont County vet for more information. 

Decorating Hazards For Exotic Pets 

Many popular holiday decorations are dangerous to pets. Any small or sharp items are unsafe. That includes things like small figurines, manger pieces, the plastic berries on many decorative items, ribbons, plastic wraps, ornaments and ornament hooks … the list goes on and on. Glitter, tinsel strands, and pine needles are also unsafe. 

Several popular seasonal plants are toxic to pets, which is another thing to be concerned about. The list varies from pet to pet, so do some research. Keep in mind that even non-toxic plants can become toxic if they are treated with chemicals, such as pesticides or fire retardants, or are decorated with small items. That tiny elf figurine may look like a snack to your bearded dragon! 

That pretty tree can also be a hazard. Pine needles are quite sharp, and can cause injuries. This is something to be careful of with birds and sugar gliders, as they may want to perch in the tree. That sticky sap can also be an irritant. If you have a real tree, the water bowl is another concern. It may contain leached traces of chemicals such as pesticides or fire retardants.

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t have some fun with your pet’s habitat. A seasonal backing can also add a festive pop of holiday cheer. Or, you can add a holiday-themed hide, such as a cute igloo, to your pet’s habitat. If your animal companion likes to chew, you can add paper snowmen or snowflake chains. (These are great kids’ projects!) Another option is to put out smaller decorative items on the outside of your pet’s habitat. Just make sure they are well out of reach of those tiny fingers or paws.

Holiday Care For Exotics: Keep An Eye On Conditions

Keeping pets at a comfortable temperature is particularly critical for reptiles, especially if the weather outside is frightful. Cold-blooded animals can get sick very quickly if their environment gets too chilly. That’s a particular concern at this time of year, as temperatures may fluctuate so quickly. Pay close attention to your pet’s habitat at this time of year. Make sure that any and all heating and lighting equipment is functioning properly. 

You may want to add extra bedding, especially for aging animals. It’s also a good idea to get some sort of backup heat source, such as a small generator, in case of a power outage. 

Traveling With Exotic Pets 

This is the busiest time of year for travel. If you’re headed out to spend time with friends or family, you’re certainly in good company.

If you’re only going over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, you might be able to bring your pet with you. This will require some planning, as you’ll need to make sure your little buddy has everything they need. That list includes food, bedding, equipment, toys, water, supplements, and medicine. Bring a pet first aid kit along as well.


Confirm your pet’s accommodations before heading out. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that the hotel you booked won’t allow pets!


We always recommend having a travel case or carrier. (You’ll need one for bringing your pet to the veterinary clinic anyway.) For some exotic pets, you can use a plastic storage container with air holes popped into it. A dog or cat carrier will work for some animals. You can also get a small aquarium and use that. Just make sure nothing can fall over onto your pet. 

You’ll also need to keep your pet nice and warm on the ride. There are a few things you can use for this: heat packs, microwaved rice socks, hot water bottles, or even regular water bottles with hot water in them all work. You’ll want to arrange these around the outside of the tank, so they don’t fall over on your pet. Ask your Clermont County animal clinic for more information.

Boarding/Petsitting Exotic Pets Over The Holidays

Taking your pet along isn’t always the best option. If you can find a good exotic kennel nearby, then that’s a great choice. You’ll know that your pet is in experienced hands, and being cared for by professionals. This is especially important for exotics and reptiles, as not everyone is familiar with their needs.

Petsitters are also a good choice. This is the least disruptive option. Of course, it’s not always easy to find someone willing to handle live bugs. You may want to look at professional reptile sitter services. In some cases, you may be able to bring your animal companion to your petsitter’s house. That could be a bit trying, as you’ll have to get everything set up properly, but will make things easier on the sitter in the long run.

The type of animal you have will also factor in here. Many reptiles are quite low maintenance. In fact, quite a few of them don’t even eat every day. That can make things a bit easier for your petsitter, especially if they’re just stopping in. 

However, not all reptiles and exotics are that easy. Many require daily care. That doesn’t just entail providing fresh food and water. For instance, some reptiles require daily misting. Others, like iguanas, need custom meals. Birds and bunnies need daily free time.

Regardless of how you go about it, there are a few things you can do to ensure things go smoothly, 

  • Make sure that the petsitter has updated contact information for you, as well as info for your veterinarian and an emergency clinic. 
  • Provide a water bottle for misting, along with the misting schedule. 
  • Get extra bulbs for heating/lighting gear.
  • Give clear instructions. A small beginners’ care book isn’t a bad thing to have, particularly if it is clear about things like do’s and don’ts and offers information on signs of illness. 
  • Have food prepared in advance. For an iguana, you can have pre-chopped proportions of your little dinosaur’s veggies divided into sealed plastic bags. You won’t have to worry about whether your petsitter got the portions right. 
  • Leave a list of safe and unsafe foods and treats.
  • For pets that eat live bugs, prepare a separate enclosure for the creepy crawlies. It’s worth noting that it can be difficult finding someone who is willing to handle live insects. This is one reason it’s sometimes best to find someone experienced with reptiles.  

Technology can also offer a helping hand here.

  • Have heat and lighting equipment set to a timer. You might even be able to manage and/or monitor these through a smartphone app, which will also make things easier on your sitter.
  • A smoke detector and smart app can also save you a lot of stress.
  • A webcam on your pet’s habitat may also be a good idea. 

Presents For Exotics 

Exotics also deserve a little something extra over the holidays. Choose appropriate gifts. A snake or turtle probably won’t get too excited over a new plushie gorilla, but may appreciate some new décor, such as a hide or climbing branches. Many exotics and smaller pets, such as Guinea pigs, sugar gliders, ferrets, and hedgehogs, may like beds, tents, or hammocks. Treats are another option: just stick with safe choices. Ask your Clermont County veterinarian for more suggestions. 

All of us here at Clermont Animal Hospital, your Clermont County animal hospital, wish you a wonderful holiday season. Please reach out to us for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs.

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1404 Old State Route 74
Batavia, OH 45103
(513) 732-1730
Also serving Clermont County, OH and surrounding areas.

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