These days, at least when referring to the phrase 'exotic animal' the word 'exotic' has come to mean an animal strikingly unusual or different in appearance from the norm found in traditional domestic pets such as dogs, cats, goldfish and parakeets. Exotic pet stores are filled with examples of pet exotic such as sugar gliders, wallabies, chinchilla's, emus and African pygmy hedgehogs all of whom originate in other countries to prairie dogs, wolves, bison and salamanders which occur naturally within the boundaries of the United States. Very often interest in owning an exotic animal comes from having seen a strikingly beautiful, cute or different creature in its native environment while traveling on vacation.
The list of exotic animals available in exotic pet stores covers a huge variety of species, from mammals, whose ultimate size will determine the need for a cage or not, reptiles which include lizards, snakes and turtles, amphibians, frogs, salamanders, birds, fish or insects. There are many factors to think about when considering the addition of a pet exotic into the household not the least of which is the prospective longevity of the animal. Some species of birds and turtles have a life expectancy rivaling that of many humans. Such an pet may need to have 'godparents' just as children do to see to their needs should their owner or owners die before they do.
Each animal specie has its own particular housing and feeding needs which must be followed to the letter in order for the exotic animals to thrive in an environment alien to it such as that presented by bringing such a pet into the house. While cute and cuddly when young, many of these exotic animals will outgrow their baby attributes and can become unruly and hard to control. Not being familiar with the specific animal's personality can lead to issues that the average pet exotic owner isn't prepared or equipped to deal with.
A reputable exotic pet store can help elucidate some of the possible pitfalls of buying exotic animals. There are many issues they should bring up, including the legality of owning the pet exotic in your particular state, the ultimate size of the pet, sociability (is the specie known for being reclusive or seeking out company?), feeding requirements housing, single versus multiple pet exotic, animals already in the house, veterinarians who specialize in the types of pet exotic under consideration, activity level, destructive tendencies, pet sitters (will all the available ones be intimidated by exotic animals?), potential danger posed by the pet, both in the way of disease and bodily harm, and a much overlooked concern - whether the area of the country is compatible with the exotic animals physical makeup. An animal designed to withstand artic temperatures wouldn't enjoy living in Southern Florida nor would an animal designed to deal with hot, humid conditions want to live in a mostly chilly climate.
Much enjoyment can be had having exotic animals as they are purchased from reputable exotic pet stores and the purchase is preceded by a careful research and consideration for the ultimate quality of life for the pet exotic, as well as you and the members of your family.