Owning and caring for an emotional support animal is a wonderful and increasingly popular way to improve mental health. Americans with all sorts of psychological issues are turning to emotional support animals to improve their quality of life. The company of an ESA can very effectively soothe psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, phobias, and PTSD.
The most common types of emotional support animal in the U.S. are dogs and cats, and a cute little Fido or Tigger will certainly do the job for most people. But some folks prefer the company of a more exotic species of ESA. So, with that in mind, here is our list of five exotic animals that make excellent emotional support animals.
Calm, laid-back, and relaxed are not necessarily adjectives that spring to mind when you’re thinking about dragons. But a bearded dragon is a very different creature to its fire-breeding, flying, and often rather aggressive mythical namesake. You will certainly never be tempted to slay your bearded dragon ESA, because these little guys have excellent personalities. They are very chilled out and social and have no issues with being handled by humans. Bearded dragons eat a diet that mainly consists of insects and vegetables (but they aren’t simply leaping on the paleo bandwagon – they’ve been eating like this forever!). Their lifespan is about a decade if they are healthy and well looked after. All in all, bearded dragons make excellent emotional support animals.
Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig
Hailing from Vietnam, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs are smart, social, and impossibly cute. They easily match dogs in terms of intelligence and sociability. They love to hang out with humans and play, relax, or even have a little cuddle. Pot-bellied pigs can grow to be pretty large, weighing from 60 to 175 pounds, and so it is important to have ample space, both indoors and outdoors, for your ESA pig to move around in. Pigs also need a place outside in which to root. Rooting is an ancient, evolved behavior in pigs and they need to be able to indulge in it. (So if you pride yourself on having an immaculate lawn, an ESA pig is probably not for you!) Pot-bellied pigs have a life-expectancy of between 15 and 25 years, so getting one is a serious commitment. But it is a commitment that will be rewarded in numerous ways, because a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig makes a truly excellent exotic ESA.
Leopard print never goes out of fashion for these cute little characters! And leopard geckos not only look great – they also have wonderful personalities, are easy to care for, and have long lifespans of up to 20 years. So having an emotional support gecko means you have a friendly, low-maintenance friend that will be around for many years to come. Leopard geckos have simple dietary requirements; they will be delighted to munch on cockroaches, crickets, and mealworms for every meal. You will need to get a vivarium for your gecko to live in. A suitable vivarium will have plenty of ornaments, obstacles, and nooks and crannies in which your gecko can play and hide. Geckos enjoy human company, but always need to be handled gently, as they are fragile.
A fennec fox makes an excellent exotic ESA. For a start, they are exceedingly cute. With their humongous eyes and ears, and tiny, adorable faces, they trigger the “Awwww… So cute!” response in most people! Fennec foxes are playful and social, but they also enjoy their alone time, and when they are not in a social mood they can be a little aloof. But once they have recharged their batteries with some time on their own, they will come back for some more cuddling and play. Basically, they spend their time playing, cuddling, or resting/sleeping on their own. A fennec fox will grow to be the size of an average house cat, keeps relatively clean, can be house-trained, and enjoys being petted, so it makes a very suitable emotional support animal.
The turtle is one of the most iconic and adored exotic animals on the planet. Turtles have inspired cartoons, movies, and fables, and have captured the imaginations of humans for many, many years. Plus, they make excellent exotic ESAs! Turtles live in semi-aquatic environments, so they will require a suitably lit aquarium with a water temperature of between 72 and 77 F and a dry area temperature of 85 to 90 F. Turtles are relatively easy to take care of. What you feed your turtle will depend on whether it is an omnivorous or herbivorous species. Omnivorous turtles will eat small fish and insects, food pellets, and most fruit and vegetables. Herbivorous turtles will only eat fruits and vegetables. On that note, please do not be tempted to feed your turtle New York-style pepperoni pizza… Not everything you see in cartoons is true!
So that was our list of five exotic animals that make excellent emotional support animals. Hopefully, your imagination has been captured!