Moosh - sugar glider in hand

Thinking you might not be suited for a traditional emotional support animal (ESA)? If a dog or cat doesn’t fit exactly with your needs, you might want to consider getting one of the more weird emotional support animals as a pet. There are pros and cons to getting an exotic ESA versus a typical animal. Here’s a breakdown of questions you should ask yourself if you want to know whether you should get a weird emotional support animal.

What do I specifically need my ESA for?

The first aspect you need to think through is why you’re getting an emotional support animal to begin with. It’s important for you to consider your mental illness diagnosis (PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc.) and what your particular symptoms are. Determining why you need an ESA can help you narrow down your search for what type of animal would be best suited to your situation. Ask yourself if you’ll be needing a constant companion (which could rule out some exotic animals that aren’t permitted on flights or in businesses) or if you’ll be needing an ESA who can cuddle up with you and show affection (which crosses animals like reptiles off your list). Taking the time to ponder these questions is essential, since you’ll be wanting to make sure you’re getting an ESA that fits your needs – and not all exotic animals will fit the bill.

Moosh - squirrel
Make sure you do your research before committing to owning an exotic ESA!

What are my living arrangements like?

Next, you should think through the specifics of your living arrangements. You’ll need to provide your emotional support animal with a great home environment, which means they’ll need some aspects to be suited to their lifestyles. For example, if you live in an apartment or have smaller living quarters, you won’t be able to get an exotic ESA that requires a lot of space. Some animals like sugar gliders or ferrets (or bigger animals like goats or miniature horses) like a lot of room to roam around. Similarly, you’ll need to determine if your home is suitable for animals that make a lot of noise. This element might also help you rule out some louder species that could result in complaints from your neighbors.

Would I mind feeding my exotic ESA weird foods?

When you go with a traditional ESA, you know you’ll only be feeding them dog or cat food from a bag or a can. But some exotic ESAs will require you to feed them stranger things, such as insects or mice. When researching different emotional support animals, make sure to look up exactly what they’ll need to be eating, so that you’re not met with any surprises once you purchase your exotic ESA. If you don’t think you’ll be able to stomach handling particular food items (like raw meat for your ferret), you might want to steer clear of certain weird emotional support animals.

MooshMe - lizard
There are many weird emotional support animals available if a traditional dog or cat won’t suit your needs.

Do I want to be able to travel with my ESA?

If traveling with your ESA is important to you, you might want to consider getting a traditional animal instead of an exotic ESA. Most major U.S. airlines are very strict about the animals they permit onboard a flight, and at this time, they typically only allow dogs and cats. So if you have an exotic ESA, you won’t be able to take it with you in the cabin of the plane. This can also hold true for many other transportation methods, which limits your ability to take your exotic ESA with you wherever you go. Likewise, when traveling, hotels and other businesses can also deny your ESA entrance based on the regulations they have concerning animals. Therefore, if you’d like to travel with an emotional support animal, you’ll need to pick a species that will be more accepted (like a dog or cat).

Will I want to take my ESA with me on errands?

Similarly to travel, you should ask yourself if you think you’ll have your ESA with you when you’re out living your life – whether that’s meeting up with friends or running errands. If you want your ESA to be a constant companion, think through what species would best fit this parameter. For example, a snake or amphibian wouldn’t work if you wish to take your ESA out of your home with you. But other weird emotional support animals like sugar gliders or hedgehogs might still be okay if you can transport them easily. Ultimately, if you want your ESA to be accepted into most stores or restaurants you enter, your best bet is still probably a dog or cat.

Do I mind getting attention from people?

Even if you have a small exotic ESA, chances are you’re going to get some attention from other people. You need to be prepared that people will stare or maybe ask you questions about your exotic animal. If you’re someone that doesn’t like a lot of attention, having a weird emotional support animal probably isn’t for you. However, if you don’t mind catching people’s eyes and chatting with them about your exotic ESA, then you should be fine.

Do I mind getting judged by other people?

There is still a stigma attached to people owning emotional support animals (of any kind). This stigma can be even stronger for people with an exotic ESA. If you would be uncomfortable being unfairly judged or criticized by other people, an exotic ESA is most likely not the best fit for you. On the other hand, if you’re able to brush off other people’s negative reactions to your ESA, you should feel free to get any type of exotic ESA you’d like.

Only you will know what type of emotional support animal is best for you. Take some time and ask yourself these questions before you get an ESA to make sure that you’re making the best decision for your needs.