Cats and dogs are great, but exotic animals like spiders or lizards also make amazing pets

Cats and dogs are great, but exotic animals like spiders or lizards also make amazing pets

Reptiles, arachnids, and birds! Oh my! Move over, cats, dogs, and other furry friends! It's time to adopt other types of animals

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You can have a unicorn...beetle as a pet.
Photo: Chuki Barfungpa

Pets like cats and dogs are easy to find in Hong Kong, but there is also a surprisingly high demand for more unusual animals like lizards, spiders, and birds. Many local businesses make a lot of money from selling these animals.

There is no doubt exotic pets are becoming more popular in our city, even though some people may not know how to properly care for them. Young Post spoke to some local business owners to find out what attracts people to these animals.

Fish

Pet fish couldn’t be easier to find in Hong Kong. At the goldfish market on Tung Choi Street in Mong Kok, you’ll find row upon row of tanks filled with fish of every colour and pattern. You’ll also see some frogs and lizards for sale, too. In one store, we even spotted some small rays in a tank.

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But perhaps the most unique-looking species can be found at a shop named Jelly’s Aquarium, which sells a variety of tropical fish including a “cow-print” clown fish.

One shop assistant at a shop named Nature Aquarium told YP that people tend to buy fish when they are passing by the goldfish market on their way home from work, or if they are feeling bored.

Some fish are fairly easy to take care of, so they are a popular choice among busy workers who don’t have the time or space to look after a more demanding pet. But some people spend a small fortune on sea-water tanks that cost a lot to maintain.

Birds

Birds take up less space at home and make great companions.
Photo: Chuki Barfungpa

If buying fish is easy, then buying birds is child’s play. Anyone who has taken a walk through Yuen Po Street Bird Garden in Prince Edward will know that you can buy anything from budgies to macaws at this market.

At each stall, you’ll see dozens of tiny, beautiful birds in small cages. These stalls even sell live crickets in small plastic bags to feed the birds. There are also small shops nearby which sell bird food, toys, and cages.

Chan Lok-Choi, one of the sellers at the market, told YP that people in Hong Kong tend to buy birds because they don’t take up much space. Birds are much smaller than a cat or dog, and the cages sold at the market are very small, too. Chan added that keeping birds is a long-held tradition among Chinese people, and won’t die out any time soon.

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Reptiles and amphibians

While you can’t find reptiles on the side of the road like you can fish or birds, there are still plenty of places in Hong Kong that sell them. In addition to the small lizards and frogs hidden away at the goldfish market, there are specialised stores such as Urban Jungle Reptile or Reptile Paradise which sell
specific breeds.

Reptile Paradise owner Vincent Chung told YP that much like birds, owning certain types of reptiles is part of Chinese tradition.

Meanwhile, Urban Jungle Reptile owner Michael Shiu said reptiles are better suited to the lifestyles of Hongkongers who live in small flats, have busy work schedules, and travel abroad. Shiu explained that lizards don’t need daily feeding, can live in smaller spaces, and don’t need as much affection as a cat or dog. He added that many people also see buying an exotic pet as an investment; there is money to be made in breeding and selling these animals.

Owning certain types of reptiles is a part of Chinese tradition.
Photo: Chuki Barfungpa

Insects

While insects and arachnids (animals with eight legs, like spiders) are probably the hardest type of pet to find in Hong Kong, sellers do still exist.

Discovery Beetle sells a large variety of beetles, while Arthropods Leap is an online store that sells leaping spiders. Local store Insect Grass Mantis on Tung Choi Street also sells a variety of creepy crawlies, including grasshoppers, spiders, and stick insects. Insects are clearly the most low-maintenance animals on this list – they need very little space and don’t need feeding or exercise every single day.

But Jiminey Li, the owner of Discovery Beetles, explained that the popularity of insects such as beetles is actually due to the fact that many young Hongkongers today were raised watching Japanese TV shows which feature beetles or beetle-like creatures, such as Digimon or Pokemon.

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Adopt, don’t shop

If you really are serious about owning one of these pets, and want to do it without buying from a store, there are some organisations you can try. The Hong Kong Reptile and Amphibian Society has reptiles available for adoption online, while places like the SPCA and Kirsten’s Zoo sometimes rescue exotic animals.

Before you buy any pet, be sure to do your research so that you know what type of care it needs. It’s also a good idea to read up on different sellers to make sure they don’t take part in any animal cruelty. Exotic animals can make great pets, as long as you are prepared to be a great pet owner.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
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