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NDP’s exotic pets

Senior Julia Kraus with her Chinchilla Stitch. Kraus is one of many NDP students with exotic pets. 
Photo: Julia Kraus

Senior Julia Kraus with her Chinchilla Stitch. Kraus is one of many NDP students with exotic pets. Photo: Julia Kraus

Senior Julia Kraus with her Chinchilla Stitch. Kraus is one of many NDP students with exotic pets. Photo: Julia Kraus

Katie Bussoletti, Staff Writer

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By Katie Bussoletti

Many NDP students have pets that can be considered out of the ordinary. Three in particular are seniors Alyssa Williams, Julia Kraus and former NDP student Kaitlyn Smith.

Williams owns a random assortment of pets which include dogs, tortoises, iguana. Kraus has one particularly exotic pet, a chinchilla. Smith owns a variety of unconventional pets including cattle, chickens, goats, cavys and rabbits.

Although these NDP students own pets that are out of the ordinary, they are not the only ones with unusual pets. According to Animal Planet, the 10 most peculiar pets are capybara, stick bugs, donkeys, hedgehogs, pygmy goats, small breeds of pigs, sugar gliders, wallabies, skunks and cockroaches.

The Animal Planet website also gives detailed descriptions on how to care for these exotic pets to, so you can determine if owning one is right for you.

Kraus, for one, is a multi-pet owner, but her most memorable pet is her chinchilla Stitch. “In my family, we have a tradition that each kid gets to get their own pet once they turn ten years old,” said Kraus. So, the chinchilla was her younger brother’s 10th birthday present almost six years ago.

According to Kraus, a lot of work is required to maintain Stitch. “We have to clean his cage once a week,” she said. This includes washing the metal cage, the plastic wheel and the shelves inside.

“He needs a dust bath once or twice a week in order to keep his fur thick, soft and healthy,” she said. Chinchilla dust is poured into a house-shaped container, then Stitch rolls around in it for 10 to 15 minutes.

According to Kraus, chinchillas need a “chilly pad” in their cage because “they have a thick coat of fur and they are from the mountains where they are used to low temperatures, and they could have a heat stroke if they do not have something cold in their cage.” Kraus said.

“The chinchilla makes our family very happy,” said Kraus, “even our pet dogs love playing with him. We care for him and feed him just like any other member of the family.”  

Former NDP student Kaitlyn Smith has pets most people would consider unconventional. At home, she has a rabbit and a cavy, which is a type of guinea pig.

She also boards a steer and is in the process of raising two bull calves. According to Smith, she also has experience raising and showing goats, chickens and swine.

Smith with her one of her goats. Photo credit: Kayla Smith

Her pets include Toby, a rabbit; Niblet, a cavy; Bovo, a steer; Burger and Bulle, calves; Lily and Bolt, goats; Nugget, Teriyaki, Kung Pow and Little Red, chickens.

Smith said believes that working with animals has great effect on one’s health, mainly physically. “Working with animals promotes exercise and responsibility. When these two practices are properly observed, the results are wonderful,” Smith said.

Smith has been working with cavies for eight years, rabbits, goats and chickens for seven and cattle for the past four months.

“My rabbit is pretty simple to care for,” said Smith. It requires the usual clean cage, food, water and brushing. As for her Cavy, because of it’s a long-haired breed, it is more work,requiring frequent brushing.

Smith walking with her steer Bovo.  Photo credit: Kayla Smith

“The cattle are fun in that they’re a bit of a break from the normal small animal routine,” said Smith. They require bi-daily feeding and watering, a bath at least once a month and hoof trimming.

“Bovo is a show steer,” said Smith, so “I try to walk him as often as I can.” She walks the calves less because they are being raised primarily for meat and not for show.

“Chickens are easy,” Smith said. “You just throw feed and water them.”

And goats require the basic physical necessities of her other animals as well as emotional tolerance.

According to Smith, her pets mean a lot to her: “Through FFA [Future Farmers of America] and 4-H agricultural youth development organizations, I have been given a rejuvenated respect and love for the species.”

Williams also has more pets that most, which include three dogs, two tortoises and one iguana.

Each of her pets requires different upkeep. Her dogs require the basic necessities of all animals, including food, water and walking. According to Williams, her tortoises live in cage outside and require no food other than the grass around the enclosure.

“My iguana eats spring mix [bagged greens] and fruit,” she said.

Williams has owned her iguana for three years, her tortoises for 11 years and her dogs for one to two years.

According to Williams, her pets help with her physical and mental health. “They are good for stress relief.”  

Williams also considers her pets to be an important  part of her family.

Although exotic pets are fun and interesting, not all animals are legal to keep as pets in Arizona. According to The Code of the City of Phoenix, “No person shall keep or maintain any poisonous reptiles or dangerous carnivorous wild animals”. Article two of the code also said that,owning a pigeon within the city limits if unlawful.  

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NDP’s exotic pets