BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Rats make good pets.
At least according to Dr. Laurie Hess, founder and owner of the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills. And she should know. The Mount Kisco resident has been treating exotic animals for nearly 23 years and now, she's written her first book about her experiences -- and the valuable lessons she's learned -- in "Unlikely Companions: The Adventures of an Exotic Animal Doctor (Or, What Friends Feathered, Furred, and Scaled Have Taught Me About Life and Love)."
Dr. Hess said she's seen lots of loving relationships between humans and rabbits, parrots, reptiles, guinea pigs and yes, even rats, which she said are "very smart" and "responsive to their owners."
Also high on her list of animals that can be fun and interactive: pet ferrets, rabbits, hedgehogs and guinea pigs.
Among the exotic animals popular in Westchester at the moment: bearded dragons, geckos, wallabies and sugar gliders. "People are also really getting into parrots," she said - she herself has three -- "They sing and dance and do all sorts of fun things."
People, in fact, often pay her center extra to feed their pet parrots salmon spread or wear a Mardi Gras mask and dance around. "Parrots enjoy live interaction," said Dr. Hess. "And yes, we will accommodate them as we have a large boarding business."
The bottom line about exotic animals as pets is that they all have something different to offer. "They're not right for everyone," said Dr. Hess. "But because many of them live for 20, 40 and 50 years, they really become part of the family."
Dr. Hess will be hosting numerous book signings throughout Westchester, including at her clinic in Bedford Hills (709 Bedford Rd.) on Friday, Nov. 18, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 pm, at the Eastchester Barnes & Noble on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 11 a.m., and at the Veterinary Center’s booth at the NY Metro Reptile Expo on Sunday, Nov. 27 at the Westchester County Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (198 Central Ave., White Plains).