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Exotic Pet Care Goes Upscale

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When Pigs Fly … First Class Still, even when there are no apparent health concerns, the pet world is rife with discrimination — a vicious form of species-ism — and alternative pet owners seek equal rights with their dog and cat contemporaries.

Maria Tirotta Andrews made headlines last year when she and her 300-pound pet pig, "Charlotte," flew first class on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Seattle.

"I am a big animal-rights person. My pig has the right to be with me on an airplane," Andrews declared to reporters, displaying a doctor's note averring she suffers from a heart condition and that the pig helps relieve stress.

"I love this pig. She's my best friend," she told the Philadelphia Daily News in an interview titled, "The Pig and I."

Charlotte the pig slept most of the flight. Nevertheless, the airline promised that pigs will never again be able to go hog wild in first class.

Still, the pet world is going through radical transformation, especially if you measure beastly love by specialty products and pet toys. And there's something for just about every species. You'll find low-cal treats for overindulged prairie dogs and even "Cricket Chow." Here's a look at some products that caught my eye: 1. Python Health Insurance

You don't want to be sharing an apartment with a constipated 6-foot python.

"They're such lovely, affectionate animals. Mine would lick the tears from my eyes," says Laura, a woman from Illinois, who asked that her last name not be used because her landlord "would have a cow."

Miss Candyman, Laura's 4-year-old albino python, sleeps in her room, sometimes in her bed, providing a source of comfort and security, she says.

But even a giant, carnivorous snake can devour an unsavory rodent and end up with a reptilian tummy ache.

Thank goodness Laura can turn to Veterinary Pet Insurance in California, which confirmed that the snake is one of its clients. Vets gave Miss Candyman an anal injection of mineral water and soon she felt like a regular snake in the grass, or, in this case, the bedspread.

Snake health insurance costs Laura $15.37 a month, but that's worth it for an animal she considers part of the family. "The only way a snake like mine would bite would be if it were my fault," she says.