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A Guide to Having Snakes as Pets


Having snakes as pets is not for everyone. But for those that make the commitment to meet the unique needs and care requirements of the reptiles they keep, this is one pet that can be both fun and rewarding. Before you head out to the pet store, it is important to understand what type of housing and care is required for snakes.

It is also important to carefully research which species is right for you.

Are You Prepared for Owning a Snake?

These animals should never be purchased on impulse. Snakes require a lifetime commitment, as they can live for decades. You must consider what will happen if your child becomes bored of their pet and no longer wants to care for it. Will you be willing to take over its care? You must provide adequate housing for your snake, and depending on the type you buy, this may mean buying larger housing as it grows. Some pet snakes can grow up to 20 feet in length.
Snakes eat live prey in the wild, and although many of them can be taught to eat frozen, pre-killed prey, you must still be capable of feeding this to them. You must also consider if such food is readily available in your area. Not all stores sell live food.

Decide on the Right Species First

Choosing the right species for a pet snake can make a big difference. If you have no prior experience with reptiles, start off with a good beginner snake. Large constrictors can be dangerous if you do not know how to handle them. Feeding them can also be problematic if you are not properly set up to do so. 
Choose a smaller animal, such as a corn snake, a king snake, or a ball python. While these are all constrictors, they are small and are not capable of hurting a human, other than the possibility of an occasional bite. As pretty as they are, avoid boas or pythons, as these require large spaces and special handling. You should also avoid any venomous species. These should only be handled by those with experience.

Setting Up a Home

You should know what species you want before preparing a home for your pet snake. These animals do not need as much room as others do, but their cage must be big enough for thermoregulation to occur. This means your pet's cage should have a thermal gradient where it is warmer on one end and cooler at the other, allowing the snake to move from one end to the other as needed. This is the only way snakes can regulate their temperature, which is essential for their digestion. Most experts agree that the enclosure should be 2/3 the length of the snake. 
You must also take into consideration how you will secure the top of the cage. An aquarium is the standard enclosure used, but most lids that accompany these allow the animals inside to escape. Make sure to purchase a lid made specifically for reptiles.

Feeding Your Reptile

If you choose to have snakes, then you must be prepared to feed them. In the wild, they eat live prey. In captivity, you can feed them either live or frozen foods. What you feed them will depend on their size. Small corn snakes will eat either newborn or baby mice. If you feed live foods, these can be difficult to obtain. Some snakes never take to eating frozen food and must always be fed live foods. This means you will have to be prepared to find food for the snake when needed.

Other Important Care Tips

As your pet grows, it will need a larger enclosure. If a snake continues to curl up at the opposite end of its enclosure and away from its heat, this means your pet is unable to regulate its body temperature properly. You do not want too large of an enclosure for your pet's size, as this can stress the snake and cause it to get too cold. 
Be sure to handle your snake frequently. The more you handle it, the tamer it will become. Never put your hand in the enclosure after your pet has eaten. Wait until after it has eaten its food and is starting to settle. This is the time when most inexperienced owners get bit. Common health problems you may experience are mites, pneumonia, and shedding issues. Make sure to find a vet that is experienced in exotic pets.

Having snakes as pets is much different from other animals that you might choose. This does not mean they need less care. You must ensure your reptile has a comfortable place to live and proper food. When cared for properly, these reptiles will live and thrive for 



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