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Keeping Pythons as Pets


Pythons are becoming increasingly common as pets these days. People who love to keep reptiles as pets are now considering snakes as an option.

Pythons are not a very common choice as pets. Many people think all snakes are poisonous and dangerous creatures. Dangerous, no doubt, but most snakes hide and try to avoid a human encounter.

They strike back only when provoked or when they feel threatened.

However, many people find pythons as exotic creatures, and keeping them as pets is not a new trend. There are many things one should know before getting a python. Although non-venomous, they are nonetheless, dangerous. You need to take a lot of care and precaution before bringing a python home. There are about 12 known species of pythons, where all of them are constrictors. The female python lays about 15-100 eggs. The most commonly kept pet pythons are blood pythons, Burmese pythons, carpet pythons, and reticulated pythons.

Blood Pythons

These are popular snake pets and are easy to take care of. They are known for their colorful skin and their heavy bodies. They usually grow up to 4-6 feet and weigh around 25-35 pounds when fully grown. They require a secure, well-ventilated cage, or a vivarium, to live in.

You can keep several crumpled newspapers at the bottom of its enclosure, so that it can hide if it wishes to. You can even give it an occasional bath. If you see it hiding under water, it means that it is afraid or insecure. They are known to do this if they are troubled by snake mites. To get rid of these, you can place your snake in a solution of povidone-iodine (Betadine) and water, and then use a reptile-safe mite spray on him. Wash its enclosure with bleach and a strong jet of cold water, and let it dry. Then, place your reptile back in its enclosure.

The temperature of the vivarium should be around 78 º-80 ºF. A basking spot should also be provided at a temperature between 86 º-88 ºF. You can feed an adult snake 2-3 rats every 10-15 days. During the winter months, it might hardly eat anything. Hatchlings can be kept on a diet of live newborn mice. When the reptile becomes larger you can feed it large rats.

Elevate the humidity of the enclosure by spraying the newspaper with water. If you find your snake has not shed its skin completely, place him in shallow water for several hours. This will help peel away the skin completely. It should be submerged partially in the water. If your reptile is weak, sick, or has any other problems, do not place it in water.

The hatchlings prefer live prey as their first meal. You should keep them in an enclosure with a temperature between 78 º-82 ºF, for optimal feeding. Blood pythons start shedding 3-4 weeks after hatching. The hatchlings are either brown, tan, or orange-brown, and gradually turn red as they reach adulthood. They are bright red in color when they are 2½-3½ years old.

Burmese Pythons

Burmese pythons grow up to 15-20 feet long and weigh over 100-200 pounds or more. This makes it very difficult to care for them, and their big appetites make them very expensive to feed. You won't find many people willing to keep a Burmese python as a pet. Never release your python in the open, and keep in mind that many pet owners have lost their lives due to handling mistakes.

Burmese pythons are generally docile. The hatchlings need to be tamed with careful handling. You should handle the young ones frequently in a firm and persistent manner. This will help them get used to being held. You should never handle the snake 2-3 days after feeding it, as it may regurgitate. When handling adult snakes, make sure you have helpers present. You should have one person holding the snake for every four feet of its length.

You can keep a young python in a tank that is about 5 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 4 feet tall. For adult pythons, you should build a stronger enclosure that is 8 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 4 feet tall. You can use a thick pad of newspapers at the bottom of the enclosure, for juveniles. As the snake grows, you can use flooring options like linoleum, as they are easy to clean and disinfect.

The temperature of the enclosure should be maintained between 85 º-88 ºF during the day and 78 º-80 ºF at night. The basking temperature should be around 90 º-93 ºF. During its shedding period, increase the humidity by wetting the newspapers or placing damp sphagnum moss inside.

Adult snakes should be given a tub or pool of water to submerge themselves in. Burmese pythons eat a lot and can be fed mice or rats. You can feed dead rabbits to adult ones. The hatchlings need to be fed 1-2 times a week and the adult snakes, once in every 2 weeks.

Green Tree Pythons

Green tree pythons can grow up to 4-6-feet long. They are known for their beautiful colors like bright green and the occasional black, even pastel colors are spotted. The hatchlings come in multicolored tones that include chocolate brown, red, and yellow, to name a few. They have very long teeth, as they are bird eaters in the wild. So, you need to be very careful of their sharp teeth.

These pythons are usually calm, but have an unpredictable temperament. Therefore, snake keepers advice to think twice before bringing one home. They like wrapping themselves on a branch. You can have a 2x2-feet-long cage with removable wooden perches. You can use only water as a substrate in the cage or place newspapers at the bottom. Make sure to moisten the newspapers daily for extra moisture. Place any vine plant from the Pothos genus at the bottom of the cage. The vine will act as a perch for your pet. You can also use artificial plants and perches to provide ample hiding places, as green tree pythons are secretive in nature.

The temperature of the cage can be kept between 82 º-85 ºF during the day and 78 º-80 ºF at night. During its shedding period, be sure to provide extra humidity to ease the process. You can keep misting the snake with water while it sheds its skin.

You can feed the snake with dead rats every 7-10 days. While feeding it, dim the room lighting or feed it in the evenings. You may find male green tree pythons refusing to eat for 6 months or even more; in that case, leave them alone until they resume eating. This usually happens during winter.

Moving this python from its perch needs skill. If you really need to move the snake to another perch, lift its front coil with a hook and push the tail to allow it to move over the hook. Then, you can gently transport the snake to its new perch.

Carpet Pythons

These are generally found to live on trees in their wild habitat. They are not suitable for children and are ideally meant for adults and teenagers. They grow up to 200-250 cm in length. They were usually kept by farmers to get rid of a rodent infestation and slowly became popular. They are mostly docile in nature and therefore, make great pets.

The snake should be kept in a vivarium. A Jungle carpet python and Coastal carpet python need enclosures that measure 48w x 24h x 24d. An Irian Jaya carpet python needs one that is about 36w x 24h x 24d in size. You can use newspaper as a substrate at the bottom of the cage. The temperature of the basking spot should be between 88 º-92 ºF.

You can feed the carpet python, rats or mice. Juveniles can eat a prey that is about the size of a hopper mouse. You can feed the snake 1-2 times a week. While handling the snake, hold it from its belly and approach gently. You should make the snake aware of your presence before you pick it up.

Many snake owners also keep reticulated pythons as pets, too. However, these snakes are known for their aggressive nature and ability to strike randomly. They need to be handled cautiously even by professionals. Reticulated pythons have a reputation of striking and coiling around their prey till they suffocate. Thus, keeping these pythons as pets is usually discouraged.

Your pet python should be supplied with fresh, clean water all the time. They should be handled carefully to get them used to the touch of a human. You should find out their mating requirements before purchasing them from a pet store. Also, go through the legal guidelines of your area before keeping a python as a pet. Do not keep pets that are banned under state law. You need to have a lot of knowledge about the temperament of pythons. Never take any docile and tame python for granted. Pythons are cold-blooded animals that need to be handled with care and are not objects to show off or to exhibit as a sign of bravery.



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