When people hear the word “pet,” the first thing that comes to mind is either a cat or a dog. On rare occasions, you may also imagine fishes in an aquarium or lovebirds chirping inside a cage near a window.
In short, there’s a very small chance that you’ll think about keeping a lizard or even a snake as a house pet.
But while they are not considered traditional household animals, reptiles can still be considered pets. In fact, they make fantastic companions, as long as you understand what is their owner and caretaker entails.
If you’re considering pets with scales over ones with fur and feathers in your household, then you need to learn the following vital information before you begin buying reptile supplies online:
1. Research is the key
When facing something new, the best thing to do is increase your knowledge about it. This way, you’ll know how to tackle things and overcome challenges that may arise along the way.
Getting reptiles for pets is not any different.
In this endeavor, the first and foremost thing you must do is learn as much as possible about the specific species you’re interested in. Remember that many reptiles don’t last in their homes for longer than a year, either because of mistreatment or the owner was unprepared for the commitment of caring for an exotic animal.
To avoid this and become a responsible pet owner of a reptile, you’ll first need to learn about:
- The acceptable and recommended reptile species beginners can handle
- The animals’ needs (e.g., food, lighting, tank size, heat, and socialization)
- Their expected lifespan
- The approximate cost of upkeep
Another thing you must remember is that having a reptile as a pet is quite different from having a mammal. The former is a bit easier in many aspects since they don’t require daily walks and don’t come with smelly litter boxes or excessive barking.
2. Start with easy-to-care-for reptiles
After doing your research, you should already have a good idea of which species are ideal for you, especially with your specific level of experience in caring for reptiles.
There are several options available for beginners. Below are some examples:
- Leopard Gecko
A leopard gecko is one of the most popular reptile pets because they have easy-going and friendly personalities. And, of course, they have relatively low cost and maintenance requirements – something that most pet owners want.
Native to the deserts of Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, these lizards are now part of households and families worldwide. They grow small at around seven to 10 inches long and have an adorable yet striking pattern of dark yellow and black spots, which gave them their name.
- Bearded Dragon
Besides the leopard gecko, another lizard that’s becoming quite popular as house pets is the bearded dragon. These lizards are known (and named) for the loose skin around their necks that look much like “beards,” which puff up whenever they feel excited or threatened.
Bearded dragons – also affectionately known as “beardies” – are also great for new reptile pet owners. They are adaptable to captivity, docile, and are active during the daytime (which is why they are categorized as “diurnal lizards”).
- Corn Snake
If you’re looking to take on a legless reptile friend instead of a lizard, you can also go for a snake. While not all kinds of these slithering creatures can be taken home, the beginner-friendly corn snake is simple enough to care for that it is considered an excellent “starter snake.”
Corn snakes live roughly 15 to 20 years in captivity. They also have simple feeding requirements and have friendly personalities that make reptile-keeping less daunting.
3. Know reptiles’ special needs
While they belong in the same family, it doesn’t mean that every single reptile has the same care requirements. The truth is, like mammals, different species have varying special needs. If you plan to take on a reptile as a pet, you’ll need to learn the specific care that best suits that particular species.
Generally, reptiles should be housed in an environment with a specific temperature range. This is because they cannot control their own body temperature.
From the recommended humidity and temperature ranges to the amount of lighting necessary, you must consider these factors based on the species you’re caring for. You also need to consider the general climate in the place you live in and the proper housing, especially since many of them may outgrow their initial tanks over the years.
Caring for pets means providing the appropriate environment for them. For climbers, it means you’ll have to provide branches and vertical caging. Some prefer living on flat surfaces with places they could hide in, while others prefer to burrow or live in water for most of the day.
Since many reptiles may get stressed from too much handling, it would be best to observe them unobtrusively. You should also learn about the different natural behaviors and physical changes they undergo (e.g., shedding).
Again, all this lies in how well you did your research before bringing home your pet reptile.
4. Determine how they would fit into your lifestyle
As you already know, reptiles aren’t like traditional household animals. Although they are considered exotic, they have advantages over dogs and cats.
For example, since they have scales instead of feathers or fur, they are quite appealing to people who are allergic to pet dander. They are also less noisy compared to dogs and cats, and don’t require much when it comes to exercise (no more walks in the park).
Some reptiles also tolerate human interaction, but what they need you to pay more attention to are their needs and habitat. This would mean you’ll have to maintain and spend money to ensure that they have an ideal habitat that could help your pet live a healthy and long life.
5. Choose a healthy reptile
Healthy reptiles that lived in the wild won’t necessarily do well in captivity. In fact, taking animals from the wild is not only cruel and may damage natural ecosystems, but it can also lead to behavioral problems later. A lot of these species are also best kept alone as they prefer not to share their habitat.
This is why reptiles bred in captivity are most recommended as pets.
Besides this, you also need to learn the normal coloration, weight, and activities of the specific species you’re interested in before bringing it home. This way, you can tell right away whether the animal is healthy or has health issues from the get-go.
Be a Responsible Pet Owner
As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to learn everything there is to know about the specific species you plan to bring home. For unusual pets like reptiles, this becomes even more crucial as care for these animals is not common knowledge. Learn and understand the tips listed in this article, and do more research to make sure your pet lives a happy and healthy life.