Reptiles as Pets

Why?

Many people ask why anyone would want a reptile as a pet. There are many good reasons, only some of which are listed here.

Allergies. Many people cannot tolerate the presence of a cat, dog, bird or rodent. Reptiles are hypo-allergenic, meaning that even people with severe allergies to furred or feathered animals will not suffer an allergic reaction to our scaled friends.

Space. Most common pets require room to run, and exercise is important to their well-being. Most reptiles hate to exercise, and do not require a lot of space.

Time. In our society, time has become a precious commodity. Many see it as unfair that dogs, for example, are left alone for long periods while family members are away at school or work. This is very hard on a social animal such as a dog. On the other hand, most reptiles love to be left alone. A long period with no human “loving” is not harmful to reptiles — it can be beneficial!

Things to Know

If you are considering a reptile as a pet the most important thing you need is knowledge. There are many sick, injured, unwanted or even dead pets because owners did not take the time to research the animal they decided to bring home. Here are some important things to consider.

Housing. Remember to consider the adult size of the reptile, how active the species tends to be and any other environmental considerations. Can you supply a proper habitat for the animal for its entire life?

Heating and Lighting. Reptiles are ectothermic. They cannot produce their own heat so they rely on their owner to provide it for them. Some species require very high temperatures, and most species also require a thermal gradient. Many species of reptiles require special lighting, such as full spectrum or UVB.

Feeding. Before bringing any reptile home, make sure that you can always supply its proper dietary needs. Vegetarian reptiles often have specific and varied dietary requirements. For reptiles that require a rodent diet, pre-killed prey should be used as live rodents can seriously hurt captive reptiles.

Longevity. Although some reptile life spans are relatively short (some lizards live only a few years), some species can outlive us! Don’t take on a long-lived pet unless you are prepared to ensure it receives adequate care throughout its lifespan.

Ethical Considerations

There are many different points of view about reptiles as pets.

One common concern is the keeping of “wild” animals in cages. We recommend that only captive-bred animals be kept as pets.

Another issue is that these animals may be difficult to care for. In fact, many common pet reptiles are very easy to care for as long as the owner has a bit of knowledge. Most are actually much easier to care for than dogs or cats.

Abandonment and abuse of “exotic” pets creates headlines and calls for prohibition, but these problems are just as prevalent, if not more so, with “normal” pets.

One thing we do know for sure: many of these animals suffer from persecution in the wild because of people’s fears and misinformation. If everyone had a close friend, child or relative who kept a pet corn snake or leopard gecko then society would be much more respectful toward reptiles. This respect would go a long way towards conserving wild populations.

Suitable Pets

Some reptiles that make suitable pets include corn snakes, kingsnakes and milk snakes, ball pythons, leopard geckos, bearded dragons and blue-tongued skinks.

Unsuitable Pets

Some reptiles that make unsuitable pets include green iguanas, large monitors, large constrictors (such as anacondas and giant pythons), red-eared sliders, crocodilians and venomous reptiles.