How to Pick out the Perfect Reptile for You
How to Choose the Right Reptile as a Pet
Reptiles can make wonderful pets. They can be highly affectionate, though not in the same way dogs or cats can be. The main types of reptiles commercially available as pets are lizards, snakes, and tortoises/turtles. Each has its own unique personality and its own specific needs, though those needs will vary from one species to another. Learning how to choose the right reptile for your home can help you find a reliable reptilian friend who will bond with you for years to come.
Assessing Your Options
Consider getting a lizard.Lizards, such as geckos, iguanas, chameleons, and bearded dragons, are very popular pets.Many people consider them to be good choices for first-time pet owners.
- Lizards are a great choice for anyone who wants a cat or dog but can't have one due to factors like allergies. Lizards are very entertaining to watch, they have large personalities, and they tend to live long lives.
- At the same time, lizards can be a lot of work for owners. They can be expensive and they tend to live long lives.
- Depending on the species you get, your pet lizard may require precisely-controlled temperatures in order to remain healthy.
Look into snakes as an option.Snakes like corn snakes, rat snakes, milksnakes, and kingsnakes are very popular pets.If lizards seem like too much work, you might be able to bring home a snake instead.
- Snakes are generally considered to have low energy, which makes them more lethargic and easy to manage.
- Snakes are usually thought of as a relatively low-maintenance pet. However, they will require live food and a heat lamp to remain healthy.
Think about getting a tortoise or turtle.Turtles and tortoises, like box turtles, red-footed tortoises, and yellow-footed tortoises, are often considered an adorable option for a pet reptile. If the thought of a snake makes you squeamish, a turtle may be the right pet for you.
- Turtles are slow and have low energy. They typically don't require a lot of attention beyond feeding and cleaning up, though some species do have very specific needs.
- Depending on the type of habitat a given turtle/tortoise lives in, it may require a lot of maintenance. Aquatic turtles, for example, will need to have their water changed on a regular basis, and they may harbor harmful bacteria like salmonella.
Considering Practical Factors
Know how often you'll handle your reptile.Reptiles do not like to be handled as often as furry pets tend to be handled. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't handle your reptile at all. You'll just have to be more gentle and limit how often you handle your reptile, as well as how long you handle it for.Some reptiles are more open to being handled than others, so if that's a factor in your decision you may want to do some further research to determine which reptiles match your needs.
- Green iguanas as prone to unexpected acts of aggression and fierce territorial guarding. However, some green iguanas take a strong liking to humans and may enjoy being handled lightly.
- Tortoises typically enjoy being petted and socialized, but may get anxious or frightened if they are picked up and held in the air.
- Box turtles tend to be more willing to be handled and won't put up any kind of fight.
- Bearded dragons are generally considered good pets that are willing to be handled.
- Chameleons do not usually like to be handled in any capacity.
- Some snakes can get well-adjusted to being handled, especially if they have been regularly handled from an early age. However, you should never handle a snake that is preparing to shed its skin (marked by dull skin and bluish eyes), or any snake after you've handled its prey.
Decide on an ideal size for your reptile.Depending on where you live and how much room you have, space may be a limiting factor. It's worth considering that some reptiles can get very big and will require a lot of room. If you cannot provide that room, it may be best to look for a smaller pet.
- Some snakes, like Burmese, reticulated, and African pythons, can grow in excess of 20 feet in length. These snakes can also be quite dangerous to humans, especially once they reach full length.
- Some tortoises can grow to be quite large. African spurred tortoises (also known as spur-thigh and Sulcata tortoises) can weight over 100 pounds when fully grown. These pets may need large indoor enclosures with special heat and humidity accommodations. Russian tortoises stay small; the largest can be a medium dinner plate.
Think about how much you'll clean up after your pet.Reptiles are generally considered low-maintenance pets. However, some reptiles require more maintenance than others. Think about how much work you're willing to put into maintenance and upkeep of your reptile, including what type of habitat that reptile will need.
- Turtles are somewhat notorious for carrying and transmitting Salmonella.
- Aquatic turtles will need to have their water changed on a regular basis.
- Snakes are generally considered to be among the easiest reptiles to care for. They're also (usually) easy to handle and willing to be touched.
Consider your prospective pet's lifespan.This may not be a factor for every pet owner, but some people may be worried about getting a pet that could outlive them. Reptiles often live long lives, and depending on your age and the type of reptile you're interested in, you may need to make arrangements with a family member or friend who is willing to take over ownership if you become ill or infirm.
- Some tortoises live for over 50 years.
- Many geckos, turtles, and snakes live 20 to 25 years.
- Different species will typically have different lifespans. Conduct further research online or talk to a reptile expert at your local pet store if you're interested in adopting a reptile but worried about its possible lifespan.
Determine whether you're willing to feed your pet living creatures.This is another factor which may not bother everyone, but should be considered before you take home a pet. Reptiles often prefer live food, which means that you'll be responsible for purchasing living creatures, keeping them alive in your home, and feeding them to your pet.
- Some reptiles like crickets and other insects, while snakes often prefer to eat live mice.
- If the thought of buying mice just to use as food for your snake upsets you, you may have a hard time feeding your snake the diet it needs.
Check the legality of owning a reptile in your area.Depending on where you live, certain species of reptiles may be off limits. In some places, there may be very rigid restrictions on owning any type of reptile. Before you decide to take a pet home, it's important to look into any national, state/provincial, and regional laws that govern owning a reptile as a pet.
- In the United States it is illegal to sell any turtles/tortoises as pets whose top shells measure less than four inches lengthwise. This includes baby turtles that have not yet reached their full size.
- Other countries may have looser or stricter laws that regulate reptile ownership. Check online or talk to a representative from your local government to see if there are any restrictions in your area.
- Think about restrictions in other states/provinces as well. If there's any chance you might have to move in the next few years (and remember that some reptiles can live over 20 years), it's important to know whether you'd be able to keep that reptile in your new home.
Make sure you can house a reptile.One of the biggest considerations in choosing a pet should be assessing whether you can even have that pet in your home. There may be restrictions due to the terms of your lease, the input of your housemates (especially if you still live at home), or the needs and requirements of the reptile you're thinking of adopting.
- Before you do anything, check with your landlord and any housemates you live with to see if you can bring home a pet reptile.
- If you're a child or adolescent and still live at home, ask your parents for permission first.
- Make sure you have adequate space to house a reptile. Remember that bigger reptiles like tortoises and turtles may need a considerable amount of space.
- Snakes need an enclosure with a secure lid that can be clipped in place to prevent escapes.
- Lizards typically need an area to perch and/or bask, especially if that species requires a UV light.
- Keep your home's temperature in mind as you determine if you can house a reptile. Remember that reptiles typically need a stable, warm temperature.
Making a Selection and Bringing Your Reptile Home
Research each reptile you're considering.Each species of reptile has different temperature, humidity, habitat, and nutritional requirements. They may be prone to different behavioral issues as well. Before you take any pet home from the pet store, it's important to do your homework and decide if that pet will work best for your needs.
- Consider the reptile's needs first and foremost. Can you realistically provide that reptile with everything it needs?
- Think about the costs of owning a reptile. Make sure you can afford that pet before you commit to taking it home.
- Remember that some animals don't get along well with other animals - including reptiles living with other reptiles. If you have any existing pets at home, you may need to make special accommodations to avoid confrontation or undesired mating.
- Don't forget that owning any type of pet is a great deal of responsibility. Assess whether you're honestly capable of caring for that reptile and whether you would make a good pet owner for it.
Acquire and arrange the necessary habitat elements.Once you've chosen which reptile to get as your new pet, you should have its tank set up before you ever bring the reptile home. Reptiles have very specific needs, and many reptiles are stressed (physically and mentally) from transportation, so it's imperative that your reptile can begin exploring and adjusting to its new home right from the start.
- Most reptiles require a glass tank, called a terrarium or vivarium. Glass withstands the elements of heat and moisture, which reptiles typically need in their environment, better than other materials.
- Choose a tank that is slightly larger than your reptile's present needs. It may grow, and even if it doesn't it will need a lot of space to move around and explore.
- Your glass tank will need a source of ambient heat, which is usually provided by an overhead heat lamp. Make sure you use a fluorescent, full-spectrum bulb and a separate incandescent light for basking.
- The heat source you provide should be on a timer to ensure that the tank does not get too hot or too cold at any time. It should also be positioned in a place where your reptile will never be at risk of getting burned by direct contact.
- Choose a secure screen as a lid instead of a glass lid. Glass may filter out heat and UV light from your overhead heating element, which can cause serious health problems for a reptile.
- Make sure the tank has a cooler area that is sheltered from the ambient heat source. Most reptiles will need to seek cooler conditions (including shade) from time to time if it gets too hot.
Prepare a safe, suitable environment for your reptile.Once you've purchased and assembled a tank for your future pet, you'll want to prepare a safe environment for when you finally bring a reptile home. That involves making sure the environment is safely guarded from any other animals in your home and ensuring that your reptile will have its needs met once it arrives.
- Your tank should have a secure lid, as reptiles are highly skilled at escaping their enclosures. If your reptile gets out of its enclosure, it could easily become injured or even killed (especially if you have other pets in your home).
- Make sure your reptile will not be able to scratch or chew on any electrical cords you use for the reptile's habitat.
- If you have dogs or cats, keep your reptile in a separate room closed off from these pets. They may harass, frighten, or kill your reptile if they have access to the tank.
- Make sure your reptile has fresh drinking water readily available as soon as it gets to your home. Many reptiles suffer from dehydration during transportation and captivity.
Work with reputable sellers/breeders only.Depending on where you live, you may encounter reptile breeders or sellers who are not affiliated with pet stores or who deal in the illegal capture and trade of reptiles. You should only buy a reptile through a lawful, reputable breeder or seller to ensure your pet's health and your own safety, and also to ensure that you're in compliance with any legal requirements in your region.
- Reptiles sold by illegal or untrustworthy sellers and breeders tend to have more health problems than those purchased through reputable sources.
- Many reptiles that are captured and sold illegally endure significant hardships and suffering during their captivity and transport.
- They may have a higher risk of carrying contagions, and they may have been acquired, bred, or sold illegally.Additionally, reptiles bought through unlawful sellers/breeders may be illegal for you to own in your region.
- You should only purchase reptiles that were born in captivity. Captured reptiles are generally illegal to own in many regions.
Choose reptiles that appear healthy and active.You should always assess any pet's health before you decide to bring it home from the pet store. Reptiles can live very long lives, but they need to be kept in good health. Look for visible signs of malnourishment, parasites, and other health problems before you select that reptile, and consider having a veterinarian give your new reptile a thorough examination.
- Always choose reptiles that appear active and alert, and that appear to have a healthy appetite. These animals are less likely to have any existing health problems.
- A healthy lizard should not have any visible, projecting bones in its tail or hips.
- The eyes and nostrils of a healthy lizard should be free from swelling or crusting, the skin should not be scratched or bitten, and the head should be free of mites (distinguished by the presence or absence of tiny moving flecks in black, brown, red, or orange).
- A healthy snake should have a well-rounded body, clear eyes, a spine that doesn't protrude, and no visible parasites.
- Select a snake that flicks its tongue a lot, seems aware of its environment, and has enough muscles to gently squeeze you when you pick it up.
- A healthy turtle/tortoise should have clear eyes, dry skin, no damage or white spots on the shell, and no visible parasites.
- Check the turtle/tortoise's stool, as loose, runny stool may be a sign of a parasitic infection.
- Schedule an initial veterinary checkup, and make sure you bring your reptile in for regular visits to make sure it remains in good health.
Bring your new reptile home.If you've set up a tank, prepared a quiet/secure space for your reptile, and found a reputable breeder or seller, you're ready to bring your new pet home. Finalize the purchase and bring your new reptile home to the environment you've prepared for it.
- Let your chosen heating element(s) warm up the environment well before you release your reptile in its new home. When you release it, turn the overhead lamp off for a bit, as this can be disorienting, but consider leaving on the under-tank heater (if you have one).
- The pet store or breeder you buy from should give you some type of container or cloth bag for transporting your reptile. Release your pet into its tank by placing the container/bag on its side in the tank and opening it up.
- When you set down the container, try to place it near the reptile's water dish. Your reptile will probably be quite thirsty, but may be too timid to cross the entire tank right away.
- Let your reptile emerge from the container when it feels comfortable. It may be frightened and disoriented from the trip to your home.
- Allow your reptile to explore its new environment for about an hour before you turn the ambient heat source back on. Once your reptile seems comfortable, turn the light on and remove the container you used to bring your pet home.
QuestionHow do I tell if a snake is underfed?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis will vary depending on the snake. A good breeder should be able to provide you with a reliable feeding schedule. If your snake is too skinny and seems generally anxious, he or she may be hungry.Thanks!
QuestionDo green anoles need baths?Draca DragonCommunity AnswerNo. it could actually be dangerous for them because it could greatly decrease their body temperature and stress them to the point of being vulnerable to diseases.Thanks!
- Make sure the reptile you're considering would be a good fit for your needs and your living situation. The last thing you want to do is bring home a new pet and end up having to return it in a few weeks.
- Always look into the legality of a given reptile in your region before you attempt to bring it home. Remember that animals that are outlawed as pets are usually prohibited out of some type of safety concern.
- Make sure that you pay very close attention to any and all instructions/warnings/tips that the pet shop owner tells you. It could be a matter of your own safety as well as the reptile's wellbeing.
Video: Best Beginner Reptile | How To Pick A Reptile
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