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10 things to think about before buying a pet snake


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Having any animal can be a huge commitment, especially when they are an exotic species. If you’re planning on having an exotic pet, you should conduct plenty of research before purchasing the animal. Snakes are fascinating creatures, coming in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. They can be rewarding to keep and are certainly a great talking point when you have visitors. However, what should be considered before you share your home with one of these scaly creatures? 

1 – Do you have the time to give them the attention they deserve

Animals are hard work, whether it’s having to take a dog for a walk or cleaning out your Boa Constrictor! Always ensure that you have the time to be able to give them the attention that they deserve. The care and well-being of an animal should always be the main priority, so if you don’t have spare time to be able to commit to their care, then maybe having an animal is not for you.

2 – Snakes are meat eaters

If you’ve done your research, you’ll know snakes have quite an unusual diet. If you’re not familiar with a snake’s favourite food then you’ll be delighted to learn that snakes mostly eat small mammals in the wild. This needs to be replicated in captivity as snakes are obligate carnivores, meaning that their diet must consist of meat. Their primary diet is usually made up of rodents and birds. These usually come frozen, so be prepared to open your freezer and find rats and mice next to your frozen peas.

3 – Be prepared to handle dead rodents and birds

We’ve established that snakes need to eat meat and the fact of the matter is that the food needs to be prepared for the snake to consume. In the wild, snakes do not consume their food frozen, they eat live prey. That means that the frozen food must be defrosted before being offered to your snake. The best way to do this would be to place the frozen rodent into a bag and left in the fridge to defrost. The rodent can then be placed in warm water to heat up ready for the snake to eat. Keep in mind that the snake will need to be stimulated in order to attempt to catch its prey. That means the food source will need to be moved around, almost as if it was alive.

4 – You’ll need to find an exotic vet

You may think that most vets are trained to deal with all animals, right? Well, unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Before you get your snake, make sure that you have located an exotic vet that is local to you. From personal experience, this can sometimes be 40 – 60 minutes away. As exotic vets are more specialised in their field of knowledge, you may find that vet bills are more expensive than the average cat or dog. Treatment options may also be limited due to a lack of research, but an exotic vet will have plenty of options if needed.

5 – Do you have space available for their home

The amount of space needed for a snake will vary depending on the snake’s age and breed. There are also different types of snakes that prefer different conditions. For example, some snakes may prefer a hot, dry and sandy environment, whereas others may originate from lush, green rainforests. Some species of snake prefer to dwell in trees, these are known as arboreal snakes. Others prefer to explore on the ground and these are known as terrestrial snakes. The enclosure will have to change in size and shape depending on which species of snake they are, with arboreal species needing a tall and slender enclosure and terrestrial ones needing a short but longer enclosure.

6 – They need specific husbandry 

Snakes originate from completely different environments that will need to be replicated in captivity. One of the most important aspects that needs to be considered is that snakes are cold-blooded, meaning that an external heat source is required in order for the snake to regulate its body temperature. An enclosure should have a warm end and a cooler end so that the snake can switch between the two. Snakes also shed their skin as their body grows and this can occur between 4 and 12 times per year! To aid in shedding, a ‘humid hide’ should be provided in order to help the snake easily manoeuvre out of its old skin. There are common diseases that can occur due to incorrect husbandry such as respiratory infections, mouth rot and retained shed, so ensure that an enclosure is established before introducing a snake. 

7 – Different species have different temperaments

It’s important to remember that snakes are different to your standard pet, and won’t tolerate cuddles as a Guinea Pig would. Some species can be more docile than others, with corn snakes, ball pythons and milk snakes being great ‘beginner’ snakes which are often calm and friendly in nature. The African rock python and Reticulated pythons are more temperamental snake species which can show aggressive tendencies. 

8 – Juveniles will grow into adults

When you purchase or adopt a snake, it will most likely be a young, juvenile snake. Keep in mind that breeds such as Red Tail Boas, Burmese Pythons and Reticulated Pythons can grow to extraordinary sizes, with the world’s biggest pet Burmese python reaching an astonishing 18ft (550cm) in length and weighing 110kg! Ensure that you have adequate space if you’re planning on housing one of these monster species. 

9 –  Snakes are escape artists

Snakes are renowned for escaping their enclosures as they can manipulate their bodies in a variety of ways. Snake enclosures should be sturdy, well-maintained and secure in order to prevent an escape. This is particularly important if you share your home with small mammal pets such as hamsters, mice and guinea pigs. This is a recipe for disaster if your snake manages to escape! It may be beneficial to place your snake enclosure in a separate room.

10 – Snakes can live for a long time

When you share your home with a snake, know that your relationship will be in it for the long run. Snakes can live in captivity between 20 – 30 years with the correct care and husbandry. Ensure that you can commit to a snake for the duration of its life. 

Conclusion

Snakes make fantastic and rewarding pets and certainly offer something different when it comes to exotic pet care. Always remember that having a pet, no matter if it is an exotic animal or a small mammal, should be a luxury and not a necessity. Snakes need specialised care to ensure that they are happy, healthy creatures. So, make sure that you have the time and money in order to look after these fascinating creatures.

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