Buying any kind of pet is a huge responsibility but this is especially so when you’re considering a pet reptile. The reason for this is that reptiles are a huge and diverse group of animals and this consequently means plenty of possible options and even pitfalls.
If you’re currently on the look-out for your first pet reptile there are a number of factors that you should carefully consider before making a purchase. Here are six of the most important…
Many people believe that all reptiles are both rare and unusual pets. However what you’ll find after visiting a number of pet shops is that you keep on seeing the same species time and again.
For example corn snakes, leopard geckoes and bearded dragons are all “common” species of reptile that can be found in most decent reptile stores. In contrast there are hundreds of other reptile species that are seen far less regularly, and when they are they may command a premium price.
As a result if you’re looking for your very first reptile you’re best to focus on the more commonly encountered species. The more common reptile species are popular for reason; they’re generally easy to care for, suffer from very few health issues and are easy to breed. In contrast if you opt for a rarer species you could be waiting for months or even years until the right animal comes along.
Just as different breeds of dog have differing personalities, so too do the various species of reptile. For example while a ball python may make a calm and docile pet, anacondas are infamously aggressive towards their owners and may never tame down enough to handle safely.
Bear in mind that the more friendly and personable a particular reptile is, the easier it will be for you to keep. Cleaning, feeding and other regular duties are far, far easier with friendly reptiles when compared to the more aggressive species which might require gloves, snake hooks and more for even the most basic of maintenance.
While a leopard gecko will grow to a very manageable size, other species such as green iguanas can grow to become giants over 5 feet in length. Ball pythons achieve a respectable size while burmese pythons will eventually grow so large as to be unmanageable in the home. Such is the diversity of reptiles currenly available to pet keepers.
Before you purchase any species of reptile take the time to fully research not just it’s basic care requirements but also the eventual site it should attain. By only selecting smaller reptile species you can feel certain you’ll be able to suitably house them right throughout their life, rather than your pet becoming another unloved animal in a rescue centre that the owner can no longer look after.
Reptiles are perhaps best known for their cannibalistic diets. We know full well that snakes will eat rodents and birds while lizards eat a range of live insects. However one factor that many new reptile keepers fail to address is how they feel about this and also where they’re going to source their food from in the future.
After all, a lizard that eats crickets and locusts will need to be a fed on a very regular basis. So if the idea of handling live insects or watching them getting eaten by your pet repulses you, then you may have to think long and hard about your suitability as a reptile owner.
And if keeping a stash of dead mice and rats in your freezer, or watching a snake swallowing a rodent whole doesn’t appeal, then a snake may not be the best pet for you.
On the other hand there are some alternatives worthy of mention. Many tortoise species are entirely herbivorous while a number of lizard species such as bearded dragons are at least partially herbivorous so can be better choices for the more squeemish pet owner.
Ease Of Care
By their very definition, reptiles require specialist care. From large vivariums to acessories like heaters, lights, thermostats it’s important to appreciate that keeping reptile as pets is very different to other pets like hamsters or parakeets.
This specialist care can make buying your first reptile an expensive proposition, even for the commonest species. However this problem can be worsened if you opt for a species with very specialist requirements.
A corn snake, for example, can be quite forgiving and will thrive in a range of environments. In contrast some chameleons require expensive mesh cages, misters to maintain humidity levels, water droppers to drink from and so on. These more specialist animals not only require more effort to keep healthy but also require far more experience and financial outlay to look after properly.
In other words if you’re currently looking for your very first pet reptile, it’s wise to opt for one of the simpler species to start out with. Then, as you gain experience, you can always look at expanding your collection later on with some of the more complicated and unusual species.
Most veterinarians know very little about exotic pets because they deal with them so infrequently. As a result if your pet gets sick – which is unlikely but possible even with the best possible care – getting the right diagnosis and treatment can be a challenge.
Try asking around at local reptile shops and club meetings so that you can locate a suitable vet to register with before taking on your first reptile so you can relax safe in the knowledge that professional help is on hand in an emergency.
So before you make any decisions about getting a pet reptile, take the time to do some proper research. Buy some books, search out popular reptile websites and try to connect with people who are already keeping the best you’re looking at so you can make an informed decision about exactly which species is best suited to your situation.
For more advice on exotic pets a handy source of information is KeepingExoticPets.com