When it comes to pets, a snake is not generally the first animal that springs to mind. But for a small number of passionate enthusiasts, snake ownership offers a fascinating and rewarding experience like no other.
Common pets, such as dogs and cats, present many challenges, but at least these challenges are relatively well-known. Because fewer people own snakes, it is easy for a curious person to buy one with little to no knowledge of exactly what they are getting into.
Before choosing a snake as your next pet, you should familiarize yourself with the animal and its specific care requirements. These five facts provide a great place to start.
- Snakes eat whole rodents.
People who are squeamish about handling dead rats or mice, should definitely NOT buy a snake. To ensure that your snake gets the nutrition it needs, you should feed it rodents that are as fresh as possible. Because live animals can bite or otherwise injure a snake, most experts recommend feeding snakes dead frozen rodents that have been recently thawed.
- Snakes need certain air temperatures and humidity levels.
Because snakes are cold-blooded animals, their body temperature adjusts to the temperature of the environment that surrounds them. This requires them to carefully regulate their own body temperature to promote optimal health and comfort. Therefore, snake owners must generally provide both a hotter zone and a cooler zone in their tanks. Set up as a designated basking area, the hotter zone may need to be as high as the low 90°s Fahrenheit. They also need exposure to ultraviolet light to help them absorb calcium from their food and adequate humidity to help them shed dead skin on their bodies and maintain the clear lids (spectacles) that cover their eyes.
- Snakes have relatively long lifespans.
Many people are surprised to learn just how long many snake species can live. While their lifespans are relatively short in the wild, they can have remarkably long lifespans when protected from natural predators and provided with ample food and ideal living conditions. For this reason, a captive corn snake can live 20 years, a captive ball python can live 30 years, and a captive boa constrictor can live 40 years or more. Even shorter-lived pet snakes such as rat snakes typically live for at least a decade.
- Snakes can grow quite big.
People purchasing a juvenile snake should know exactly how long and heavy that species might get as an adult. Larger types of snakes can approach 20 feet in length and weigh hundreds of pounds. The widely circulated idea that snakes can only grow as big as the tanks that contain them is frankly ridiculous!
- Snakes should come from a reputable source.
General pet stores, including large chains such as Petco and PetSmart, don’t generally employ dedicated reptile specialists who know how to properly care for snakes. To get a healthy snake and promote a humane marketplace, you should buy your snake from an expert breeder.