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Reptile Center Survival Guide

Preparing for Your First Pet Snake


Snake Bytes: Tips on Getting Your First Snake 


So you’ve decided you want a pet snake. Great! They make fantastic pets. But before you rush off to get one, sit down and have a bit of a read first. PetMD has a few tips to help you on your way.


#1 Choose a good starter snake. You might think any old snake will do, but you would be wrong. Many experts would recommend the corn snake, ball python, and king snake for beginners.


#2 Know the risks. We’re not just talking bites here (though the risk is small, accidents can happen). Snakes, like all reptiles, carry Salmonella, which can leave you feeling quite ill (it’s not a good idea to have a snake with kids under five because of this). If you have children in the house, make sure they learn to wash their hands after handling the snake. And you? Wash your hands, too!


#3 Understand what snakes like. Snakes are, by nature, solitary creatures. They most definitely do not enjoy crowds or loud noises, so you can just forget about taking them to see the latest Britney Spears concert. And because of this solitary nature, it’s best to just have one snake. Try to keep the snake handling to a minimum, as most snakes aren't the touchy-feely type. However, you do need to handle your snake for about five minutes a day so it is accustomed to human contact. They also love consistency and routine (who knew?), so stick to the same routine for feeding, changing of water, and cleaning the tank.


#4 The right environment is key. Now this doesn't mean you have to grab some dirt, water, and flora from the tropical rainforests of South America, but you do need to create the right environment for your pet snake to live and thrive in. This means maintaining the temperature and humidity at the proper levels. A good way to do this is to fit the tank with a thermometer and gauge. A heat lamp is an excellent heat source, but only use this for half the tank, as your snake likes having a cool retreat to hang out in from time to time, too. Heat rocks look nice, but in reality they are not safe for a snake's sensitive skin. A plant placed cleverly inside the tank, along with an extra water bowl under the lamp, can also help you reach the desired level of humidity. But if you live in a dry environment, you may want to place a humidifier near (not in) the tank.



#5 Snakes like play time, too. Always up for a game of hide-and-seek (although much better at the hiding part), snakes enjoy burrowing under a box. A log or a branch to explore and curl around is another great addition for the snake's terrarium. Experiment with different objects to discover what your snake likes and add it to the habitat. Remember, fake is sometimes better than real, as fake is less likely to mold or carry spores.


#6 Dinnertime. Be prepared. Snakes like to eat real meat. It does not need to be fancy, like a filet mignon, but it should be raw. Mice are the best for this, and they are easy to acquire at your local pet shop. In fact, some mice are bred especially for this purpose. Most snakes will eat frozen mice (that you’ve very nicely allowed to warm to room temperature), but be aware that some will only chow down on the living variety. If you have to feed your snake a live rodent, make sure your snake is hungry, and stay vigilant because you may quickly become the prey if you are not careful.


#7 Cleaning. Snakes are pretty easy to clean up after. Because their diet consists of meat, they do have fecal droppings, but lining the tank with newspaper will help keep the terrarium tidy. Keep a bowl of clean fresh water at all times, so your snake can have a drink and a bath whenever it wishes.


#8 To hibernate or not to hibernate. It is natural for snakes to hibernate during the winter, and this is essential if you’re breeding them. If you do decide to let your snake hibernate, you’ll need to keep it in a cool, dark room. Just please don’t pop your snake away and forget about it. You’ll need to do daily rounds, checking the temperature and the humidity of the enclosure, and keeping the water fresh and clean on a daily basis.


Now that you have some information, you are on your way to having your first pet snake.


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