If you’re not into furry animals with four legs, perhaps a pet snake might be able to “slither” into your heart.
Some people may feel squirmy around snakes, but these reptiles offer company and stress relief for many people. Snakes are also low maintenance; they do not require daily walks and they are quiet during the day and at night.
However, there are other factors to consider before getting a pet snake, including breed, life-span, and health requirements. Dr. Sharman Hoppes, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, suggests snake breeds that may make a suitable pet.
“Ball pythons, kingsnakes and corn snakes are great,” Hoppes said. “However, large boas and pythons do not make good pets for most people due to their large size.”
If you’re thinking about getting a snake, you will need to provide a habitat in an escape-proof aquarium.
Hoppes said that owners should provide lighting that produces a day and night cycle. Temperatures should be 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with a cooler temperature at night that never falls below 75 degrees.
A warmer basking site that measures around 90 degrees should also be available. Snake owners should research or ask a veterinarian how to provide the correct temperature, since some breeds require warmer or cooler climates. Hoppes recommends placing a thermometer on the cage to make sure the temperature inside is appropriate.
Bedding is also necessary in creating a safe habitat for your snake.
“Bedding can be paper, indoor or outdoor carpet, artificial turf, and aspen chips,” Hoppes said. “I do not recommend sand, because some reptiles may ingest it. I also do not recommend pine or cedar, as both of these contain oils that are irritating to snakes.”
With infrequent defecation, a pet snake’s habitat is also an easy clean-up.
A snake needs a healthy diet to be happy, too. A snake’s diet can range from insects and amphibians to warm-blooded rodents, like mice, rabbits, or birds.
However, Hoppes discourages feeding pet snakes live prey.
“It is cruel to the prey animal and can also be dangerous to the snake,” Hoppes said. “The prey animal, if not killed quickly, can bite the snake. In some cases where the snake is not warm enough or is sick, the prey animal may even extensively chew on the snake.”
Having a pet snake can be a great experience for reptile lovers. However, providing a healthy habitat complete with appropriate temperatures is a must; therefore, you should consider the amount of time you have to dedicate to maintaining the snake’s environment. In addition, remember to research and consult a veterinarian that is familiar with the health requirements of snakes.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.