Reptiles have become a popular option with many pet lovers across the globe. According to Pet Insurance Information Institute, over 4.5 million households keep pet reptiles in the US. A pet reptile is an excellent choice when searching for a pet that is relatively easy to maintain and care for. Besides, they are unique and hypo-allergenic and will be a great addition to your family.
So are reptiles good pets? Yes, reptiles are excellent pets. They are content being by themselves and hardly make noise. Unlike cats or dogs, reptiles offer companionship without demands. However, each pet has specific care requirements, and it would be best to choose an animal with reasonably low maintenance and needs that will work seamlessly with your kind of lifestyle.
What are the best reptiles to keep as pets?
There are a variety of pet reptiles to choose from. However, as a beginner or a veteran reptile owner, the rule of thumb is to go for an animal with low maintenance. The following reptiles are some of the most ideal options for any animal lover starting out. These animals are loved and often preferred because they are safe, easy to handle, and have little maintenance needs:
Lizards, as pets, are among the most popular pet animals in the reptile category. They make fascinating pets who display a lot of interest to their owners. The ideal pet lizards for beginners include bearded dragons, blue-tongued skink, and the leopard gecko. These lizards are docile and people-friendly. If you are a reptile veteran, then you can go for anoles or iguanas.
Caring for the lizards is effortless. However, because they are cold-blooded, you need to set up a warm habitat. You should enclose the animal in a unique housing ideal for cold-blooded creatures called a vivarium. Ensure the vivarium has a sliding door made of glass. It should also have grilles for ventilation. Provide heat and light using a spotlight attached to the roof of the housing. Lizards can be fed on specially made food in the form of pellets. You can buy the food in a pet store. Although the pellets can be eaten dry, it is best if you moisten it a bit. You can supplement the main meal with vegetables like cabbage and carrots and fruits such as apples and grapes. Besides, lizards love insects like crickets, caterpillars, and moths.
Snakes are some of the warmest and most charismatic pets. They are also one of the cleanest, peaceful, and easy to maintain pets. According to Peta, pet snakes can live for decades and grow to lengths in excess of 5 feet. The popular snakes to adopt are those located in the children’s python category, including Stimson’s python and spotted python. Other types of snakes to consider include ball python, corn snake, milk snake, garter snake, and Boa constrictor.
Caring for the slithering friend is not as challenging as most people think. All you need is to provide an ideal diet, heat regulated habitat, and something to coil around. However, before you introduce a snake pet into your family, ensure you have the relevant licensing required by law in most countries. Snakes are carnivorous, and thus they eat meat only. Your pet will love a combination of mice and bird meat. You can buy frozen mice and quails form your local pet store. If your pet leaves food lying around, don’t worry; snakes have a slow metabolism and may leave food untouched for days. You should also provide clean water and vitamin supplements to keep your pet healthy and strong.
Geckos are cute, easy to care for, and arguably, the best reptile pets for beginners. However, before you decide to bring a gecko home, do basic research on how best to care for the reptile. According to the Ark in Space, there are over 1500 species of geckos spread across different habitats. However, the most popular pet gecko is the leopard gecko, crested gecko, and African fat-tailed gecko. Geckos live for 15 to 20 years, and you need to be committed to taking good care of the pet for the entire period. They are cold-blooded and thus need a constant heat source in their housing. Geckos are insectivores, and you can feed them insects like crickets, mealworms, and waxworms. Ensure you dust their meals with calcium supplements. Although geckos rarely drink water, ensure you provide some to humidify the air in their enclosure.
Turtles are adorable and easy to care for. The pets spend a lot of time in the water, and there is a need to keep them in a habitat with water that allows swimming. The habitat should also be spacious for the pet to climb out and bask. Ensure you maintain water cleanliness to keep your pet healthy and happy.
There are over 270 species of turtles, and the best turtle for beginners includes red eared sliders, painted turtle, central American wood turtle, African aquatic side neck, Greek tortoise, and Russian tortoise. The turtle diet will depend on the kind of turtle you are keeping. However, turtles generally love insects, fish, and dark leafy green vegetables. You can also feed your turtles pelleted turtle food and freeze-dried mealworms. Unlike other pets in your family, you will not feed the turtle daily. Feed the pet four to five times a week. Ensure to dust the food with calcium supplements.
Water dragons will impress you with their full personality and spunk. If you provide an ideal habitat, caring for this pet is easy and fun. You need to understand the space requirements of the animal. The water dragon is smaller and less aggressive than their cousins, the iguanas. Because they are arboreal lizards, they climb and love to be up high. An ideal enclosure for the adult dragons should be 6 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet deep and 4 to 6 feet long. Provide adequate heating and lighting in the enclosure, and if you can provide unfiltered sunlight, the better.
Water dragons enjoy a humid environment and need to maintain a cage humidity of around 80 percent. Feed your dragon with various live food items such as waxworms, earthworms, grasshoppers, locust, pinkies, fuzzies, and crickets. They also love fruits and vegetables.
Other popular pet reptile options include:
- Red-eared slider
- Green anole
- Eastern box turtles
- African sulcata tortoise
What are the most challenging reptiles pets to keep as a beginner?
Some reptiles require specialist knowledge and care than other average pets. Some of the reptiles, however, are a terrible choice for beginner pet lovers. If you have little experience caring for reptiles, you should avoid an aggressive pet. Such a pet can quickly attack and injure you if you don’t handle it well. Additionally, any reptile that grows to big sizes is not suitable for a beginner. Such an animal requires expert handling and could be dangerous if not cared for well. They are also very costly to house, feed, and maintain. Some of the beginner’s unsuitable species include green iguanas, box turtles, Burmese pythons, and other giant snake species.
Tips to keep in mind before adopting reptiles as pets
Before you getting a reptile of your choice, there are essential things to know. You need to thoroughly research the species of interest to avoid bringing an unsuitable pet to your family.
Reptiles have specific dietary and environmental needs, and some need specialist care. Before you buy a reptile, the first step involves doing thorough research on the size, housing, heating, feeding, and veterinary needs of the pet. Consider the following things before bringing your pet home:
It is crucial to consider the adult size of the pet you are buying. Once you know how big the animal will grow in adulthood, it will be easier to make the necessary preparations.
For example, a Burmese python is 20 inches when young but will grow to 5 feet within five months and 18 feet at maturity. Determine whether you will comfortably handle the animal when it grows big. Reptiles are also likely to become more aggressive at maturity and thus a need to have specialist knowledge to manage, clean, and feed them safely.
A proper living environment for your reptile is a top priority. You should invest in ideal cages or vivariums that are spacious and escape-proof. You should also consider factors like routine maintenance, sanitizing, and cleaning. Avoid enclosures that are too small. While such units fit the animals at the time of purchase, reptiles grow to reach adulthood fast. It is inhumane to keep the pet in an enclosure that is too small. If you buy a small enclosure, you will be forced to spend more money in another larger unit within one or two years.
Feeding and nutritional needs
Reptiles need high quality, fresh, and nutritious food. Although there are commercially available diets, you need to supplement their food with fresh fruits and vegetables. Some reptiles must be fed live food such as mice, live worms, crickets, water fleas, and shrimp. Getting this food can be costly and time-consuming. To cut the costs of food, you can decide to raise your feeder insects. But still, you will spend a considerable sum of money on dust, and supplements.
Reptiles are cold-blooded, and there is a need to provide heat to keep their body temperature at an ideal range. If you cannot expose your pet to sunlight, ensure you provide a temperature gradient that allows it to move from one spot to another when it needs to warm or cool down. While at it, ensure you invest in a good thermometer and proper lighting. Other species will force you to invest in specialized heating equipment such as radiant terrarium heaters, under tank heaters, basking lights, and nocturnal heat lamps.
Lighting is crucial for the overall health and growth of the pet. The right amount of light provides reptiles with unique vitamins for mineral metabolism. Lighting also caters to the nocturnal or diurnal needs of the reptiles. You can use an ideal light source for both lighting and heating. However, some species require darkness with higher temperatures than room temperatures. If you are keeping such a pet, avoid combining both heating and lighting solutions.
You should provide near-natural humid environments for the reptiles depending on the species in your home. Before you bring home a reptile, consider how you will regulate the humidity in your pet’s enclosure. You may need to invest in misting equipment, foggers, or drippers. You should also think of investing in an ideal humidity alert device, especially if your pet is sensitive to humidity.
Some pets require a lot of care and attention; you should be ready to commit time and energy monitoring the animal. Such a pet would not be ideal for individuals with busy schedules and little time to spend on their pets. Additionally, some pets are susceptible, and you need to think about a backup strategy in case of equipment failure or illness. Some are generally sensitive and difficult to keep and may require specialist knowledge and years of experience. Whichever pet you are buying, make sure you understand well its caring needs.
If you are looking for a pet that allows for limitless handling, then a reptile should not be your first choice. Most reptiles come with different handling ranges. Some can be handled freely anytime, anywhere, and for extended periods. Others don’t like to be handled for long and can turn aggressive after a short while in your hands. Remember to clean your hands with water and soap thoroughly after handling any reptile to prevent the spread of disease.
Reptiles may carry diseases such as salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium that can be easily transmitted to humans through direct contact with feces. It can also be transmitted through oral ingestion if you handled an infected reptile and eat with unwashed hands.
Availability of a vet
Before you bring home a reptile, determine if a reptile vet is available within your locality. Not all vets are knowledgeable about reptile diseases and drugs. If you are lucky to find one, introduce your poet to the doctor early enough to ease their interaction if it gets ill in the future.
FAQs about Pet Reptiles
What is the easiest pet reptile to take care of?
One of the easiest to handle reptiles is the leopard gecko. You can easily keep the reptile in captivity, although you must provide all the care requirements to make it healthy and happy. A leopard gecko can do well in areas with no special lighting. Their diet, too, is affordable and straightforward.
Are reptiles bad pets?
If you don’t provide a reptile with all the ideal needs, it may die. Reptiles are excellent pets because of their easy to care nature. They are also friendly and a warm addition to your family. However, ensure you gather for all the needs of your pet.
Can reptiles cry?
Typically most reptiles do cry, including the larger species like crocodiles. However, far from what many believe, reptiles don’t cry out of emotions. The flow of tears helps the animals to clean out and protect their eyes.
Do lizards love to cuddle?
Although lizards have desires and things they love and dislike, they are not automatons. They, therefore, lack the love and affection common in other pets like dogs. Most reptiles dislike being petted or scratched. They will close their eyes not because they are enjoying petting but because they want to shut out the annoyance that comes with handling.
Can reptiles bond with humans?
Some species of reptiles enjoy the company of humans. For example, a tortoise who loves to be petted will stick out their necks co r close the eyes and becoming still or calm when interacting with humans. Others don’t enjoy close bonding with humans. Research well the type of reptile you are keeping before interacting with them.
Do reptiles feel pain?
Yes, reptiles feel pain. They have neurotransmitters and anatomy organs that make them feel pain. However, most reptiles hide their pain well as an adaptive measure to avoid predation in the wild.
Do reptiles need heat?
Yes. You should provide an adequate heat source for your pet. Reptiles are cold-blooded. Consequently, there is a need to provide a heat source to keep their body temperature at an ideal range.
Can reptiles transmit diseases?
Reptiles carry many germs and disease-causing pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and worms. Some of these can be easily transmitted to the family of pet owners. After handling your reptile, you must wash your hands with hot, soapy water. Similarly, wash your hands after touching the reptile tanks, equipment, food, and feces. Keep reptiles out of the kitchens and dining area. Additionally, you should confine your reptile to its tank and cage, especially if you live with children under five years old.
Pet reptiles such as snakes, turtles, lizards, and tortoise are quickly gaining popularity as ideal pets with most avid animal lovers. They are adored for their quiet, colorful, and easy to care nature. Understanding the requirements and personality of each reptile will help you get the perfect reptile fit. While not all pets are cuddly or the sort that you can take out for a walk, reptiles will steal a soft spot in your heart.