Snakes As Pets – Everything You Need To Know As Beginner!
The word of snake is always followed by cold chills of horror and fright across the spine. Most of us may not dare to have them as a pet in our homes. However, if you are brave and challenging enough, then having a snake as a friend can open new horizons of knowledge and discover unique features that an owner of a furry creature can never unleash. This swirling reptile never harms you unnecessarily. Snakes only bite if they red mark your presence.
So, if you are excited to dive into the world of reptilian pets, it is not a good idea to have any of them randomly. Reptiles, especially snakes, vary significantly from palm-size to gigantic ones, features, and venomous potential. Only a few species of snakes are safe as a pet. So, study a lot before having one in your home to avoid unprecedented events and undesirable situations. Also, never go for an exotic species. There are fewer data available for their care, behaviours and feed, so they can be dangerous and difficult to handle.
In this article, we will discuss all you need to know before having a snake as a pet. Continue reading till the very end and note all the essential tips in your diary.
Can We Keep A Snake As A Pet?
Yes, many species of snakes can be kept as pets safely.
There are more than 3500 species of snakes around the globe. Many of them are venomous, but they can also be tamed to be kept as pet safely. To name a few, we have:
- Rat snakes
- Corn snakes
- Various pythons (including ball pythons)
- Garter snakes
- Multiple boa constrictors (especially the common boa constrictor) etc.
Most of the information available on the internet is about ball python. They are the most common pet snakes present. Although most of the information that works for pet ball pythons is also suitable for the majority of pet snakes on land, some do love to deviate. So, before having a pet snake at your home, always do thorough research about the species specifically. Talking to the pet store owner will not be enough as they will have a marketing perspective. Go for a veterinarian appointment specializing in reptiles or knowledgeable herpetologists(the person who studies amphibians and reptiles).
Snake Behaviour As Pet
Following are the behaviours of snake you see when you have them as a pet:
- Most of the snakes legally allowed to be kept as pets are docile and non-aggressive. Some exotic species of snakes to be kept by reptile collectors and zoos do have aggressive innate behaviour. However, they are not commonly sold in pet stores and online markets.
- They eat pretty a little as compared to your furry fellows. Most of the snakes, especially the popular ball pythons in their adult phase, feed once a week.
- Snakes stop eating under stress when you get them at your home. They may not eat for weeks to months until they get relaxed and feel safe with you.
- Snakes are pretty vulnerable and under stress when they are shedding. Moreover, they also lose their hunger and show violent behaviours. So, avoid handling during the shedding period and leave it alone to complete the process calmly.
- Snakes in the yard may attract hawks and other large birds. So, mind the predators of snakes if you are going to keep it outside.
- Snakes sleep a lot! Most of them sleep up to 16 hours a day. In winters and during shedding time, the sleeping period may jump easily up to 20 hours. These less active periods help them survive prolonged periods of no eating and drinking.
Legal Allowance Of Keeping Snakes As Pets
Every state has its special regulations when it comes to having venomous creatures as pets. Even you have a non-venomous snake or remove the venom gland of your snake. You still have to keep it in the venomous animal category of the law of your state. Most states do not allow having a wild snake as a pet and illegal wild snake trafficking. Some as Florida, West Virginia and Florida allow capturing and petting the native snake species. However, it is always preferable to buy and sell only captive breeds. It is because wild snakes are more violent and less tolerant to the stress and human fellows around them. So, they may observe aggressive behaviours. Moreover, they tend to starve a lot as they do not like the captive environment and also harbour multiple parasites on their skin and inside the gut.
In most of the states, you need to have the special permit of having any kind of snake as a pet, and some do not allow having any of them at all. So, learn your state laws thoroughly about having venomous reptiles before having a pet snake.
Anatomical And Physiological Features Of The Snake
Snakes belong to the Reptilian class. These limbless creatures vary in their specifications e.g., colour, texture, behaviours etc a lot from species to species. The long body is divided into four quadrants with vital organs in the first one. Male and female snakes appear the same physically. The sex can only be determined by careful probing the snake’s vent. The probing of the snake should only be done by some experienced veterinarian as handling by an inexperienced person may cause serious damage to your snake.
Snakes vary significantly from reticulated pythons of 6.25 meter in length to Barbados thread snake of 10.4 cm or 4.1 inches. When it comes to the most frequent snake pet, i.e., ball pythons, they may grow up to 5-6 feet in their adult age of 3-5 years. The hatchlings of these snakes are up to a foot long and have 1 foot/year of growth rate of up to 3 years.
The teeth of snakes are not rooted in the jaws like humans; instead are attached to the surface of the jaw bone. They shed throughout their life. Even if you remove the fangtooth of the snake, it can regrow it. Most snakes have heat-sensitive pit organs on them, which help them detect their prey. They are so sensitive that they can detect a change of up to 0.002 degree Celsius. There is no tympanic membrane in the ear. However, the presence of a single ossicle complies that it can sense the sound waves of very low frequency from the ground. Vomeronasal or Jacobson’s organ is responsible for smell sense generation in snakes.
Shedding In Snakes
The skin of the reptile is wholly covered with scales. It is this scaly skin the snake shed during the process of moulting. Moulting/ shedding/ ecdysis is one of the most essential processes in a snake’s life. The exact process can be observed in other members of a reptilian class as pet bearded dragons have frequent shedding in their lifecycle. However, the speciality of snake ecdysis or moulting is that snakes shed in one piece rather than small parts. Snakes greater than 3m in length may shed in pieces depending on the environmental conditions. Most snakes shed 3 to 4 times in the year. However, the frequency varies a lot depending on the growth rate.
The life of a snake varies from species to species. Some wild snakes are even known to live for hundreds of years. However, most colubrids and ball pythons live up to 20 years. Small snakes live up to 10 years, usually due to more predators and less immunity.
Classification Of Snakes:
Here is the classification of snakes:
Classification Of Snakes
The family, genus and species vary from organism to organism. Snakes are excellent pets. However, there are certain benefits and harms associated with having them at their home. Let’s have a look at both aspects briefly.
Perks Of Having Pet Snakes
Following are some perks you will enjoy when you have a pet snake at your home:
- Snakes are low maintenance pets. They do not need a variety of grooming efforts.
- Snakes are primarily carnivores. So, they need only meat. You can feed live preys and also the frozen ones you can easily buy from some store.
- Also, snakes eat significantly less frequently, once or twice a week. However, you need to provide a constant supply of fresh water.
- They do not develop separation anxiety like most furry fellows.
- They need a little exercise. So if you are quite a busy person and cannot spare time daily for your pet’s exercise, have a snake!
- Snakes are easy to house and maintain. We will discuss it in the latter sections.
- They do not make much mess.
You can leave them alone for 2-3 days easily if the water supply and other necessities are maintained.
Cons Of Having Pet Snakes
After reading the pros of having a pet snake, you may feel amazed about having one for you. However, particular challenges come along with having these amazing reptiles as pets. Some are stated as:
- They do not love to be handled. Especially if you get an adult snake, the chances are less they enjoy your company much. So, if you want to cuddle with your pet, snakes are not an option for you
- Snakes are carnivores and eat live and dead animals. If you are nauseatic or squeamish about their feed, skip snake from your list.
- Each snake breed has its maintenance and environmental requirements. So, you need to study thoroughly before having one for you.
- Snakes love to escape and if they do, the fauna out there will easily engulf it. So, you need to make sure the enclosure is escape-proof for your pet.
- Snakes are not beginner-friendly. If you had not handled any kind of pets before, especially reptiles, think twice before having a snake.
- Snakes, especially the wild ones, house many harmful bacterias and parasites, including the most common Salmonella. Snakes can also pass botulism, trichinellosis, leptospirosis, and campylobacteriosis. So, make sure you take precautions and follow hygiene parameters whenever you handle your pet.
- Increased careless snake handling can not only make you sick but also put them on the verge of multiple infections, which can cause breathing difficulties, skin infection, stomatitis, diarrhoea etc.
- If you stay outside your house for long tours, having a snake is not a great idea. It is because it is difficult to find a caretaker for a snake easily to compensate for your absence.
Housing Requirements Of Snake
The enclosure for the snake need to spacious. For smaller snakes, plastic enclosures of 10 to 20 gallons work well. However, as it grows, you need to have more expansive enclosures made of glass, fibreglass, or plexiglass. Create a terrarium or vivarium for your pet, considering its natural habitat. Include plants, tree branches, and rocks. Make sure you provide proper space to hide and relax. You may also get a ready to use enclosure for snakes from online market.
Also, include a heavy wide-mouthed ceramic bowl filled with water. Make sure to clean the water bowls daily and fill them with fresh water. While making an enclosure for your snake, make sure it is well ventilated and escape-proof. Do not use wood to make the enclosure, as it will be pretty challenging to clean and maintain.
The bedding material should be non-toxic, easy to clean and non-irritant for the snake. It can be of newspaper, towels, butcher paper, or artificial grass.
- Wood shavings
- Walnut shells
- Corncob material
- Cat litter
These materials are not only difficult to maintain but also can cause intestinal impaction in ingested.
Cedarwood is toxic for most reptiles. Avoid its shavings for bedding.
All reptiles are cold-blooded animals. So, you need to maintain a temperature gradient in the tank. The hotter temperature should be somewhere 32-degree centigrade to 38-degree centigrade. At the same time, the colder side lies at 21-degree centigrade to 24-degree centigrade. You can use a heater, or a more economical way is to use a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a due reflector hood. Ensure the heating area doesn’t give an escape route to the snake, or it may come in contact with it accidentally. You may also use heating pads which are commonly available across the online markets. However, consult your vet before using them.
You can switch off the heating source at night as long as the temperature stays between 18-21 degree centigrade.
It is wise to add the source of UVB light for your snake. However, if you skip one for a short time or provide it periodically, it is still good. It is because snakes get proper nutrition, vitamins and minerals from their diet. So, they can compensate for the deficiency in light.
Diet Of Pet Snakes
Snakes are carnivores, so their owners can easily provide a nutritionally balanced diet to their pets without much effort. The diet of a snake varies with species. Some of the snakes eat insects, eggs, amphibians, other reptiles, fish, slug, or earthworm. At the same time, some eat warm-blooded animals like birds, rodents, rabbits, mice etc. Snakes swallow their food without eating.
Most popular pet snakes in markets have
- And rabbits.
Handling A Snake
Snakes do not like much handling. However, they get habitual to you and mark you as safe. Wash your hands before handling your snake. Lift it gently, and do not grip it tightly. Moreover, never bring it near your face or neck. A new snake may consider it hostile and get aggressive.
Always wash your hands afterwards!
Moreover, avoid handling your snake when it is sleeping, hiding, or undergoing shedding. Also, grab more giant snakes from 1/3rd part of their body. Do not grab any snake from the neck. It can harm them and also make them aggressive.
Snakes Species That Stay Small
If you are not comfortable with more giant snakes or cannot provide enough space for larger ones, it is better to have a smaller snake. Smaller snakes are also easy to maintain. Following are some small pet snake breeds you can have:
- Rosy boas
- Gopher snake
- Barbados Threadsnake
- Smooth Green snake
- Ball pythons
- Anthill Python
- Sand boa
- African Egg-Eating snake
- Bimini Blind snake
- Rough Green snake
- Garter snake
- Western hognose snake
- Children’s Python
- Ribbon snake
- Worm snake
- Corn snake
- Scarlet Kingsnake
- California Kingsnake
What Snakes Are Safe To Have As A Pet?
Other than above mentioned smaller pet snakes following are the most common snake species that are kept as pets:
- Ball pythons
- Corn snakes
- Boa constrictors
Frequently Asked Questions
Snakes are very popular as pets. If you can provide the conditions close to their natural habitat, it is incredible to have them as pets. Having a reptile pet opens new doors to learning and amazing discoveries. However, learn a lot about the species of the pet you are going to have. Moreover, visit your veterinarian immediately after having a pet snake, even if it looks completely healthy. For detailed information, surf through our website and have the most comprehensive knowledge about every aspect.
If you still have any questions, feel free to contact us. We would be happy to help.