Many people are becoming interested in the hobby of reptile keeping, and snakes are one of the most popular reptiles to keep as a pet. Many people become interested in keeping a snake after a visit to a reptile zoo, where they enjoy watching the unique animals in their natural-looking habitats. While this is a great way to get started in the hobby, there is more to keeping a snake as a pet than might first be apparent, and for the animal’s sake, hobbyists must know how to properly care for each animal they buy.
Educate Yourself on the Breed
Before choosing a snake to keep as a pet, educate yourself on the different breeds and their needs. Snakes are found all over the world and in nearly every environment. For this reason, some snakes are much easier to keep healthy than others. The ball python, a very common first snake for beginning keepers because of its low price and docile nature, can be a picky eater and requires a humid environment. Read carefully about different breeds and choose one that is appropriate for beginners. Eventually, many hobbyists branch out into keeping more difficult or hard-to-find breeds like rare pythons.
Have the Correct Size of Cage
Snakes need space to explore and live healthy lives, just like any animal. Some snakes have higher needs for space, while others don’t roam much and are content with less space. However, all snakes should be given enough space for their age and breed, and like most pets, the more space they have the better. If you are buying a baby snake, consider its eventual size and make sure you are prepared to house it as it gets larger.
Keep Water Full
Snakes need to have access to water at all times. They need to drink and occasionally soak. Keepers must keep the water clean and make sure it’s full. And the water can run dry quickly with the heat lamp or heat mat nearby, so pet owners need to check it daily.
Pay Attention to Humidity
All reptiles have specific humidity needs and snakes are no different. What humidity level your snake needs will depend on its breed and species, with tropical snakes having much different requirements than snakes from more arid environments. Since the humidity of most homes is 50% or less, tropical snake owners will need to take special measures to keep their cages humid. More enclosed tanks help, as well as having moist substrates like damp coconut bark. Also, spray the habitat with clean water as needed. Snakes need especially humid conditions when they are shedding, and if it is too dry they cannot shed correctly, an issue that can cause health problems if it’s not remedied.
Feed on a Schedule
Snakes need to be fed on a regular schedule. This is good for the snake, as eating too often can be harmful, and it helps the owner remember to feed properly. Since snakes are usually fed once a week or less, it can be easy to forget unless it’s scheduled. Baby snakes usually eat once a week or so, and as they move on to larger prey, they may keep this schedule or move to eating less often.
Feed Appropriately-Sized Food
As they grow, snakes will need more food to sustain them. This is not done by feeding more often or more items, it’s done by feeding larger-sized food. While baby snakes may start out eating small prey like frozen baby mice, as they grow they will graduate to full-sized mice and, for many species, rats or rabbits.
If your snake is used to eating frozen food, don’t be tempted into offering live prey. Live prey is more expensive, can potentially hurt your snake by biting or spreading disease, and snakes that are offered live prey are more likely to start refusing frozen food.
Don’t Bother Them Too Much
Snakes are not particularly social animals. Like any animal, they can learn to recognize the people who they see regularly and who feed them, but they don’t always enjoy handling. Some breeds can be more tolerant than others, but in general, it’s best not to handle your snake too much. On the other hand, if you never handle them, they may become scared or aggressive, so try to be deliberate about the times and amount you hold and interact with your pet.
Decorate the Cage Correctly
When you are designing your snakes’ habitat, you may want to go all out with decorations, plants, rocks, and backgrounds. Before you spend any money, consider the feelings of the inhabitant. The substrate and decorations in your cage should fit your snake’s needs. The substrate is especially important as some species need more humid bedding, while others prefer to burrow and need something that is loose and fluffy.
Also, consider the types of decorations you use. Practicality is more important than style. If you have an arboreal snake, make sure they have plenty of places to climb and hang on branch-like structures. These snakes also do better with taller habitats. If you have a nocturnal species, make sure they have plenty of hides and places to sleep. The hides should allow the snake to fully fit inside if he wishes. If your breed of snake prefers to spend some time in the water, you will need an extra-large water bowl.
Keep the Lid Latched
Finally, make sure that your lid latches very well and that it is hard to open. Snakes, even small snakes, are surprisingly strong and it is very common for pet snakes to escape from their environments. Make a habit of always latching the cage, even if you are going to need it open again right away, and make sure that young children are not allowed to access the habitat unsupervised.
Keeping reptiles can be a rewarding, fascinating, and entertaining hobby and is appropriate for both adults and children (with supervision) as long as the owner is well-educated and careful to apply the best practices to his hobby