Why do you want a reptile? Although you probably wouldn’t want to share your bed with one, reptiles make fascinating pets. Just like all animals, they each have their own unique personalities, preferences and requirements. Some first-time reptile buyers wrongfully believe that since they’re “only lizards,” they require little effort.
As with any other commitment, responsible pet ownership means asking some questions and researching the answers – beforehand:
- What type of reptile are you interested in?
- What does your choice require in the way of housing? Care? Food?
- How big will this herp get? How long will it live?
- Are these conditions amenable to your lifestyle? Your family?
- Are there any health risks?
- How will taking on the responsibility of this additional life affect your budget?
If you don’t have time to do the research, you don’t have time to care properly for the pet.
Do you have the time to care properly for a herp? Generally, reptiles require just as much (if not more) care than their more traditional counterparts. The initial set up should be in place before you bring your reptile home, so you’ll need to spend some time re-creating, to the best of your ability, the herp’s natural habitat – an enclosure unlike any place in or around your home. Maintaining proper light, temperature gradient and humidity are critical for reptiles, and this task will require daily monitoring and occasional adjustments to allow for seasonal changes as well as time of day and weather fluctuations. Fresh water and food (quite possibly live) must also be provided on a daily basis, and you’ll need to clean and disinfect your herp’s home regularly. Some reptiles are more sociable than others. Do you have time to spend handling, and training, your pet?
Are you prepared for the expense? Your biggest expense will be your initial investment in an aptly-sized enclosure, equipped with the proper heating and lighting apparatus and furnishings. Expect to see an increase in your power bill due to the electrical appliances running 24/7. Also, as the pet grows, it will require more food – which may become expensive if it eats live prey. Don’t forget to consider veterinary care. Is there a vet nearby who cares for exotics? How far might you have to drive to find one?
Is this particular pet legal in your state? If you’ve seen it in the pet store, hopefully it’s legal!Some states do have restrictions on who can own certain types of animals as pets. Check with a local veterinarian, humane society or health department to be sure.
How do I tell if a reptile is healthy? The most important thing you can do is to buy from a reputable dealer. Find out if the reptiles are wild caught or captive bred. Those bred in captivity will be healthier and have fewer parasites. Take notice of how all the pets in the store are cared for. Are they properly fed, watered and kept at appropriate temperatures? Handle the reptile you are interested in and closely examine its overall body condition. Your herp should be active in your hands, but not twitching or shaking as this could indicate an illness. Its body should be symmetric and display a good muscular tone. You shouldn’t see any prominent bones, wrinkled or dull skin, or parasites. In addition, your herp’s eyes should not appear sunken or exhibit any mucus or discharge, and its mouth should be free of any yellow or white patches. Lastly, do you feel comfortable handling this creature?
Am I ready to take on this unique responsibility? Reptiles are not for everyone, but for those who take pride in providing a specialized environment and handling an exotic animal, reptiles are a rewarding experience. “Keeping a reptile properly can provide a wonderful learning experience for the family. But so, too, can choosing not to keep one.