Choosing a Reptile for a Pet

February 12th, 2013 posted by Jane Warren

Kids seem naturally drawn to snakes, turtles, lizards and frogs, although adults vary in their affinity for these cold-blooded critters. Sooner or later, one of your children will likely express an interest in getting a reptile or amphibian as a pet. Before you head to the pet store, though, there are several things you need to know. First, people tend to assume that frogs, lizards and snakes are low-maintenance pets. Nothing could be further from the truth. These animals have very specific environmental needs, and you’ll be responsible for ensuring that their habitat is warm enough/cool enough, dry enough/humid enough for the individual pet. You’ll need to regularly clean and disinfect the enclosure to stave off disease. A dog, in comparison, needs only a warm bed, a leash, some toys, dog food and wee wee puppy pads . Additionally, dietary needs are fairly complicated for most of these animals. Omnivorous snakes, frogs and lizards need crickets, king worms, mice or even rabbits. This means regular trips to the pet store to purchase food. How do you feel about having frozen mice and rabbits in your freezer? Herbivorous reptiles need greens usually unavailable at traditional grocery stores. You’ll likely trek to natural food stores to find their food. Who’s going to take care of the pet? Most children are unable to provide the care reptiles and amphibians need by themselves, at least at the beginning. Are you willing to invest time and energy into maintaining a frog or snake? Many kids are often excited initially about a cool new reptile or frog, but lose interest when they realize how much work the pet is. I experienced this phenomenon with my son, who desperately wanted a frog, but quickly became bored with it. Unlike dogs or cats, reptiles don’t cuddle or interact much with humans, so bonding with one is difficult, yet these pets need and deserve good care. As Anna Sewell said, “We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel. Yet, they do not suffer less because they have no words.” When you visit a pet store, you’ll be impressed by how inexpensive a reptile is in comparison to a dog or cat. Don’t be fooled, though. That $10 anole lizard will actually cost you $200 or more by the time you’ve properly set up the enclosure with a heating pad and paid for live food. So, do you still want a reptile? There are some great benefits. They are very cool, and can provide great learning opportunities for kids. If you’re committed to giving them the necessary care, then you may be a good candidate for a reptile. Below are a few tips for successfully choosing a reptile pet:

  • Some reptiles make better pets than others. If you’re looking for a lizard, start with a leopard gecko, bearded dragon, or collared lizard. If you decide you want a snake, corn snakes or captive bred King snakes are good snakes to start with.
  • Avoid herbivorous lizards, which tend to grow very large. Chameleons, basilisks, anoles and green iguanas fall into this category. These animals have very specific care needs and are prone to disease. They tend to scratch and may bite, as well.
  • Do not buy any large, constricting snake, especially if you have children. Burmese pythons, for example, have been involved in several fatalities. Tree pythons have nasty bites.
  • Think carefully before buying a turtle. These gentle animals are prone to disease, and may carry diseases to humans. They are much more difficult to care for than a pet store owner will tell you.
  • Find veterinarian care before you buy a reptile. Many vets don’t have the expertise to treat reptiles, and it’s not uncommon to have to drive considerable distances to find care.

Jane Warren (2 Posts)


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Cindy Rowe
Cindy Rowe (7 Posts)

Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!


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