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They generally don’t like to cuddle, and they certainly can’t go fetch, but snakes can make great pets for some people. As with any pet, owning a snake requires commitment and care. Take this short true-or-false quiz to find out if you are that special person ready to have a snake slither into your life.
False. Contrary to popular belief, snakes are clean, smooth, dry-skinned animals that usually pose no danger to people if they are fed well and housed properly. There are more than 2,700 species of snakes in the world. Of these, only about 375 are venomous. In most states, it is against the law for anyone except a licensed herpetologist to keep poisonous or venomous snakes in captivity.
True. Boa constrictors can make great pets in the right circumstances. Snakes are generally not recommended for families with small children. The most common snakes kept as pets are the constrictor species (boas, pythons, rat snakes and milk snakes) and the racer, gopher and garter species. The best snakes for a beginner include the king snake and the corn snake, because of their gentle nature. Pet snakes should always be obtained by a pet store or breeder and not taken from the wild. Keeping a wild snake captive is actually against the law. When deciding on a snake, prospective owners must take into consideration the space requirements, as well as light and heat requirements. Some species can grow up to 10 feet long.
True. Because of their limited and nonexertional activity, snakes do not need a large enclosure. The size of the enclosure should allow for the inclusion of a privacy box and water source and still allow room for the snake to stretch out and move about. An aquarium is the best house for a snake, because it allows the pet owner to see the snake, and the glass or plexiglass helps maintain the required temperature and humidity level. Like Houdini, many snakes are able to slither out of apparently secure enclosures, so any snake enclosure must have a secure top and be escape proof.
False. All snakes are carnivores and consume a variety of items, including rodents, birds, frogs and other reptiles. Snakes eat their food whole and are able to consume food three times larger than the diameter of their head, because a snake's lower jaw can separate from its upper jaw.
Because frightened prey may attack, pet snakes should be fed dead or incapacitated prey whenever possible to avoid injury to the snake. Live rodents fed to snakes commonly bite them and can inflict serious injury. Therefore, pet owners must be comfortable with keeping dead animals in their freezer that can be thawed and warmed up before feeding. Most snakes need to be fed only once every one to two weeks, and water should be available at all times. Food can be purchased through a reptile veterinarian or reptile supply store.
False. Although snakes don’t run around the yard and play like dogs and cats, they still require a great deal of commitment from their owners. They need exercise and should be given adequate tank space to move around. Snakes have unique dietary, housing and veterinary needs, including heat and humidity requirements, and should be kept only by people who are committed to understanding and meeting those needs. Many snakes also live a long time —10 to 40 years — so commitment to long-term care is necessary.
True. A thorough veterinary evaluation of any new snake is essential. Newly acquired snakes often have one or more health problems, such as malnutrition or intestinal parasites. It is also important for pet snakes to undergo yearly routine veterinary exams for disease prevention.
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