Snakes as Pets: What to Know Before You Bring One Home

Pet snake

Snakes — most people love them or fear them. They are not your typical cuddly pet, but as snake owners will tell you, their pets recognize them and respond to their voices. They can be gentle, beautiful animals, but they have very specific environmental and dietary needs that must be met to keep them happy and healthy. If you’re considering a snake as a pet, there are certain things you should know before you bring one home.
1. Snakes need certain temperatures and humidity levels. Snakes’ body temperatures adjust to their environmental temperatures. They generally require both a hot, basking zone in their tanks, often in the 90°s, and a cooler zone in the 70°s, to regulate their body temperatures properly. Some snakes also need ultraviolet light to help them make vitamin D in their skin, which in turn enables them to better absorb calcium from their food. Without adequate humidity, they will not shed the skin on their bodies or the clear coverings (called spectacles) over their eyes properly.

2. Snakes grow long — sometimes very long. Many young snakes start off very small but, depending on their species, may grow to several feet long and several inches in girth. Some large species can weigh more than 100 pounds when fully grown, which may not be for several years. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot limit the size of a snake by confining it to a small tank. Be sure you research the species you are considering so that you know how big it might ultimately be. In general, snakes should be provided with a tank large enough for them to fully stretch out in. The best way to purchase an appropriately sized snake tank is to approximate the size of the snake and visit or contact a reptile specialty supply store (there are many online) to order the correct one.

3. Snakes eat rodents. If you’re not prepared to feed your snake mice or rats, then don’t have a snake. Live rodents should never be offered to a snake, as they can bite the snake and inflict serious injury. Thawed frozen rodents or freshly killed ones are recommended instead. The size of the rodent fed is determined by the size of the snake and may change as the snake ages and grows.


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