Before You Buy: Pet Reptile
by: Amber Van Denzen Suarez, CPPS
Before you choose a reptile as a pet here are 5 things you need to know:
1. Do Your Research
Not all reptiles should be your first reptile. Some may look easy to care for – but actually can be quite difficult and high cost to maintain.
- Some good starter Reptiles include: Corn Snake, Russian Tortoise and Leopard Geckos
2. Adult Size
Many reptiles will grow much larger then their baby or young adult size. This requires much larger housing needs, and larger amounts of food to feed them. Offer them not just the minimum requirements, but what will give the a GOOD QUALITY OF LIFE. This may includes very large enclosures that can take up half of an average size room to give them space for exercise and mental stimulation.
Some enclosures can cost hundreds of dollars just for the cage, not the interior needs.
All reptiles have different habitat requirements and you must research before adopting or purchasing them. Here are the top 5 things you need to research and confirm needs of:
- Being cold-blooded, reptiles rely on heat for their body for basic functions like digestion.
- Provide temperature gradient – hot to cold areas- not allow your herp to move from place to place as it needs to warm up by basking, or cool down in the shade.
- Purchase specialized heating equipment like nocturnal heat lamps, basking lights, under-tank heaters, radiant terrarium heaters, heat light bulbs, etc
- Have 2 thermometers for the enclosure- one in the hot area, one in the cool to ensure proper temp in those areas.
- Lastly, remember the cost of electricity as some of these must be provided 24/7
- Certain lighting allows reptiles to create specific vitamins in their body- and the little, filtered light from a window usually wont do for necessary mineral metabolism.
- Sometimes a light source can be used for both light and heating. However, for species that require darkness with higher temperatures than your room temperature, you will need to have specific reptile lights for such.
- More Information on UVA + UVB lighting and how to determine what you need:https://www.zillarules.com/articles/understanding-uva-uvb-uvc-reptile-lighting#:~:text=Reptiles%20and%20amphibians%20need%20both,your%20pet%20happy%20and%20healthy.
- Reptiles in the wild are accustomed to locations with fairly stable humidity (moisture in the air) based on how they evolved.
- Most reptiles will need either: misting equipment, drippers, or foggers to create the proper environment.
- Last, purchase a good humidity alert device to ensure the humidity is the proper percentage.
Substrate + Decor
- Many reptiles require a sand or moist substrate ont eh bottom of the tank depending on their needs.
4. Feeding Reptiles
Reptile diets are one of the hardest diets to get proper information about- and every reptile is completely different. Many commercial foods are unsafe- but marketed well to make consumers think they are the right fit- but truly are not.
- The best places to find proper diet information are organizations or groups- online typically-that are specific to that species.
- The main goals are to hit their fresh and premade nutritional needs- including vitamin and mineral content.
- Some species require LIVE food of bugs or other. Be prepared to store and have space for them as well.
- To learn more specifics on reptile diets and nutrition for your future pet-look here:
5. Safety First
Safety for both the human and the animals are important with any pet- but reptiles can be quite sensitive to touch and their environment.
- Maintain cleanliness of the environment
- Wash your hands after touching them. Some reptiles have the ability to potentially carry salmonella, but with proper care contamination can be avoided
- Turtles, frogs, iguanas, snakes, geckos, horned toads, salamanders and chameleons frequently carry the bacteria called Salmonella that can cause serious illness in people. Learn More Here: https://arav.org/salmonella-bacteria-reptiles/
- Locks + Closures- Many reptiles have safety requirements for enclosures to avoid them from escaping. You would be surprised how sneaky they can be!
Also be prepared to have back up care persons for daily tasks when you are away such as a pet sitter. If in Lakeland and Mulberry, Florida- :Atta Boy! Animal Care Pet Sitting is trained in reptile care and would love to meet your rep friends!