Everything you need to Know before You get a Pet Reptile

Everything you need to know about reptiles before you can get started in this exciting hobby!

Reptiles and snakes have been subject to so many prejudices over the last decades. Fortunately, many people are starting to realize that these animals are actually really interesting and fascinating animals.

Keeping snakes or lizards as pets is getting increasingly popular today. More and more people are getting their first pet reptile each day! This is of course great for the hobby and the reputation reptiles have been getting over the past years!

Morelia Viridis - Green Tree Python
To keep reptiles can be a fascinating experience – here is how you can get started!

So, if you are one of those people who are becoming interested in reptiles, this is a guide for you to what you can study and learn about these awesome creatures. After this you will be perfectly ready to eventually get your first pet reptile!


First of all, lets start with the basics you should know about reptiles and snakes:

  • The body temperature of a snake relies on external heat sources which is whyyou can often see them sunbathing, like this Green Mamba!

    Reptiles are ectotherm animals. So, unlike us, reptiles need to acquire their energy levels for the day from the sun and do not actively regulate their body temperature. That means, if it is cold outside, a reptile would not get enough energy to carry out basic bodily functions and move about.

    This is why it is so important to regulate the temperature in their enclosure to make sure the animal has the appropriate body temperature! You can read more about this in my ost on “The Best Methods to Heat your Terrarium”

  • Just like every other animal, reptiles need to replace their skin as they grow. However, unlike other creatures and because they are covered in scales, reptiles replace their skin all at once every few months to keep up with their size in a process called shedding. Snakes shed their skins in one full procedure whilst lizards usually shed in smaller bits.
  • A reptile needs to have a certain level of humidity (as close as possible to its country of origin) to make sure that  it can smoothly lift off the old skin from the new scales underneath. If you do not provide this, the reptile may fail to completely replace its skin and retain a “stuck shed”. This can be very unhealthy and dangerous. This is why it is important for you to set the humidity to an appropriate level in a reptile enclosure! You can continue reading more on this in my post on “The best Methods for Humidity Control inside your Terrarium”

    To avoid terrible conditions like this, make sure that your animals always get the appropriate humidity inside its cage!

  • Reptiles are both carnivorous and herbivorous. This means that some species feed on herbs and greens whilst others prefer meat.
  • There are roughly 9500 species of reptiles all over the world, 3000 of which are snakes. Of these 3000, some 600 are venomous and only 200 are considered medically important at all. If you want to know more about venomous snakes classification, click HERE! If you don’t understand biological classification quite yet, just click HERE!
  • Reptiles are very shy animals and generally want to be left alone. They are often scared of contact with humans and may act skittish or nervous around us. No reptile is aggressive. However, some are very defensive and easily provoked and may not be as well suited to the pet trade as others. A responsible keeper should learn how to handle a reptile before getting one! If you are interested in a guide, stay tuned, I am working on a simple beginners guide to handling reptiles!

 


Now, lets move on to some more specific topics you can study to gain more understanding of reptiles, their biology, behavior and husbandry requirements:

First of all, you want to make sure that you understand the basic bodily functions and anatomy of your pet reptile. Some lizards or snakes may have very fragile body parts that you should know about before handling your animal.

For example, all geckos, skinks and many other lizards will drop their tail as a defensive mechanism. Although the tail will eventually re-grow, it is not pretty to look at and certainly painful for the animal. This is why you should be careful when handling geckos.

Geckos and many other lizards will drop a part of their tail when grabbed to roughly, so be careful!

Also, Green Tree Pythons have very fragile spinal cords that you could easily break if you handle the animal too roughly. So, spare your animal the pain and learn how to gently handle a snake before you acquire one. More on this in my post on “How to pick up a snake”

Unfortunately, I can not give you everything you need to know about the anatomy of reptiles in just one post. So, if you are interested you are free to read on about this topic!

 


As far as the behavior of reptiles goes, there is unfortunately not one book, article or video that could summarize this huge topic. Every reptile is unique in terms of personality and trust towards humans.

Generally speaking, reptiles are not in any way attached to us. However, they can build up a certain level of trust that will allow us to handle them without having our pet freak out. To achieve this level takes quite some time and effort. We must ensure the animal feels comfortable and secure, but the time is well worth the experience for any keeper.

Reptiles tell you everything you need to understand through their body language. A cobra will hood to tell you that it is stressed out and defensive and a rattlesnake will rattle its tail. You can always spend some time around your desired species to learn their typical defensive traits and calm behavior patterns.

Defensive display of a Naja Naja, the spectacle cobra – a snake always communicates through their body language

So, although I cannot give you any distinct tips that fit your personal pet, I can encourage you to spend as much time as possible around the species and individuals you want to keep to learn their typical responses to human contact!


 

Husbandry requirements are very important topic when it comes to reptile keeping. Unfortunately, there is also not one complete guide that will tell you everything you need to know. You have to research and find the requirement that your species needs to create an appropriate home for your pet.

Beatiful natural setup for green mambas (dendroaspis viridis) usign branches and artificial plants or flowers (by Roger Aeberhard)

Generally speaking, you will achieve the best reptile husbandry by creating a home for your pet that is as close as possible to its natural habitat. I always advise you to stay away from racks and tubs and go more in the direction of naturalistic enclosures. It will greatly elevate your pet reptile experience. After all, the most beautiful part of this hobby is the privilege to observe your pet in its natural habitat comfortably at home!


 

I hope you do now feel a bit more comfortable with reptiles and are ready to continue your journey!

You are always welcome to leave a comment on my posts or directly contact me with your questions!

If you are interested in my sources, just click HERE.

Feel free to continue searching my site for what you would like to know or leave a comment about what you would like to see on this site in the future.

 

 

 

2 Replies to “Everything you need to Know before You get a Pet Reptile”

  1. I came across this article and found it very interesting.

    Since I have never really been a big fan of snakes, I have never really understood my cousin Taryn’s huge love of reptiles. She has always loved and advocated for snakes and other reptiles, been involved in groups and clubs, had big set-ups of lights… for her reptiles…

    After reading this article I can see why she loves them so much. The pictures are great.

    I’ll be sure to tell my cousin about your website.

    1. It is always great to hear that my posts make a small difference in someones perception of reptiles! 

      Thank you, I am always happy to answer questions if she has any!

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