Snakes - How to Care for Snakes
Why is a snake a good pet? They are quiet and docile, and most snakes are easy to handle. They are also clean and odorless. Some snake pet owners get misty eyed over their babies’ first shed. I have a great deal of respect for a snake and have handled several, but never have owned one as a pet. I once had a snake houseguest. I let him have the best guestroom, the bathroom. A short while later I went in to check on him. He was not where I put him. I, of course panicked, feeling very bad that I had let a good friend down. I searched, all over the floor where I had put him. After searching, what seemed like hours, I turned around, at eye level were two little eyeballs and a flicky tongue. I am sure I heard him say, hey dummy, are you looking for me? He had crawled up the wall and had wrapped himself around the showerhead.
The baby corn snake
Why the Snake might not make a good pet
I for one really do not like determining who's who on the food chain. I have had pet rats and mice. I cannot bring myself to feed live animals to any other animal. Granted this is no different than feeding a steak to my husband. Oh, that did not sound good at all! However, the steak is dead animal. I did not cause its death. Snakes have killed people. However, then again dogs have killed people too. The owners must accept responsibility for keeping these animals in a safe and secure habitat.
Snakes have been viewed differently by many cultures throughout the ages. Christianity viewed snakes as demonic, from the stories of the Garden of Eden. I am afraid these stories have cause millions of snakes to be killed. Other cultures have honored the snake. They see the shedding of the skin as rebirth. Do you ever wonder why the snake is seen on the symbol of medical professionals?
"The crosier of Asklepios, Greek god of medicine, is still the symbol of the medical professions. The snake that is twisted around the crosier, the Aesculapius sign stands for good health and a long life. According to a Greek myth, the figure Aesculapius discovered medicine by watching as a snake used herbs to bring back another snake to life."
In many areas, the government regulates snakes so before purchasing find out about the legalities of owning a snake in your area. Many require permits and accurate record keeping.
What is a Popular Snake Species?
Snakes not for a beginner
Snakes that don't make good pets
All Venomous snakes
Copperhead snake picture
copperhead snake picture
Buying a Healthy Snake
Only captive-bred animals should be purchased as pets. Before you purchase a snake, find a qualified veterinarian. Snakes have slower metabolisms so they could have an illness and it will be a long time before symptoms appear. Have your snake checked out by a reptile veterinarian within the first 48 hours. Make sure the snake you are considering buying is free of mites and ticks. Check for evidence of wounds or infection by checking his scales. Look for mucus in the mouth. Check his eyes. Make sure the snake is not aggressive. An aggressive snake will hiss and pull into a strike position. His tongue will rapidly flick A calm snake will flick his tongue in an up or down fashion and move about comfortably.
Housing and Equipment
Make sure you have his habitat ready for him before you bring him home. You want to make 100% sure that the enclosure you are planning to use is escape proof. Make sure the cage is easy to clean, is well ventilated, and is of adequate size. A good formula to use is 3/4 square foot of floor space for a foot of snake. Hagan makes a nice terrarium (24" x 18" x 18") which makes a perfect environment or vivarium for a snake.
They would enjoy branches and rounded rocks to climb besides, it provides for a more nature environment for the snake.
Temperature and Humidity
Snakes are cold blood and cannot regulate their own internal temperatures. One end of the cage should be heated with under tank heater or light outside of the cage around 90-95 F. The other side should be cooler and shady about 70-75 F, so the snake can choose to cool down when he needs to. A thermometer is important since just being off by a couple degrees can cause the snake not to eat, or be able to digest his food. The average temperature range should be between 80F and 88F by species of snake. Find out the exact correct temperature of the species you purchase. Snakes are cooled for hibernation. Full-spectrum light should be on for about 12 hours a day. Snakes need light to survive too. Though a snake isn’t constructed with a boney skeleton as most reptiles much evidence is coming out that they do benefit from the D3 that the full spectrum light helps to create. All lights should be on the outside of the tank otherwise the snake could become burned and injured.
The snakes enclosure or habitat needs to be in between 35% and 70% humidity. Anything above or below will cause serious problems. Keep a humidity gage inside the enclosure.
Substrate for Snakes
Substrates have to be non toxic. Examples of toxic would be cedar shavings or pine shavings. In addition, avoid walnut shell, sand, corn cob, gravel, or wood shavings, any of these substances could be ingested and cause an impaction. I personally like aspen, it is safe, and snakes like to burrow and have the natural feeling that they are able to burrow.
Some people use newspaper which I deplore. I hate any carpeting. Last I looked there was no carpeting in any natural snake settings. Can you imagine being a snake and have nothing but carpet; icky.
Food (prey) and Water
Fresh water should be supplied daily. Snakes are carnivorous. A snake is fed once a week. Younger snakes and or smaller snakes should be fed more often. Some of the larger snakes may go up to three weeks without eating. It doesn’t hurt to offer food once a week; each animal is an individual with individual needs. You will soon know what your exotic pet requires. Find out what the best food or the foods that the species of snake that you are purchasing requires. Many snakes eat rats and mice. Some snakes eat eggs.
In the corn snakes natural environment they will coil around their live prey until they suffocate it. They swallow their food whole. In an enclosed area, live food could injure your snake. They will eat, and should only be fed killed food. An active snake will eat every week to 10 days or so.
New hatchlings will eat the smallest pinkie mouse obtainable. In the wild, they eat small lizards and a variety of other small food prey. A live mouse can be prekilled. Frozen mice in a variety of sizes can be purchased quite reasonably. Of course, thaw the mouse before feeding. Thaw it completely in warm water before feeding so that the mouse is warmed through. Throw away any uneaten food promptly. Do not refreeze. Fed too large of a size of a mouse may cause the snake to vomit. Fed too small of a mouse will cause stunted growth. Rule of thumb feed a mouse about the size of the widest girth of the snake.
If you do feed live prey be sure to remove any live mice or rats that your snake has not eaten in an hour's time. He isn't hungry and live rodents have been known to ingest captive snakes. The snake can also die from infections from rodent bites or scratches. Vitamin supplements should be provided.
Never overfeed or underfeed to try to either, control their growth rate, obesity or under nourish will lead to an early death.
Cleanliness and Disinfecting
Snakes can harbor salmonella and dangerous bacteria. Wash your hands after handling your snake or any of the material that is exposed to him. Do not use bleach Lysol or Pinesol on the cage or accessories, these substances are dangerous for snakes. Use a Chlorhexidine based disinfectant to clean cages and accessories. Clean the cage as it gets dirty. Cleanliness and disinfecting is very important when dealing with a snake. Here is information on salmonella, other bacterium, and harmful viruses that can affect you and your snake. Health, Sanitizing, and Salmonella
Snakes shed their skin. This takes place about once every month to three months. During this time, do not be concerned because the snake will refuse his food. Remember to remove his rodent dinner after one hour if he has not eaten or else he could become dinner himself. A spray of humidity will often help the snake with his molt. Many reptiles molt in splits while a snake will shed the whole skin. Stress is the biggest cause of illness in a snake after cleanliness and proper sanitary conditions.
I do not advocate venomous snakes as pets. I am not a strong advocate of snakes as pets, though I will concede that they do make good pets for some people. I am not an advocate only because too many people view snakes as exotic pets that require minimum care. With any pet or exotic pet, educate yourself before considering a purchase. This article is to give you a general over view about the snake. Seek out detailed information if you are considering a snake as a pet. Please do not purchase a snake until you are sure that you can meet his specialized needs.
Get a book on snake care; specifically a book on the species of snake that you want. I never recommend any venomous snakes (for example, a copperhead snake or a rattlesnake) or venomous animals be it a snake or a platypus. Also consider how big the snake will get.
My Reptiles Articles - Reptile Care Articles
***Gecko - Snake - Rats - Reader's Personal Stories
***Snakes - How to Care for Snakes
The New Encyclopedia of Snakes
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