Snakes - How to care for your slithery friend!
Snakes are often depicted as slimy and slithery but are actually cold blooded creatures and are, effectively, reptiles without legs. They can make great pets and are relatively easy to keep, providing they have the ideal conditions. With the proper attention they are usually docile, cheap to feed, do not smell and are fairly low maintenance. So what is actually involved and how can you ensure your new pet snake is happy and contented?
Space and housing requirements
With so many varieties of snake available, (over 2000!) space must be the first consideration you must take into account. A boa constrictor will, obviously, need a larger enclosure than a corn snake! Also, snakes do grow and, as a long term pet, you must consider the amount of space they will need when fully grown. You will also need to consider how active your snake is as, the more active they are, the more space they will need. Also, you need to consider their natural environment and try to mimic this as much as possible. For instance, tree snakes will require branches and, as such, a relatively tall enclosure. A glass aquarium/vivarium that is locked and secure (to prevent escape!) is usually the best environment for them, at the right size.
The aquarium should be situated in a good position, out of direct sunlight and cold air. Most will need light and heat requirements that are specific to the breed of snake. The aquarium will also need to contain somewhere for them to hide/sleep and bedding that is appropriate for the breed, e.g. sand or newspaper, plus a water bowl. It is best to read up on the specific breed details and be confident you can satisfy the requirements before you buy! Heat lamps may be required by some breeds and it is important to mimic the day/night light conditions of their natural habitat to keep your snake healthy.
Feeding your snake the correct diet is important. All snakes are carnivores and many can be fed pre-killed mice bought frozen from a pet shop or crickets or other insects but, again, it all depends on the breed and their size. Others will have more specific requirements, such is the variety of breeds available! Snakes are relatively cheap to feed and do not need feeding every day.
When handling a snake, it is, again, wise to be cautious. Snakes can get used to you and to a routine, but, until your snake gets to know you, the advice is to handle with care. Try to handle them when they are sleepy and approach them slowly. As a first time pet snake owner, it is probably best to go for one of the more gentle breeds of snake, especially if the snake will be handled by children. It is important to understand the nature of your snake. Also, do not handle your snake if you have been handling its food, the scent may cause it to bite. Snake sticks can be used as an aid.
Other snake facts
Snakes moult as they grow and it is important to let them do this naturally. As they get older and reach maturity, they should moult less and less. Snakes can move from side to side and forwards but not backwards! Snakes also have no eyelids or ears! They sense things by using their forked tongues. Some snakes may need to hibernate to maintain their health.
Corn snakes are generally regarded as the best snakes to start with as they are docile, easy to handle and can be very attractive. Also, Ball Pythons are also quite slow and docile but have a long life span so commitment is important. Milk snakes can also be a good choice for the beginner.
Providing you read up on the specific requirements of your chose snake breed, then you should find keeping a snake a rewarding hobby!
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