When they think about pet animals, most people call to mind the more traditional dogs or cats.
However, reptiles can also make fantastic pets.
If you are new to the scaly section of the animal kingdom, these seven tips will teach you everything you need to know about herpetology.
(Okay, not everything–there are entire degrees and books for that!–but we cover all the basics of what you’ll need to know to get started in reptile ownership.)
If you want to get into herpetology and don’t know where to start, read on!
1. Do Your Research
Start off by responsibly researching what species of reptile you are going to buy, what
their specific needs are, and what the cost is likely to be.
These days, it is possible to order a reptile on the internet and have it delivered to you the next day. Johnathan David from Everything Reptiles says In no circumstances should you ever impulse-buy an animal.
You need to be prepared both upfront and in the long-term. The animal may be tiny and adorable as a baby, but will you be prepared for when it grows to be over 6 feet, or lives for over 20 years?
Research a reputable breeder in your area to obtain your reptile from, rather than sources that capture and sell wild animals–this practice is not ecologically sustainable, and most people believe it is cruel to subject an animal that is used to living in the wild to captivity.
Additionally, your pet will have a calmer, more reliable temperament if it was bred in captivity.
If you are living in an apartment, make sure their pet policy allows the kind of reptile you are interested in acquiring.
2. Start Slow
Trying to take on too much too soon will increase your pet’s chances of being in the 75% of reptiles that die within the first year of acquisition.
Start your journey into herpetology with species that are known for being relatively low-maintenance and good for beginners.
These species include many kinds of lizards including leopard geckos and bearded dragons, as well as corn snakes, kingsnakes, and box turtles.
Before you decide on a species, determine what you will be able to dedicate to your pet in terms of time, money, and space, and make your decision based on these factors.
If you are unprepared for the responsibility you are taking on, neither you nor your reptile will be very happy.
There is a time and place to raise rare, venomous, and large species of reptiles. Your first venture into herpetology is not that time or place.
3. Have Your Supplies In Order
Before bringing your reptile home, make sure that you have its enclosure, heat source, lighting, food, water, and cleaning supplies readily available.
In terms of the enclosure, make sure that it is large enough to be comfortable for your reptile when it is at its fully grown size.
4. Follow Proper Husbandry Practices
The care requirements of reptiles can vary greatly from species to species. Know what your reptile’s specific needs are so that you are adequately prepared to provide for it.
All reptiles should have nutritious, species-specific food, regular access to water, and most will need some sort of heat/UV light source in order to regulate their body temperatures.
5. Know And Teach Safety Protocols
Know what safety measures you will need to take in order to protect you, your family,
and your new reptile.
The most common disease spread from reptiles to humans is Salmonella. The best way to avoid the spread of bacteria is by practicing proper hygiene.
This means thoroughly washing your hands both before and after handling your reptile and making sure that your reptile habitat is cleaned regularly, and their feces are removed.
Reptiles–especially species you will be dealing with as an amateur herpetologist–are generally friendly and docile. However, if they are mishandled or frightened, they may
bite or scratch you in self-defense.
For this reason, it is essential that you learn proper handling techniques, and teach
them to everyone in your household who will be handling the reptile, especially children.
6. Schedule Regular Vet Visits
You visit your primary care doctor annually (at the very least,) and so should your reptile! We strongly recommend scheduling yearly checkups for your reptile (not just when you think something is wrong) to ensure they are healthy and happy for years to come.
Not all veterinarians are experts in reptile medicine, so do your research and find a vet in your local area who has experience treating reptiles.
7. Have Fun!
Like any pet, owning a reptile is a big responsibility. That being said, reptiles can be
wonderful and exciting additions to any family, and while you need to take animal
husbandry seriously, you should remember to have fun with it!
Reptiles can be excellent family companions, and when handled and socialized properly, it will be a joy to have around.
There you have it! When starting your journey into reptile keeping, make sure you do your research, start with reasonable expectations, and have all your supplies ready to go. Take husbandry and safety seriously, and schedule regular vet visits. Above all, don’t forget to have fun!
If you follow the advice of these tips, in no time you will go from amphibian amateur to ectotherm expert!