Who's this slippery customer? Pantheropis guttatus – a gloriously stripey, quasi-Dennis the Menace of the family of corn snakes. Since the time of Adam and Eve, snakes have divided opinion, but if you fancy keeping one of these critters, then a corn snake is the best place to start.
Why get a snake? Any snake kept as a pet automatically carries with it novelty bonus points, but that shouldn't be the guiding factor. They are surprisingly curious animals and corn snakes (named after the corn fields of the southern US whence they slithered) like being handled.
Have you seen Snakes on a Plane? Snakes bite! Not these ones. They are very placid, provided they are not fed live animals, as this sharpens their killer instincts. And they are pretty low-maintenance as their digs only need clearing of droppings once a day.
So, how do you get set up for a snake? First, you choose the right snake. As hatchlings grow up, they need to be fed just once a week (you'll have to get used to feeding them de-frosted mice). The vivarium (the tank in which they live) should be no less than two foot long and at least a foot wide and within it there should be a place for your corn snake to hide, and interesting objects to "climb". They do like their privacy and being in a glass-tank makes them nervous, so blank a corner of the tank out with black card. They need spraying with light mist regularly and certainly before and after eating.
What happens if he escapes? Their curiosity knows no bounds, so make sure you have a completely tight yet breathable lid on the tank. But if he escapes, watch where you tread – they usually don't roam far.
How do I get hold of one? There are many reptile dealers throughout the country, but make sure you find one which has links to a reputable breeder, and also make sure you are ready for a long commitment, as they can live up to 20 years. They cost about £50-£60, and a vivarium will cost from as little as £35 for a growing snake.