How To Choose A Pet Snake - A General Guide

05/03/2011 14:54


What type of snake to choose?

Keeping pet snakes is becoming more and more common. When you want to buy a pet snake, you could decide  to start off with a king snake, rat snake, or gopher snake before trying the rarer and trickier types like a big constrictor or Burmese python. Some species of reptiles are really easy to take care of, while some others can grow to an unmanageable length and require bigger cages and of course, more food!

This is why  it is best to learn about the different kinds of snakes before you buy, so you don't get an unwelcome surprise. All pet owners should not take their responsibility lightly, bearing in mind that the animal is of course dependent on you for its well being and health.

A green snake, garter or brown snake could be a great choice to start with, as they don't need a lot of maintenance.  Relatively small, they consume insects, worms or fish and reasonable temperature fluctuations don't bother them. However, if you really want huge snake, a Burmese python is a nice choice, as it can grow to over 20 feet (6 metres) in length. Many members of  the python family are in danger and should be cared for well.

A little practice in looking after one of the smaller sized and harmless reptiles is a good idea, before going for a giant or poisonous snake that eat rats and mice, and need an environment with a carefully controlled temperature. 

What about the right food??

There are as many various kinds of food for snakes as there are species of snakes. Some snakes feed on worms, insects and small frogs, while some might eat birds and small rodents, or mammals. Snakes such aspythons, the king, rat and gopher snakes feed on rodents. A snake in captivity must be given the right food so that it feels secure. If the snake feels insecure, he won't eat, even when very hungry. Do not touch the snake after feeding. Wait until the meal has been digested, as it might regurgitate it and perhaps won't eat for some days after.

Earthworms are a good choice for brown snakes and garters. These are easy to get in theevening on a rainy night or you could buy them at a fishing bait shop. Many snakes eat fish, fresh or frozen, which can also be purchased. Frozen fish should only be used when fresh fish is not available. There has been much evidence suggesting that a natural diet is the best for a snake in captivity. Snakes need to eat at regular intervals. Ones that are smaller than three feet should be fed prey the size of a mouse once or twice a week. Larger snakes take larger prey at less frequent intervals. Force feeding a snake should be a last resort. They will swallow a food item if it is placed far back in its mouth.

Caging of snakes 

Types of cages can vary as much as the varieties of snakes themselves, simple or extravagant. Caging snakes is very much a matter of individual preference. Many smaller snakes can thrive quite nicely in a ventilated plastic shoe or sweater box. However, proper ventilation is needed to prevent humidity in the cage. Holes can be easily drilled by a soldering iron and should be done on at least two sides of the cage and sometimes on the top of the cage as well. More expensive aquariums can be used as terrariums and are available readily in pet or department stores. A terrarium is a container that creates as near as possible the natural habitat that the snake is accustomed to. An appropriate climate must be provided in their housing. As snakes are cold-blooded animals, they need heat. To heat your cage you can use lights, heat rocks or heat directly from the room heating. A snake is best kept at warmer, summer temperatures of 85-100 degrees F, unless the cage is being cooled for hibernation. The cage can be cleaned when it becomes dirty with the use of disinfectants. Do not use toxic cleaning materials. Their residue could be hazardous to the snake's well being. 

What kind of behavior do snakes have? 

It is important to realize that determining what is normal behavior for a snake takes hands on experience. A snake may show no outward signs of ill health until long after contracting an illness so it is a good idea to have a snake veterinarian picked out. It is important to select a healthy snake to begin with, whether you buy it from a pet store or order it from a dealer or breeder. The snake should display an alert appearance but not be overly aggressive. Some types of snakes can be defensive while others have a calm demeanor. Until you are knowledgeable about the behavior of the type of snake you are going to obtain, it is good to seek the advice of someone who has had experience working with snakes that can observe the snake's behavior. 

Many snakes produce venom because they possess a Duvernoy gland, which is associated with venom production. Some very common snakes like garter snakes and hog snakes have Duvernoy's glands. It is a little unpredictable to know whether a snake is venomous or not. Some that are found in the wild are reluctant to bite, while common water and garter snakes make strike with even the gentlest of handling. Hog-nose snakes have a wonderful smiling countenance and seldom bite which makes them a favorite pet of snake hobbyists.

The health of the snake will determine the frequency that the snake will shed its skin. Baby snakes are fast growing and healthy and will shed more frequently than an adult snake. If there is a skin problem or disease, the snake may shed its skin to rid itself of the disease, which may be cured after two or three sheds. A healthy snake will have no problem shedding. When holding a snake, support the body of large snakes in several places. They like gentle handling which will often quiet many snake species. A snake hook can be used when it is necessary to move a snake that is short tempered or gently restrain the head while holding the snake.

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