Getting a new pet is always exciting, but if you are new to caring for a particular species, it can also be a bit nerve-wracking at the same time. The rising popularity of the exotic pet industry has pushed reptile pets into the spotlight and thousands of households are finding themselves in this exact position as first-time snake owners.
Owning a pet snake is a unique experience. No matter your prior pet experience or the kind of creature you’re used to caring for, there are a few things that are bound to catch you by surprise—but don’t fret! As long as you remember these three key things to keep in mind, your first snake-owning experience is bound to be a pleasurable and fun experience:
The species of snake is very important
First and foremost: not all snakes are equal. We don’t mean that some snakes are better than others, however. Certain species are more high maintenance, less social, more aggressive, and so on. Just as dogs, cats, and birds can have varying personalities and care needs, so can snakes. This is why it’s of the utmost importance to do your research before looking up “snakes for sale” and heading to the closest pet store.
What To Look For
To ensure that you have a great snake-owning experience, you should find a species that is appropriate for beginners. These snakes have calm and docile temperaments and aren’t prone to biting or other aggressive behavior. They are social and do well with human interaction and handling and allow their owners ample practice picking them up. Most importantly, beginner snakes have straightforward care requirements that allow their caretakers to learn the basics of setting up a proper tank environment.
Don’t let yourself get caught up in a snake’s appearance. A beautiful snake can cause a stressful experience if you’re not fully prepared for it.
They don’t have the same capacity for affection as traditional pets
If you’re coming from owning a dog or cat, transitioning to a cold-blooded animal is likely a complete 180 from what you’re used to. One of the biggest differences can be interacting with your pet, particularly the ones where affection are involved. While there are plenty of snake owners who swear their snake loves them, recognizes them, and actively seeks out their presence, science has shown that snake brains simply aren’t developed to feel emotion the same way we do. The result? A limited capacity for emotions, positive or otherwise. Your snake may not greet you when you come home, might hide for hours at a time, or seem otherwise uninterested in being held by you. Don’t take it personally, it’s them, not you.
It can take time to master their feeding routine
Most snake diets consist of rodents. However, there are a number of important considerations to take when it comes to figuring out what to feed a snake, how much, or how often.
What To Feed Your Snake
Never feed your snake live prey. They have sharp claws and teeth with the potential to injure your snake. Instead, buy frozen, pre-killed rodents. You may have to train your snake to accept them at first, but it can be done. Thaw the rodent beforehand and you can even scent it by dipping it in broth to make it more appetizing.
Choosing The Right Size Prey
When it comes to determining the size of the rodent, the rule of thumb is that their prey should never be larger than the widest part of the snake. Otherwise, that rodent could get stuck in your snake’s digestive system which could cause a whole host of issues.
How Often To Feed Them
The frequency of feedings largely depends on the snake’s age. Adult snakes eat the least often, only every 10-14 days, while juveniles will need to eat much more frequently.
Sometimes a snake will refuse food for an extended period, which is understandably concerning. This is sometimes caused by stress and might be accompanied by other behavioral changes. Has your snake’s routine been disrupted? Has their environment changed? In other cases, it is simply a natural occurrence due to seasonal changes in temperature, hibernation, or even shedding.
What To Expect With Your First Snake
Even great beginner snake species (like ball pythons and corn snakes) can carry the prospect of a steep learning curve. Those who have previously owned a different reptile might find things a bit easier, being used to the particulars of heating, hide boxes, and the nuances of reptilian quirks, but serpents have care requirements and behaviors all their own that can only be learned first-hand.