Do Snakes Make Good Pets?

There’s no doubt about it, people either love or hate snakes. Ever since that incident in the Garden of Eden, these reptiles have fascinated and repelled humans; and, ever since “Snakes on a Plane,” reminded them of the fear that many of us have for these slithery creatures.

But, wait, Junior wants a snake as a pet? Here are five things you should consider before welcoming a pet snake into your home.

1. Living accommodations

A terrarium or snake-centric aquarium will do. But don’t get one that’s too big for the snake. That would freak it out. Research the home situation with your local fish and reptile store. Once you’ve found the right one, fit it with a climbing vine, little rocks, sand, shredded newspaper or mulch for the bottom and a little cave or enclosure for your snake to hide in.

You’ll also need a basking light, thermometers and humidity measuring devices, as well as a heating device for the aquarium/terrarium. It’ll take probably a week of tracking your snake to make sure she’s got the best heating/humidity balance. Again, your local reptile/fish store can help with what’s best for your pet.

2. Grooming

Remember those rocks and branches in the aquarium? Not only do they give your snake different things to crawl on, but they also help when your snake sheds its skin, which happens monthly. The temperature, humidity and cool spots in the living vessel have to be perfect for your snake to shed its skin completely. If your snake can’t complete her shedding, it’s time to take her to the vet. One cool thing to know is snakes are hypoallergenic, so they’re ideal pets for people with allergies.

3. Food

Snakes are carnivores and eat once a week. Depending on how large they are, they will eat mice and rats whole, as well as large insects and even other reptiles. While you can buy them frozen and thaw them out, some snakes will not eat them any other way but live. If you or your family can’t stomach this, then get a hamster or a goldfish instead.

4. Biting

Not all snakes bite, but some do. If you get a snake that is not yet used to being handled by humans, it could bite you. Even if the snake is not venomous, this experience is traumatic for most people. Work with your snake (check with your local snake expert or veterinarian) about the best and safest way to handle snakes so they get used to human contact, which will help them calm down and stop biting.

5. Veterinary care

Many traditional veterinarians will not treat snakes. Before you invest in one (or more) as a pet, find a veterinarian in your area that is comfortable and trained in treating them. Usually, you can get a referral from the reptile/fish store where you will end up getting the snake that’s right for your family.

And a few last notes. Snakes don’t fit into the traditional pet store groove. They require special treatment so they can thrive. Keep in mind, too, that owning a snake might require special licensing in some states and jurisdictions. If you rent your living quarters, you may not be allowed to have a snake as a pet, so do your homework beforehand to avoid heartbreak later.