Can reptiles be house pets? Here are some reptile care tips

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Many times, when referring to house pets, one would immediately picture fuzzy puppies, playful kittens, or the occasional rodent in a cage. However, these are not the only animals that can be kept as house pets. In fact, reptiles are becoming more and more popular as household pets.

reptile care tips

If you’re interested in having a pet reptile, here are some tips to care for them:

Deciding On A Reptile

A reptile is an air-breathing vertebrate that has special skin made up of either scales, bony plates, or both. The following is a list of some of the cutest reptiles that are safe to keep as house pets:

  1. Garter and Corn snakes

While most people are scared of snakes, there are, in fact, many different kinds of snakes that are not only non-threatening and small but are very cute. Two examples of these are garter and corn snakes.

Garter snakes are the more common pet, but corn snakes are also a low maintenance snake that doesn’t grow too large and can be a great pet.

  1. Box turtles

Box turtles can be a higher maintenance pet as it not only can live up to 50 years but ideally, it should be kept outdoors or in a tank that’s at least 40 gallons, which can be difficult to manage if it’s your first reptile.

  1. Bearded dragon

Pet bearded dragons can actually be one of eight different species, but they all get the nickname bearded dragon from the ‘beard’ located under their throat. The eight species of bearded dragon exist in many different environments, including:

  • Arid and subtropical wetlands
  • Shore areas
  • Great interior deserts
  • Scrublands
  • Savannas

Bearded dragons can live around 10 to 15 years.

  1. Crested gecko

Crested geckos are not only low maintenance, but they have quirky personalities as well, making them a fun pet to have. These reptiles were actually thought to be extinct until 1994 when they were ‘rediscovered.’

  1. Chameleons

While it’s true that chameleons change colors, they do so due to changes in emotions rather than to blend into their environments. There are 180 different species of chameleons in the wild, however, there are only a few that can be kept as pets. The common types of chameleon that can be considered as a pet include the following:

  • Veiled chameleon
  • Panther chameleon
  • Jackson’s chameleon
  • Senegal

There are a few other kinds of chameleons that can be kept as pets. So, when deciding on which chameleon you’d like, be sure to thoroughly research the different species beforehand.

  1. Leopard geckos

Leopard geckos have a long lifespan–lasting as long as 20 years when cared for properly. With their black spots, spotted geckos are exotic-looking and require 12 hours of visible light each day.

Their temperament is docile and they’re easily tamed, making them a great option to consider for first-time reptile owners.

Overall reptile care tips

caring for reptiles

While each reptile is going to require specific maintenance, there are a few reptile care tips that apply to owning any kind of reptile you decide on:

  • UVB/UVA bulbs

Since reptiles are used to living in outdoor environments, the kind of lightbulbs you use to light your reptile’s living space is very important. Utilizing UVB and UVA bulbs will not only increase your reptile’s natural behaviors, but they can also improve eating, breeding habits, and strengthen their immune systems.

Without the light from UVB bulbs, reptiles risk becoming paralyzed, deformed, or even dying far sooner than they should. It’s important to keep in mind that UVB bulbs do run out over time, even if they’re still giving off light. So, in order to ensure they’re still providing proper lighting, they should be replaced every year.

  • Calcium and other vitamins

Since it’s nearly impossible to recreate the nutrients that are available to a reptile in the wild, when owning one as a pet, you must utilize vitamins and supplements in order to provide a balanced and rounded diet.

Vitamins and supplements will vary from one reptile to another. So, be sure to research your specific reptile and what their needs are. Calcium is one vitamin that reptiles across the board need to have in their replicated environments.

  • Temperatures and humidity

There are many charts available online that lay out the kind of heating, lighting, and humidity that different reptiles require in their environments. For example, most snakes require an environment with humidity between 40% and 80%, while a lizard can require as low as 25% humidity.

Not only will required temperatures vary based on the type of reptile, but they’ll also vary based on species as well. While a bearded dragon requires 25-40% humidity, a tegus lizard will require as high as 80% humidity.

  • Necessary reptile care equipment

There’s a wide variety of equipment that’s needed to care for any kind of reptile. Here’s a list of the most common equipment you’ll need:

  • Enclosure
  • Under tank heater/heat mat
  • Thermostat
  • Heat lamp and bulb
  • Thermometer (digital, infrared laser, hygrometer)
  • UV-B light meter
  • UV light
  • Submersible heater
  • Water filter
  • Substrate
  • Hides/decor
  • Water dish/feeding dish

These pieces of equipment can be found online or at your local pet store. As mentioned, the type of equipment that you need to purchase will vary depending on the kind of reptile you have.

Be sure to do proper research and purchase all the necessary equipment to build your setup before coming home with your new reptile.

Feeding your reptile

There’s a wide variety of food options to feed your reptile, and each different type of reptile will require a different kind of food. Here are a few examples:

  • Bearded dragons: A bearded dragon’s diet consists of three components: meat, vegetables/fruit, and bearded dragon commercial food. Their source of meat will come from insects. While vegetables/fruit are required, you should avoid feeding them citrus, lettuce, spinach, or avocado.
  • Leopard geckos: Leopard geckos, on the other hand, eat solely meat. The two best options for them include mealworms and crickets.
  • Corn snake: Corn snakes are also meat-eaters, and they require to be fed whole meat, like thawed and frozen rodents. When feeding snakes, you must keep in mind that they eat their food whole and, therefore, shouldn’t be offered food that’s more than 1.5 times their body size.

Handling your reptile

As reptiles are not a common pet to have, anyone looking to get one as a pet should follow these tips when it comes to handling them:

  • Buy captive bred reptiles that are already more socialized.
  • Wash hands before and after holding them.
  • Signal your reptile that it’s time for you to handle them and not time to eat. Doing so will help avoid having them strike at you.
  • Reptiles require warmth so don’t keep them out of their cage for long periods of time (the maximum should be 30 minutes).
  • Be slow and calm when handling.
  • Support your reptiles’ entire weight.
  • Avoid damaging their scales by stroking from head to tail.

Reptile Care Tips Conclusion

Reptiles may be an unconventional household pet, but they’re not impossible to keep. That being said, reptiles require more precise maintenance, so research and preparation are a must when bringing a reptile into your home for the first time.

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