Choosing between whether you want a cuddly cat or a lovable dog as a pet can be a lot easier than choosing which reptile is best for you. Don't get me wrong, reptiles are beautiful and fascinating animals but choosing the correct one as a pet can be tricky for the person who's excited by the prospect of owning one! Impulsive buying often leads to a neglected animal as well as a very unhappy owner.
Research! Research! Research!
Investing time in researching what reptile you would like to own as well as calculating the animal type which best fits your budget are absolute musts. Also, you must consider what experience you have in caring for reptiles. Some reptiles are very fragile animals, and even though you do not necessarily need to be a reptile expert, you should at least know reptile basics.
Appraise Your Experience
If you can sum up your reptile knowledge and experience with "look at all those shiny scales", then you should most likely purchase a reptile suited for beginners like the corn snake or gecko. Shying away from reptiles such as the tortoise and python are best suited toward the experienced reptile owner who is knowledgeable about their care, and not for someone who hasn't owned similar reptiles. The worst action for you to take is in choosing a high maintenance reptile as a pet, then discovering you can't properly care for the animal. This always leads to wasted time, wasted money and ultimately the wasted life of an unwanted animal!
Always Consider Your Budget
Money, money, money! If you're on a budget (and most people are) you have to know that some reptiles can be extremely expensive. Some require large enclosures with spot on temperatures and humidity levels as well as specialized veterinary care that can lead to some serious cash! For example, the cost of caring for a reptile such as the bearded dragon, can amount to hundreds of dollars as compared to that reptile's purchase price of around sixty bucks! Choose wisely within your budget.
Large time commitments are required when caring for reptiles. These aren't starter pets that are cared for easily. Reptiles require a lot of your time and financial commitment. You should realize that these animals can live for twenty years and up—so you should reason in such events in your life as going to college, getting married and having a baby, and how these life changing events will change the life of you and your reptile. Who will clean the cage, prepare the food and handle the reptile when you are gone? You just can't stick it in a toy chest and forget about it until you want to play with it again. Living creatures demand respect.
Size Does Matter
Large reptiles require large enclosures, and unless you reside in a zoo, this could be a difficult requirement for you to meet!
Think about owning a large anaconda snake and how hard it could be if one day your snake becomes edgy and nippy. Without assistance this could evolve into a potentially deadly incident. On the other hand smaller reptiles are less expensive but are more difficult to tame and are prone to skittishness.
Talk With Your Family
Again, discussing with your family as to how they feel about the size of the reptile you want to get and how they feel about the commitments everyone in the household has to make when you introduce a reptile into the fold and if it would be a good fit. Review what type of reptile you want and include all of the variables such as what they eat (rodents and insects) how much it will cost and who will be afraid and uncomfortable with these creatures in the house. And don't forget the other animals in the house like your dog or cat. A reptile just may stress those animals as well as your family. Introducing a reptile into the home must definitely be a group decision!
• Check the laws in your area concerning what exotic pets are allowed where you live. Some species are highly protected and carry a heavy fine if the animal is endangered or protected.
• Talk with other reptile owners to get a feel of what type of reptile may suit you best. A good way to do this is to keep a lookout for a reptile show in your area where you can gather information from pet owners at the show.
• Certain snakes and lizards are very aggressive, venomous, dangerous and deadly. Reptiles can also carry zoonotic diseases, so washing your hands after handling the animal or cleaning their cage is important. Pregnant women and children younger than five shouldn't handle reptiles because of a risk from salmonella infection. And if someone is pregnant in your household, any pet reptile should be removed before your baby is born.
Following these reptile-selection tips will lead to a great and safe relationship between you and your new pet.
By Tom Matteo
About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He specializes in hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and occasionally writes about such topics as animal behavior and care. Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife Tina and his beloved cockapoo, Angel.