Before you make that trip to the pet store, ask yourself “Why do I want a snake?” Is it because you’re trying to impress your friends? Is it because you saw a killer anaconda in a popular film, and you’d like something along those lines to show people when they come over? Do you want to shock or scare your parents and other relatives during holiday gatherings? Thanks to a nearly age-old role in mythology, folklore, religion, and, more recently, horror films and music videos, snakes are in high demand as pets. Unfortunately, many people want a snake for all the wrong reasons and fail to properly educate themselves about pet snake care before giving in to the impulse to accept a snake from a friend or buy one at the store. A snake is not a fashion accessory, party trick, or practical joke. Snakes are highly sensitive and, for the most part, wild creatures who should only be kept as pets for the sheer pleasure keeping and observing a snake can bring. If you fit the profile of a true snake fancier, then you’ve no doubt studied up a bit already. If you’re still deciding whether or not a snake is the pet for you, learn more with the following information.
Snakes, like all pets, have their own unique set of requirements when it comes to temperature, housing, and dietary needs. The size of your snake’s enclosure depends, of course, on the size of the snake you plan on owning. A good way to judge the amount of space your snake will need is to allow ½ square foot of floor space for every foot of snake, provided the snake is under 6 feet long. For snakes over 6 feet in length, ¾ a square foot of floor space is adequate. Snakes need to feel secure in their new home, as they will spend a lot of time basking or hiding. A good solution is to get an adequately sized aquarium and secure the top with a pegboard to allow for proper ventilation. Mesh should not be used as a curious snake can rub his nose rose on such material. The furnishings in a snake cage can be relatively simple. Line the cage bottom with aspen shavings, reptile carpet (or Astro turf), or pea gravel. Add a hiding place such as a pre-made “cave,” or a cave you make yourself out of various sized rocks to your pet snake care list along with a small potted plant, whether fake or real, and a shallow dish of water for soaking.
As snakes are cold blooded, their body temperatures depend directly upon the temperature in their environment. Snakes have no self-cooling or heating systems. They simply move into and out of the heat. It’s imperative, then, that you maintain a daytime temperature of between 80 and 85 degrees and a nighttime temperature between 65 and 75 degrees in your snake’s tank. An adhesive thermometer and a heat lamp or cage heater that goes beneath the cage will help you accomplish these things. A snake that is even a few degrees below its optimal body temperature will often stop eating.
Speaking of eating, you should probably reconsider owning a snake unless you’re 100% sure that you can handle feeding live or dead mammals to your pet. Smaller snakes will eat baby mice (called “pinkies”) and medium to large snakes will eat either pinkies or adult mice. Larger snakes may require larger meals in the form of baby chicks or baby rabbits. Figuring out what your snake wants out of his meal may take some doing. Some snakes are terrified of live food and will only eat a mouse after its neck has been humanely broken (this kills the mouse instantly). Some snakes enjoy hunting and will not eat food that has already been killed, and some snakes don’t care either way. While most snakes can live for weeks without food, it’s best to feed an adult snake once a week or every ten days. Baby snakes should be fed more often to support their growing bodies. Check with a specific care guide for your snake to figure out how much food to offer your pet per feeding.
Once you’ve ascertained that your motivations for snake ownership are driven only by your love for these creatures, use your newfound patience to spend time searching for a variety of snake that fits your budget and your personality. Only buy a snake from a reputable source, and make sure you’ve either got an excellent book on pet snake care handy or an expert snake keeping acquaintance who can address any questions you may have and help you on the road to blissful snake ownership.