Lizard with its head on a rock

What type of reptile are you looking for?

The first thing to consider when adopting a reptile is what kind of reptile you are most interested in or which type will fit your expectations for a pet the best. There are three types of reptiles that are commonly kept as pets; lizards, snakes, and turtles. They all have their own benefits and drawbacks to consider.

Lizards

Good for beginners: leopard geckos, crested geckos, fat-tailed geckos, house geckos, bearded dragons, frill-necked lizards, and blue-tongued skinks

Better for advanced reptile caretakers: Iguanas, monitors (due to their size and their aggressive tendencies), chameleons (due to specific care requirements and anxious personalities that can lead to health problems)

Lizards are a great choice for people who want to adopt a cat or dog but cannot have one because of allergies or housing limitations. They have big personalities, can live long, healthy lives, and are entertaining to watch and interact with.
However, they can be a lot of work for their owner. You will have to keep up with their feeding which often involves live insects. Their food can be expensive depending on what species you get and they live long lives, which means you will have to buy their food for a long time.
Some species need precisely-controlled temperature habitats in order to live and happy, healthy life. These habitats can be a pricey initial investment, and they may need maintenance every once in a while.

Snakes

Python hanging from a tree

Good for beginners: corn snakes, king snakes, milk snakes, and captive-bred ball pythons

Better for advanced reptile caretakers: boa constrictors, Burmese pythons, reticulated pythons, anacondas, other constrictors, and anything venomous

If a lizard seems like it’s too much work for you or your family, a snake is a great next choice. They are generally pretty low energy pets, making them easier to take care of. But, they do require a heat lamp and live food just like lizards. So, make sure you or your family is comfortable with live food feedings.

Tortoise or Turtles

Examples: box turtles, red-footed tortoise, yellow-footed tortoise, etc.

For many people, snake and lizards aren’t exactly “cuddly” friends and might cause goosebumps when seen. If you don’t want to give mom a heart attack, a turtle or a tortoise is a great choice for your family.
Turtles are known to be slow animals, and they also have low energy, which means that they don’t require a lot of attention except feeding and cleaning. However, cleaning (depending on the type of habitat) might need a lot of maintenance. For example, aquatic turtles need clean water in their tank, which means someone needs to change their water regularly.

Is it legal in your area to own the type of reptile you’re looking for?

Many places have recently enacted laws in regard to owning exotic reptiles as pets. Reptiles that are considered dangerous (i.e.; venomous snakes, alligators, etc.) are illegal to own in many places. Some places are even more strict, banning the ownership of all constricting snakes. This is why it’s important to review your local laws before deciding on a reptile pet.

Snake being touched by a human

How much do you plan on handling your pet reptile?

Reptiles are not known to be the cuddliest pets, and they often will not tolerate being handled as often as furry pets. That does not mean that a pet reptile will not allow you or your family to handle them at all. Gentle and limited handling is typically the best way to go about interacting with reptiles. Although, some reptiles will enjoy being handled more than others, which may be something you’ll want to consider when choosing which reptile is the best fit for your home.

Reptiles that tolerate handling well:
Tortoises – enjoy being petted and socialized. They can become anxious or fearful if they are picked up.
Box turtles – generally willing to be handled in all forms.
Bearded dragons – generally willing to be handled in all forms.
Some snakes – can get used to handling, especially if they have been desensitized from an early age. Never handle a snake when it is preparing to shed its skin or after you handle its food before washing your hands thoroughly.

Reptiles that are hesitant or unpredictable to handle:
Green iguanas – prone to unpredictable aggression and are often very territorial. Some can take build a strong bond with their caretaker and may tolerate being handled lightly.
Chameleons – typically do not like being handled in any form.
Any venomous snake – leave the handling of these beautiful creatures to experts and experienced reptile handlers.

What kind of habitat will your reptile need?

Reptiles required their own special place in your house. Sometimes this will include a dry environment with a heat lamp, and others will need a water source. These habitats can vary in size and complexity which will affect the price. You will need to consider these factors before choosing your pet.

Lizards – their habitats will need to provide emotional comfort to ensure your pet feels safe in their home. It will also need a physical comfort aspect, meaning the temperature and humidity correspond with your lizard’s needs.
Snakes – habitats for snakes will need to be healthy, secure, and more than anything, escape-proof. Some snakes will have special caging needs such as special kinds of sand or rocks, or heat lamps/pads.
Turtles – this will vary depending on the species of your shelled-reptile. Tortoises require dry land habitats whereas most turtles are semi-aquatic and will require some kind of water feature. Many species can leave to be older than 20 years, so keep in mind that you may need to invest in maintenance of the habitat every so often or even replacement.

You can add a CritterZone Air Naturalizer to your reptile’s general environment as well. CritterZone will help improve their health, as well as your home’s scent!

What kind of food will your reptile need?

Lizard being held and fed

Different species of reptiles require a large variety of foods. This ranges from specially formulated pellets, to live insects, to live rodents. If the thought of dangling a mouse over a cage makes you squeamish, you’ll want to consider which kind of reptile you will adopt.

Lizards – some are herbivorous, others are insectivorous, and they can be omnivorous. Make sure you will be able to provide the diet your lizard needs at the rate your pet will require. Most lizards have fast metabolisms and need to be fed five times per week to daily.
Snakes – can be easier to feed than other reptiles. Most pet snakes species will need pre-killed rats of mice, possibly rabbits for larger snakes. One meal per week is typically enough without nutritional supplements. However, there are some special cases that will require different feeding specifications.
Turtles – Most turtles are flexible feeders and will accept a large variety of foods. However, their dietary needs are strict. The wrong diet will lead to a shortened life. Calcium is the most important ingredient in most species’ diets as it supports shell growth.

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