Snake Bytes: Tips on Getting Your First Snake
So you’ve decided you want a pet snake. Great! They make fantastic pets. But before you rush off to get one, sit down and have a bit of a read first.
#1 Choose a Good Beginner Snake.
You might think any old snake will do, but you would be wrong. Many experts would recommend the corn snake, ball python, and kingsnake as good pet snakes.
#2 Know the Commitment.
Just how long do snakes live? It depends on the species, but most snakes tend to live long lives. For example, corn snakes have a lifespan of 5-10 years, ball pythons can live for 20-30 years, and kingsnakes often live for 12-15 years. Make sure you do your research on the type of snake you want beforehand to determine if you're ready for the time commitment that comes with it.
#3 Know the Risks.
We’re not just talking bites here (though the risk is small, accidents can happen). Snakes, like all reptiles, can carry Salmonella, which can leave you feeling quite ill (it’s not a good idea to have a snake with kids under five because of this). If you have children in the house, make sure they learn to wash their hands after handling the snake. And you? Wash your hands, too!
#4 Understand What Snakes Like.
Snakes are, by nature, typically solitary creatures. They most definitely do not enjoy crowds or loud noises, so you can just forget about taking them to see the latest Taylor Swift concert. And because of this solitary nature, it’s usually best to have just one snake per habitat. Try to keep the snake handling to a minimum, as most snakes aren't the touchy-feely type. However, you do need to handle your snake for about five minutes a day so it is accustomed to human contact. They also love consistency and routine (who knew?), so stick to the same routine for feeding, changing of water, and cleaning the tank.
#5 The Right Environment is Key.
Now this doesn't mean you have to grab some dirt, water, and flora from the tropical rainforests of South America, but you do need to create the right environment for your pet snake to live and thrive in. This means maintaining the temperature and humidity at the proper levels. Check out reputable resources, such as PetSmart’s Care Guides, to see the correct temperature and humidity ranges for your pet.
Once you know your pet’s requirements fit the terrarium with two thermometers and a hygrometer (humidity gauge) to ensure your pet is in the ideal environment. A heat lamp is an excellent heat source, but only use this for half the tank, as your snake likes having a cool retreat to hang out in from time to time, too. Heat rocks look nice, but in reality they are not safe for a snake's sensitive skin. An artificial plant (live plants or fertilizers in the soil can be harmful to snakes) placed cleverly inside the habitat, along with an extra water bowl under the lamp, can also help you reach the desired level of humidity. But if you live in a dry environment, you may want to place a humidifier near (not in) the tank or use a reptile fogging system designed to be used inside your snake's habitat.