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Pet Snakes

Pet Snake Information

Ok, so reptile snakes as pets don't seem very exotic. But, they definitely are not your average pet. And for the right person, they can be great.

Unlike most other pets, people won't be flocking to your side to pet your beautiful snake, however, you don't need to take them on daily walks either. And many snakes only need to be fed once or twice a month, making them an ultra low maintenance pet.

Some people find snakes fascinating creatures. Others find snake lovers hard to comprehend, especially when they make the somewhat biased claim that snakes are "cute." However, there's more to a pet than fluffiness. And there are some good reasons why snakes make great pets.

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Pet Snakes


Snakes have a number of advantages over more mainstream pets. Without fur, they're great for animal enthusiasts whose allergic reactions to animal fur and dander may rule out more conventional pets like cats or dogs. Snakes do not need the rigorous interactions their animal counterparts require. They are quiet and thus a real advantage for anyone living in an apartment or condo. Also, they don't require outdoor excursions. And with regular handling snakes can be quite tame.

Snakes are appealing if you're looking for a low-maintenance companion. They only need to be fed every couple of weeks. What's more, contrary to conventional thinking, snakes can be socialized. They may even show subtle signs of affection. (Really!)

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Things to Consider

Obviously, snakes are not for everyone. They have unique care and handling requirements and should only be kept by those with the commitment to value and meet their needs. Also, some grow very large (20 feet or more) and can be extremely dangerous, so any potential snake owner needs to carefully research snakes before purchasing one.

Before you acquire a snake, you should consider the following:

  • Research the major requirements of the snake (diet, environment, cage, temperature/humidity, etc.) and determine whether or not you can successfully meet these requirements for as long as you own your snake.
  • Temperatures vary among species and among individuals of the same species.
  • Select a snake that is captive bred (never out of the wild).
  • Find a snake that you can feed without difficulty and one that is already eating regularly.
  • Select a snake that looks healthy in all respects.
  • Avoid selecting a snake that belongs to a species that is notoriously difficult to keep in captivity because it requires difficult or elaborate environmental setups.
  • Avoid snakes that spend most of their time hiding or burrowed underground.
  • And by all means, stay away from venomous snakes. They are too much of a danger and you sure don't want to be liable for any misfortune if they escape.

Types of Snakes as Pets

There are several snake species which can be fun as pets although some are more suitable than others. The types kept as pets range from the common garter snake to pythons. If this is your first snake, choose a common species that does not require specialized care or housing and one that is easily researched.

Life Span

A well-cared-for pet snake will normally outlive a dog or cat. The life spans in captivity of some snakes (ratsnakes and kingsnakes) are commonly more than fifteen years. Boas and pythons often live more than twenty years. Are you willing to commit yourself to maintenance of a snake for that long? Boa constrictors and pythons will become quite large and potentially dangerous. If you tire of them, zoos rarely accept pet snakes, and finding a buyer - or even someone to accept a gift snake - can often be difficult. You should never release them out to the wild.

Again, purchase only captive-bred snakes and only from reputable breeders. Wild snakes may be slow to adapt and feed in captivity. They may be infested with ticks or mites or internal parasites. Captive-bred corn snakes are calm, easily obtainable and come in a wonderful range of colors and patterns.

No matter which type of snake you choose, a secure, escape-proof enclosure will be required. Snakes are pretty determined when trying to get out of an enclosure. Make sure it closes securely with no gaps, or prepare to become an expert at tracking snakes in your house.

Snake Growth

Snakes, like most animals, grow rapidly early in life. Their bodies enlarge until the skin must be shed for growth to continue. Young snakes can shed four or more times per year during their first two years of life. As adults they may shed only once or twice per year. Snakes that are about to shed typically display a cloudy or bluish appearance to their eyes, caused by the old skin and the lymph fluid secreted beneath it in preparation for shedding.

The first rattle segment in newborn rattlesnakes is called a button. Each time a rattlesnake sheds, a new rattle segment is added at the base of the tail. Each shedding carries the button farther from the tail base. Because buttons and rattle segments can easily be lost and shedding rates vary widely, counting rattle segments is not an accurate way to determine the age of a snake.

Snake Feeding

Food choices include insects, worms, amphibians, birds and small mammals. Some snakes display distinct food preferences. Pre-killed prey is recommended. A live rodent can inflict some serious wounds on a snake in self defense. If a snake hesitates or is not hungry when you put a live prey animal in the cage, the snake is the one who might end up injured. Of course, it is also more convenient to keep a supply of frozen food in your freezer rather than raising or buying live animals for feeding.

Fresh water should be available at all times. Most snakes drink regularly. A suitably sized container should also be provided so the snake can swim and soak. The container should be heavy enough so that it cannot be easily overturned. All water bowls should be regularly cleaned and disinfected with hot soapy water at least once every 2-4 weeks. Failure to do so encourages bacterial overgrowth and can cause the snake to become ill.

Snake Homes

Generally, snakes do not require much space because of their limited and non-strenuous activity. The size of the enclosure should allow space for the snake to stretch out and move around plus room for their necessities (food, water, etc.). Their environment must be kept immaculate and will require carpet, a heat lamp, climbing branches and a cave. Snakes will use both the horizontal and vertical space within their enclosure if you provide them a source for this activity.

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