June 30th
Reptiles Make Wonderful Pets!

By Stephanie Schamber 

So you want a reptile. That’s fantastic! Reptiles make wonderful pets. However, there are some things you need to ask yourself first.

What do I want? With over 10,000 species of lizards or snakes, there are lots of options.

Can I care for it throughout its whole life? Reptiles are long-lived. With most species living into their 20s or even into their 40s or more, be prepared to take care of them for a long time. Many species also get quite large, so that is another factor to consider when caring for them their whole life.

Green Iguanas and Red Eared Slider Turtles are two of the most surrendered, abandoned and rehomed reptiles out there. They’re cute as babies, but both of these species get quite large. Turtles grow to be about dinner plate-sized. And depending on the gender of your iguana, they can get to about 6-ft long. Both will also require custom-made enclosures to fulfill their needs.

After answering those two questions, your next step should be to do your research. Researching your chosen pet not only helps you, but it helps you give them their best life. Internet research should, however, be taken with a grain of salt. There’s a lot of outdated, old-school knowledge that people still swear by. Join groups, go to reptile expos, go to places that specialize in reptiles and see what they have through care sheets and knowledge.

Do they require “friends”? Are they social animals? We are now finding that some species live in colony groups. Is your chosen pet one of these? Do you have to adjust your plan to accommodate more than one?

What about enrichment? A perfect example here is everyone’s favourite – the ball python. For many years, it was thought that large enclosures stress these guys out to the point where they won’t eat. That they don’t do anything but sit around with their heads covered all day. It’s all to the contrary. The more stuff that you can put into the enclosure, the more exploring and out and about they will do. They aren’t the best climbers, but they like to try, so a spot where they can sit up a little higher than ground level is a good idea.

Just like dogs or cats, reptiles need stimulation too. A new hide or stick, or how about a toy? Yes, a toy. Tortoise, for example, will push a ball around their enclosure, so will monitor lizards, tegus and iguanas. Dog and cat toys can not only entertain your furry friends, but your scaly ones too.

Let’s talk about being social. Some reptiles out there would much rather be left to their own devices and be totally happy being a hands-off pet, while others, after you earn their trust, will hang out with you. Many people still subscribe to the “forced love” kind of interaction for many types of lizards, whereas others allow the lizard the option to come to them or not. Food is always the best motivator for building a bond of trust with your lizard. Use food items that are favourites. This will get their attention. Go slow. Remember that even though some of them are predators, they are still prey for other animals and scaring them by going too fast will set your attempts to be friends back. 

After you’ve done all the research and you think you are just about ready to bring that scaly baby home – get your enclosure set up and get it started. This way, you can adjust temperature and humidity before your scaly friend comes home. Let it run for about 72 hours in the optimal conditions before bringing your new friend home.

One thing to keep in mind once you have your new reptile at home. Give them time to adjust to the new sights, smells and surroundings before you attempt to do anything more than tidy up their enclosure or give them fresh water. Many people forget this and wonder why their new pet won’t eat or hides all of the time. Like any furry pet you bring home, reptiles, too, need to get used to their new home and all the things that come with it.

Lastly, enjoy them for what they are. A beautiful creature whose roots go back millions of years because many of them are now facing extinction due to habitat loss.