Choosing Your Pet

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Reptiles and amphibians can make fascinating pets. Some look as ancient as dragons. Others turn all kinds of colors. They are relatively quiet and odorless compared to other animals, and they offer a variety of choices related to their size. With some of these species, like carnivorous snakes, you can even miss an occasional feeding without doing any harm. Cleaning is only required about once a week. Many reptiles also respond to people, so you can make a real connection with your pet.

Choosing a reptile or amphibian does require some initial effort and expense to create a suitable environment. Because they can’t regulate their body temperature, most reptiles need enclosures that accommodate more than one environment, such as both water and land. This means they may need a relatively larger container to live in. To survive in captivity, reptiles must have precise temperature and lighting controls. Before selecting a specific species, it is important to research the ecosystem of the animal’s native environment. You will need to reproduce this environment on a smaller scale to create a livable enclosure.

Understanding the nature of a prospective reptile pet is an important part of the research you need to undertake before making a selection. Reptiles vary in terms of how much they can be handled or trained. Some are easy to handle; while others require protective gear and some are mostly just for viewing. Some reptiles and amphibians can be trained to have some predictable behaviors — such as non-fussy eating habits, staying in defined areas when outside their enclosures, or responding to human touch — while others simply won’t change their basic natures.

Generally, smaller reptiles are more manageable choices for novice pet owners. Corn snakes, king snakes or ball pythons are good snakes for beginners because of their gentle natures and manageable diets and environments. Leopard geckos make a good beginner lizard because they are smaller in size, insectivores, relatively calm and do not require special lighting. But be prepared — healthy reptiles and amphibians have life spans that can last 10 to 20 years. A serious commitment is required if choosing a reptile for a pet.