They may not have fur or feathers, but reptiles make excellent pets. Lizards, snakes, and turtles are fascinating creatures, and they can be surprisingly personable and affectionate. Whether you are embarking on your first adventure as a reptile owner or are an old hand at reptile care, you need to understand how to meet the needs of your particular pet.
Reptile Care Tips
What do you need to do to keep your reptilian pet happy and healthy? Not all reptiles are the same, so the exact requirements will depend on the type of reptile that you have. However, there are certain basic tips that can help you get started.
Selecting the Right Reptile
Some reptiles are gentle, docile, and relatively easy to care for. Others are best left to reptile experts because they can be aggressive, reach an impressive size, or require special care. Before you make the commitment to care for a reptile, it’s vital that you do your homework. Spend some time researching any species that you’re interested in. Consider visiting reputable reptile-oriented websites, reading an expert-recommended book, or talking with the knowledgeable team at Petsway. Do you understand the characteristics of the species? How large will the reptile be when it reaches maturity? What environment does it need to thrive? What type of care will it require? What supplies should you have on hand? Learning the answers to questions like these can help you determine if the reptile you’ve been considering is a good match for your household.
Your Reptile’s Home
Your reptile will need an appropriate environment. How do you provide it? For starters, you will likely need a tank or terrarium (this depends on the reptile you select). When setting up your reptile’s home, think about the following features:
- Security. When you aren’t interacting with it, your pet’s tank is the safest place for it. Choose an escape-proof abode.
- Size. No one likes to be cramped. Choose a tank or terrarium that offers plenty of room for your reptile to move around and provides sufficient space for you to create a suitable habitat.
- Heating. Reptiles are ectothermic, which means that they rely on external sources to regulate their body temperatures. Different reptiles have different heating requirements. Use the right tools to keep your pet’s home at the optimal temperature.
- Lighting. Most reptiles need exposure to ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B light to remain healthy, so you’ll want to use full-spectrum lights that provide both UVA and UVB rays in their habitat.
- Humidity. Reptiles need the right amount of humidity to thrive, and they use their environment to obtain it. It’s up to you to provide what they need in their tank. One possibility is a vivarium with an aquatic water filtration in part of the tank and a dry terrarium in another part.
- Decor and accessories. Decor and accessories can make your reptile’s environment more interesting. They can also be tools for meeting your animal’s needs. Reptiles that love to climb will like rocks and branches that they can scale. Animals that like to burrow appreciate a substrate that allows them indulge in the activity. Many reptiles enjoy having a place that they can retreat to as well, so a hideaway will find favor with them.
You may know that some reptiles can carry salmonella and other bacteria that can make people sick, but did you know that humans can pass germs that make reptiles sick to their pets by handling them with dirty hands? Reptiles are susceptible to skin and bacterial infections. To avoid introducing foreign bacteria, germs, and parasites to your reptile, and to protect your own health, get in the habit of washing your hands before and after handling your pet. You must also clean and disinfect your pet’s cage and furnishings regularly.
Many reptiles enjoy being handled if the person holds and interacts with them properly. Educate yourself about proper handling techniques. Always treat your pet with respect and provide support so that it feels secure. Never pick up a reptile by its tail. Finally, to protect both the child and your pet, never allow a young child to handle a reptile without adult supervision.
Reptile Health Care
To keep your reptile healthy, plan on regular visits to the vet. Annual checkups should include health screenings and nutrition and weight management. Not every vet treats reptiles, however. To find one that does, check out the American Animal Hospital Association’s website to find a list of accredited vet practices in your area. Recommendations from friends and family – especially those who own happy, healthy reptiles – can also be helpful.
Do you have more questions about reptile care? Stop by your local Petsway today. Our team of pet experts will be happy to offer tips and help you find the supplies that you need to care for your pet.