Animal Science Blog

Animal Science

The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

Previous in Blog: Snakes: Growing and Shedding   Next in Blog: The Life of a Farrier: Physically Challenging; Mentally Rewarding
Close
Close
Close
12 comments

Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

Posted June 16, 2010 12:01 AM by Vi Pham

Having snakes as pets can be a very rewarding experience - as long as you are well-educated about your pet.

General Responsibilities

At first glance, it may look like snakes are easy to take care of, but there are many rules that a snake – or any reptile – owner must follow. Most of these rules are dependent on the type of animal you have.

Housing

When it comes to cage size, the bigger the better! Baby snakes can be housed in 5-10 gallon tanks. Young snakes grow quickly, however, so they will soon need larger cages. To keep from spending a lot of money, many people keep their young snakes in modified Tupperware containers until they are sold, or old enough to be kept in adult snake cages.

All reptiles must be given a place to hide. A hide can be a half-log, a plastic container with a hole cut in it, or a shoebox. The hide is a place to which the animal can retreat when it sleeps or needs a dark place to feel safe. Elevation change is important for all reptiles, especially arboreal snakes. Not only will it make the enclosure look nicer, but it will provide the animal with something to climb on and keep it more active.

The cage must have a warm side and a cool side. The efficiencies of a snake's bodily functions are often dependent on the ambient temperature. These temperatures are determined by the species of snake. Snakes that are native to warmer areas require warmer cage temperatures. The required level of humidity is also species-dependent.

Water must be refilled and replaced regularly. The cage must also be checked daily for feces. You should also make sure that the cage door is secure, or that the lid has a lock or something heavy on top to prevent your snake from escaping. Avoid aromatic substrate, or bedding, because it can irritate the snakes. Some substrates are designed to retain moisture for snakes that require higher humidity; however, these substrates are more likely to grow mold. Some are better for burrowing, some are washable and reusable, and some just look better than others. It is your job to determine which is best for you and your snake.

Feeding

Newborn snakes are usually fed every week. Juvenile and adult snakes are usually fed every other week. Larger snakes, like large pythons and boas, can have larger gaps between feedings. No matter what feeding schedule your snake is on, it is very important that the feedings happen regularly. Snakes become accustomed to feeding schedules and are likely to become restless if a feeding day is missed. They are also more likely to mistake your hands for food, especially if you have recently handled a small mammal.

Although some snakes only eat fish, birds, rabbits, frogs, or lizards, most are content with frozen/thawed mice or rats. Frozen mice are easy to buy and store in large quantities. This is very convenient for snake owners because buying or breeding live food can take a lot of time and money.

Handling

Interaction with your snake is extremely important. Snakes become familiar and are more comfortable around their handlers. Snakes with "attitudes" can often be tamed by frequent socialization with handlers.

When handling a tame animal all you have to do is support it gently. There is no need to grip onto the snake. Otherwise, it will feel trapped and is more likely to become frightened. For more skittish animals, on the other hand, it is better to have a slight hold on the snake. Handling a nervous snake should be done in a quiet area with very little foot traffic. The snake will feel safer while around you.

When handling a large snake, make sure that you have at least one other person around. Even snakes that have no history of biting their owners can occasionally become frightened, aggressive, or mistake a body part for food.

Choosing a Pet

Corn snakes and ball pythons are popular pet snakes for children. These snakes are relatively inexpensive and, if they are born and raised in captivity, maintain very even tempers. This is especially important when they are being handled by children.

Although snakes that are under a few months old tend to be cheaper, it is not recommended that you purchase them. The death-rate of young snakes is very high, and they are very easily stressed. At that age, snakes are also very skittish and will flail when frightened.

Make sure the animal is healthy before adopting it. Pieces of leftover shedding may indicate improper housing/ humidity, but they can also indicate a health problem. Any creases in the eye caps means that the snake does not have full visibility. So know what the snake is supposed to look like. An abnormally thin animal is very likely to be ill. Check the nostrils and mouth. Any discharge or bubbling indicates a respiratory infection, which is common in snakes. Also look for open-mouth breathing, coughing, or loud respiration. In any of these cases, the seller should be alerted to the problems so that he or she can take the animal to the veterinarian. If you are rescuing a snake, a vet should be consulted about whether the snake needs special attention such as nutritional supplements and specific feeding instructions.

Size is also a very important factor in choosing your pet. Corn snakes grow to be about 1.2-1.8 m (4-6 ft). Some rat snakes grow to be larger. Most ball pythons are only .9-1.5 m (3-5 ft) as adults, though they have a much stockier build than corn or rat snakes. Snakes this size can comfortably live in a 30-gallon tank but, as I said earlier, the more room you can give your snake the better.

Do your research and make sure you know how big your snake will get and how quickly it will grow. That baby Burmese python may look really little and cute in its cage now, but within 4-5 years it will reach its adult length. Not many people have the room, or the money, to care for a 4-6 m (13-20 ft) snake! It's hard to find people who are willing to take in such a large animal. This is how these large snakes end up on the streets. It is a big problem in the southern United States. Not only are these snakes not native to the area, they are also a threat to local wildlife and humans. No one wants to walk outside and see a 2.4 m (8 ft) python sitting in a bush – this is how the Snake Room got its Burmese!

In Part II of this series, we will take a look at common problems new snake-owners tend to have and how to avoid them. Thanks for reading!


Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1160
Good Answers: 36
#1

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/16/2010 8:15 AM

This almost makes me want to try to have a snake as a pet. But then I remember how snakes give me a scare because they are such small and quiet creatures. Were you ever scared of snakes or nervous around them? If so, how did you cope to become the calm, cool, and collected snake owner that you are today?

Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 59
Good Answers: 2
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/16/2010 9:19 AM

I was definitely nervous around the very big snakes and the very small snakes when I started out.
The big snakes because they can easily hurt me and the small snakes because they often flail and bite and I didn't want to lose them.

It really helped me to have someone I trusted around who was very comfortable with the animals. It also helped when he or she would tell me about the animal; its name, what kind of snake it is, and how it behaves it various situations. When given a personality, the snake becomes more like a pet than a wild animal.

I always make sure to do this whenever someone holds one of my animals. You'd be amazed how quickly someone can go from being afraid of snakes to wanting one of their own!

Reply
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1160
Good Answers: 36
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/16/2010 9:30 AM

It's reassuring that a snake owner once had these feelings. Although I think it would be cool to have a snake, I think I am better off with pets that I am currently comfortable with (and comfortable feeding)!

Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Musician - Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Instrumentation Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Moses Lake, WA, USA, Thulcandra - The Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis)
Posts: 4216
Good Answers: 194
#4
In reply to #2

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/17/2010 4:55 PM

In the 4th picture down, is that an albino rat snake?

__________________
"Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone." - Ayn Rand
Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 59
Good Answers: 2
#5
In reply to #4

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/17/2010 5:53 PM

It's a leucistic texas rat snake.

Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Musician - Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Instrumentation Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Moses Lake, WA, USA, Thulcandra - The Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis)
Posts: 4216
Good Answers: 194
#10
In reply to #5

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/17/2010 11:03 PM

Vi Pham,

Interesting... I never knew about leucistic, let alone that there was a difference between that and albinistic. Do I still get points for recognising that it was a rat snake, "camouflaged" as it was?

Oh, and thanks for these articles - good job!

Mike

__________________
"Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone." - Ayn Rand
Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 59
Good Answers: 2
#12
In reply to #10

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/18/2010 8:55 AM

You definitely get points for spotting the rat snake, Mike!

Leucism is pretty rare - and very cool.
A lot of people mistake leucistic animals for albino ones. The trick is to look at their eyes.

Thanks for reading!

Reply
Power-User
Engineering Fields - Biomedical Engineering - New Member Fans of Old Computers - TRS-80 - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Omaha, Nebraska (fly-over country USA)
Posts: 383
Good Answers: 7
#6

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/17/2010 6:18 PM

Not to throw cold water on the conversation, but please be careful!!

Recently in the area, we had a gentleman strangled by his boa. He must have had it out playing and fell asleep on the sofa with it around his neck. The snake continued to wrap around and squeezed! He died by the time help arrived.

Please take care!

__________________
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka" but rather "Hmmmmm...that's funny" - Isaac Asimov 1920-1992
Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 59
Good Answers: 2
#7
In reply to #6

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/17/2010 7:22 PM

Thank you for your concern!

But you can rest assured that none of my snakes large enough or strong enough to hurt me (aside from the occasional bite).

But if I ever do get a snake capable of doing so, I will try to be as safe as possible.

Thanks again!

Reply
Power-User
Engineering Fields - Biomedical Engineering - New Member Fans of Old Computers - TRS-80 - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Omaha, Nebraska (fly-over country USA)
Posts: 383
Good Answers: 7
#8
In reply to #7

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/17/2010 10:01 PM

Exactly! Just use common sense. I think some guys have to prove they are macho by having a big dagerous pet just to be cool. When they really don't have the training/intellegence to do so!

__________________
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka" but rather "Hmmmmm...that's funny" - Isaac Asimov 1920-1992
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Musician - Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Instrumentation Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Moses Lake, WA, USA, Thulcandra - The Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis)
Posts: 4216
Good Answers: 194
#9
In reply to #8

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/17/2010 10:56 PM

(especially intelligence!)

__________________
"Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone." - Ayn Rand
Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20974
Good Answers: 781
#11

Re: Snakes: As Pets (Part I)

06/18/2010 2:50 AM

Snakes are great. At any science fiction and fantasy convention, one or more attendee is likely to be wearing a snake, often a California king. In one instance, my wife and I helped to hold a 16-foot python. The herpetologist who displayed this also had a devenomed cobra.

For a humorous take: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jNWPUFNA2U

__________________
In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 12 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Jaxy (2); Mikerho (3); Sid_Sidow (2); Tornado (1); Vi Pham (4)

Previous in Blog: Snakes: Growing and Shedding   Next in Blog: The Life of a Farrier: Physically Challenging; Mentally Rewarding

Advertisement