- Many snakes can live for several decades, especially a pet python – choose carefully!
- The Children’s Python is a great choice for beginners and perfect if you are looking for a pretty pet snake.
- Snakes require live food and special habitats.
Choosing a pet snake is very different from other livestock and companion animals. It’s a tricky and potentially risky process. The creatures have unique care requirements and husbandry. You need to make sure you choose one suited to your best handling capabilities.
Picking A Pet Snake
Most snakes are tame, but some are dangerous (even the tame ones). However, it’s usually the living conditions that contribute to aggressive behavior. If you’re going to keep a snake, you need to commit and be empathetic to their needs.
If you’re thinking about having a pet snake, take the following into account:
- Snakes can live for two decades. This is a long-term commitment.
- Houdini could learn from snakes. They are extraordinary escape artists. Snakes often go looking for freedom, and they find it. It’s important to have an enclosure that your snake can’t outwit.
- Consider how you’ll feed them. Most experts recommend frozen/thawed food for snakes that eat mammals or other reptiles. It’s safer for the snake and less traumatic to the prey.
- Unless you’re a skilled handler, keeping large (over 8 feet as an adult) or venomous snakes is not recommended.
Use a Breeder
Get your pet snake from reputable breeders. Wild snakes that you capture will be stressed, and most die without extra help in adjusting. They are prone to disease and parasites. These traits will make taming difficult.
Plus, when you use a breeder or proper vendor, you increase the chance of getting a healthy creature. Even if you are not a vet – before getting a snake, do your own cursory review. Look for retained skin, bubbles coming from the nose, mouth rot, or problems with the eyes.
Ask the proprietor for a feeding demonstration. If you’re going the pre-killed route, you need to know if your desired reptile takes to it and eats well. For example, the ball python is a finicky eater and is famous for feeding issues. You want to clear that up before you get a snake in your home.
How to Handle a Snake
You want to acclimate the pet to your presence. And no owner wants a snake they can’t hold! But you want to do it safely. Young snakes, not used to human touch, will take some training.
Wash your hands first. Any scent may be mistaken for food. Cleaning also reduces the possibility of harmful parasites or bacteria transferring to the snake. One day, it may be unnecessary, but you want to get the snake used to the human presence.
Don’t feel a soothing conversation may help. While snakes aren’t deaf, they can’t hear human speech.
Always move predictably and slowly. Never surprise a snake! Even when you’re just looking through the glass. Approaching your snake — in or out of its enclosure — straight or from the side. Not from above and never by surprising it. That snake will surprise you!
And while we’re on the topic of surprises, avoid trying to pick up a hissing snake. The snake is either afraid or on defense. Don’t mess with it for several days after it’s had a meal. KEEP AWAY when it’s shedding. Until it’s used to you, a good time to handle your reptile is when it’s feeling calm but awake.
The Best Pet Snakes
Snakes make for great pets! They are unique and fun. There are over 4,000 species worldwide, and many great species are available from breeders as pets. The following 10 animals are popular and relatively low maintenance. These are breeds that stay small. Most breeds eat live food, so if you’re squeamish about that, get a guinea pig. You’ve got options for kids, beginners, and the experienced.
So here’s a list of great snakes, known for their ease of care, temperament, and appearance.
#1 Children’s Python
Children’s Pythons grow between 2.5 and four feet making them rare medium-sized snakes that stay small. These pet pythons are great for beginners and are docile enough to be around supervised kids. The reptile requires the most basic care and diet on rodents. Their temperaments are excellent when handled gently and regularly. They live up to 30 years! It will run you anywhere between $70 and $350 for your pet python.
#2 Common Boa Constrictor
Due to their very large size, boas aren’t the best pet for the novice. At a titillating 13 to 16 feet in length, the boa constrictor needs an experienced handler. Found in South and Central America, the boa snacks on deer, lizards, fish, and other creatures. As a pet, you can feed them rabbits, rats, and chickens. You want to keep them away from kids. Boas are strong and may wrap tight if stressed or threatened. The common boa costs between $60 and $200.
#3 Western Hognose Snake
Native to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, the Western Hognose Snake is known for its upturned pug-ish nose. Active in the mornings and evenings, the breeds snack on toads and small lizards, and mice (when toads and lizards aren’t available). The Hognose digs holes to find toads hiding in the sand. The Hognose’s good with proper handling and their hissing isn’t aggressive behavior. This pretty pet snake costs around $100–$500.
#4 Garter Snake
Garters are among the world’s most populous wild snakes and popular home pets. Captive garters gnaw on worms and small fish. With common heating and lighting requirements, they don’t need a lot of maintenance. It’s good to set them up with a basking lamp as the garter enjoys resting in the sun. They grow no longer than four feet, making them rare small snakes. The garter snake is a famous backyard invader and being pretty harmless and tame, they’re good for kids. The snakes are inexpensive at less than $50.
#5 Ball Python
The ball python is famous for its pickiness and its food. They prefer thawed or freshly killed meals, but there then are periods when they stop eating completely. But the nature of this pet python is calm and docile, and suspicious. You’re going to spend some time earning their trust. One characteristic of the snake is curling into a ball when intimidated. They can get thick that stay small, maxing out at five feet. Ball pythons live up to three decades! The cost, depending on the specific rarity, is $25–$200 for this pet python.
#6 California King Snake
The Cali King Snake is usually brown-black with yellow stripes, bands, or speckles. An excellent beginner snake, the Cali King is a shy, docile animal with frequent handling. When stressed, the snake doesn’t lash out. The breeds would prefer coiling up and hiding. They have basic care requirements, eat mice, and live as long as 20 years. You can have one of your own for between $70 and $170.
#7 Corn Snake
The Corn Snake is a top choice for beginners. Native to the United States, they’re typically in terrestrial habitats. If done by professionals, you can capture them in the wild. Captive breeds though are healthier with calmer temperaments. You can keep the three to four-foot-long snake in a 20-gallon aquarium. They eat pinky mice and have few medical problems. Look at a cost typically in the $40 to $100 range for this pretty pet snake.
#8 African House Snake
The adaptable African House Snake can live in many ecosystems. In their native sub-Saharan Africa, they find comfort in living around human dwellings. These animals are harmless but tend to stress over unfamiliar environments and loud noises. But as they’re more likely to run than bite, the animals are a safe bet for kids. Outside of its brown shade, you’ll distinguish the African house snake by a thin stripe of white or tan running across the top of its body from head to tail. Prices start at $70.
#9 Milk Snake
The milk snake calls Mexico and the States home. A rare smaller snake for beginners, it has rings of orange, red, white, yellow, and black. Often confused with the coral snake, the milk snake’s not venomous and has an impressionable docile temperament. You cannot have more than one in a single environment as these creatures tend to cannibalize each other. They grow up to six feet in length. Depending on the species, a Milksnake costs between $70 and $100.
#10 Gopher Snake
There are nine subspecies among the gopher snake breeds, including the bullsnake, the Sonoran gopher, and the Pacific and Great Basin gophers. Sizes range from three to seven feet. Behavior and coloration often have them mistaken as various venomous species. This is also because one of their defensive traits is fooling predators by imitating dangerous animals like rattlesnakes. Though not particularly domesticated, the gopher does make a good pet if handled with care. A gopher snake costs between $30–$100.
Where to Get Food for Your Pet Snake and How to Feed It
As stated above, snakes are carnivores so they have to eat meat. Most pet stores sell live and frozen mice for snake consumption. If you choose to feed your pet live mice – you need to purchase special tongs for lowering the mouse into the snake’s enclosure. Just dropping the mouse into the cage will startle the snake and may result in your hand being bitten. Be sure to leave the top on the cage so your pet’s dinner won’t escape.
Frozen mice are a good option for the squeamish and a much more convenient option for most pet snake owners. You can store them in your freezer instead of buying one live mouse at a time. It is important to remember that you can not feed your snake a frozen mouse – it must be thawed! Also important – never thaw the food in the microwave or in boiling water! Yuk. You can thaw the mouse in its baggie for several hours on the kitchen counter or in a bowl of warm water. Some people like to lower the thawed mouse into the snake’s enclosure with tongs and move it around to mimic a live rodent.
Summary Of The 10 Best Snakes To Keep As Pets:
|2||Common Boa Constrictor||Experienced|
|3||Western Hognose Snake||Intermediate|
|6||California King Snake||Beginner|
|8||African House Snake||Beginner|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com
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