Pet Reptiles: What You Need To Know Before You Buy

Just about every kiddo wants a dog. Has your son or daughter pleaded that he/she will walk it, clean up after it and feed it every day without complaining? Those of you in one of the 53% of American households with a dog, how many of you are the ones and not your children who actually walk it, clean up after it and feed it every day?

Pet reptiles, especially, snakes and lizards make life interesting. They require a bit less work than most furry pets, as long as you have the proper enclosures set up for your pet reptiles. Ball pythons and bearded dragons top the list of most popular first reptiles.

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Pet Reptiles Great for Those with Allergies

Pet reptiles are great for families allergic to furry friends. Cat and dog allergies are quite common. The cold-blooded creatures do not have dander, which is the main allergen from cats, dogs, and other furry friends. Pet reptiles, typically, live in a terrarium so the temperature and environment can be regulated for the scaly creatures. The housing needs for each reptile varies based on the species and kind. Some reptiles require it to be more humid. Some require it to be a bit warmer. Terrific pet reptiles include snakes and lizards.

Read More: Finding A Family Pet: Animals That Are A Great Fit and Ones To Avoid
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Slithering Snakes Make Excellent Pets

            Having a pet snake becomes a conversation piece for the whole family. The more you handle your pet snake the more used to humans they become. Some will just “chill” around your neck like a scarf, while you watch TV. Other snakes will rest in your lap or hands. Some, if you let them, will slither into your shirt curling up along your body for warmth. When family and friends come over, it’s fun to see who will hold and not hold your snake. The best is taking awesome fun photos to post on social media of Grandma bravely posing with your pet snake.  

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Ball Pythons

            Ball pythons are quite docile, stay small, and do not need a very big enclosure, which makes them very popular pet reptiles. Adult female ball pythons are about 3 to 5 feet long. Adult male ball pythons are a bit smaller, measuring about 2 to 3 feet long, according to Snake Country, a breeder in Yorba Linda, California. Ball pythons can be purchased at pet stores, breeders and reptile shows, like the National Reptile Breeders’ Expo that travels to various cities.

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According to Reptiles magazine, an adult ball python can live in an enclosure that is just 36 x 18 x 12 inches. The enclosure can be a plastic sweater box or a glass terrarium. The trick is maintaining the humidity. Ball pythons are native to Central and West Africa where the humidity is between 55 and 70 percent, and up to 80 percent. It is important to maintain the humidity of the tank for ball pythons.

The temperature of the enclosure should be about 80 degrees, with a basking spot with a temperature between 88 and 96 degrees. Temperature is typically regulated with a heating pad. Ball pythons eat a rodent, typically a rat, either live or frozen and thawed each week.

Read More: Why Pets Make Bad Gifts
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Bearded Dragons Top The List of Favorite Pet Reptiles

Bearded dragons are great starting reptiles. The Australian natives like the humidity level the same as it likely is in your house so you only need to worry about the lights in their terrariums. Bearded dragons need a heat light and UV (or ultraviolet) light. The reptiles need UV light so they can make Vitamin D. When beardies are young, you need to make sure their diet includes lots of protein like crickets and super-worms, along with daily fresh vegetables. As they get older, bearded dragons do not need quite as much protein.

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Some bearded dragon owners like to get “cricket keepers” to house crickets so it is convenient for feeding. Expert note: Lots of crickets together in a tiny cage create quite a stink, as well as noise. If you live in town close to a pet shop and work out of the house, it’s just as easy to swing by to purchase the needed crickets when you are out and about. Of course, the choice is yours. Just remember, you might end up with pet crickets, along with a pet bearded dragon.

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Owners of Pet Reptiles Bond, Share Tips

Once you choose to become a reptile owner it’s in your blood. Somehow when a cold-blooded reptile sits in a terrarium in your living room, he becomes a part of the family. You find yourself chatting with the pet reptile as you walk by from room to room. You chat with him when you feed him and clean the tank. You pet him and hold him just like a furry pet.

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Once you become a pet reptile owner, you quickly learn who has the best feeder rats in town. You discover what day large crickets are delivered to your favorite local pet store. You learn to keep an extra heat lamp bulb on hand so when yours burns out you don’t have to run immediately to the store to buy one.

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You find yourself telling the produce worker that you need fresh collard greens or better-looking sweet potatoes for your lizard. You no longer become squeamish if the bag of crickets or super-worms is next to the groceries you picked up at the store. You find yourself inviting your children’s friends over for playdates when it is snake feeding day.


Just like dog owners, reptile people bond in the pet stores sharing photos of their pet reptiles as they purchase crickets, super-worms, or rats. Many reptile owners have more than one reptile. Be sure to do an Internet search for reptile breeder shows near me. The shows are like visiting a reptile zoo but you can purchase your favorite reptile, the tank, and food all in one spot. Reptile shows are a great place to get unique patterns on a ball python. It is a great way to see reptiles of all kinds, not just ball pythons and bearded dragons, but also many other kinds of snakes and lizards, as well as turtles and a variety of amphibians.

No matter what reptile you choose to take home be sure to research the animal before you buy to ensure that you can take care of it when fully grown.

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Carla J. Eskew
Carla J. Eskew is a freelance writer, wife, and mom of two children who are nine years apart. She is a Scout leader with 15 years of experience in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She serves as a volunteer at school, church, and with the homeless population. She loves road trips, sightseeing, camping, and pilates. But, her new love is her 1-year-old black standard poodle puppy, Midnight Shadow.

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