Although definitely not for everyone, snakes can make an excellent addition to any family. Personally, I have kept snakes as pets since I was a small child, in a variety of species, including garter snakes, Burmese pythons, and even venomous species. While I definitely do not advocate keeping dangerous species of reptiles without the proper experience required, the majority of snakes are completely harmless and can make excellent pets. If you are considering purchasing a snake for yourself or a family member, here are a few things to consider before making a commitment to looking after a scaled friend.
First and foremost, you need to decide what species of snake best fits your household. Snakes vary greatly, from the fast little fish-eating garter snake to the slow, gentle giant pythons—each species requires specific care.
Research, research, research!
I cannot stress enough the importance of researching the specific needs of a reptile species before purchasing. The majority of health problems I see in practice with reptiles are a direct result of improper husbandry (diet, lighting, humidity, etc.).
Your level of experience keeping reptiles.
If you are an entry-level reptile keeper, I recommend choosing a species that is relatively easy to take care of. For California, species like the local rosy boa or California king snake are perfect choices for beginners, as they do not require as much specialty lighting, heating, or humidity equipment.
Snakes are obligate carnivores. That means you will be feeding them whole, dead prey. If you are not comfortable with this, then snakes are not the pet for you.
Every animal has the potential to bite, and snakes are no different.
The first time a snake bit me, I was surprised to find that the surprise/ shock was the worst part. Nonvenomous snakes have many small teeth designed for holding onto prey items, and they only bite people when they feel threatened, are being mishandled, or if they mistake your hand for a prey item. Overall, I would much rather be bitten by a small snake than a cat or a dog.
If you do decide to make a serpentine addition to your family, I also recommend making an appointment with a veterinarian who is comfortable treating reptiles and discussing their specific needs. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and it is much easier to correct husbandry problems before they cause health issues.
Village Park Animal Hospital is located at 51-230 Eisenhower Dr. in La Quinta. Village Park Animal Hospital also offers grooming services for dogs and cats. (760) 564-3833www.villageparkanimalhospital.com