Monday, February 15, 2010

Can't keep dogs or cats as pets? Try sssomething different

It is often stated that pet owners don’t choose their pets, pets choose their owners. But, often enough, it is our own situations that narrow down the options for what pets we can keep.  Our choices in companion animals may be limited due to our living arrangements or health issues, such as allergies. Apartment dwellers are often prohibited from keeping cats and dogs, and those who share a residence with others must respect the space and wishes of their roommates. Not everyone appreciates the smells, the messes, the shedding fur/hair, and the noises that come from pet dogs and cats. So what do you do?

Imagine if there were pets that you could keep that are quiet, low-maintenance, you never have to walk, take up very little space, eat once a week, and don’t chew up your shoes, make messes all over your dwelling or scratch up your favorite curtains and furniture. 

Consider a pet snake! Now, such an animal isn’t going greet you at the door wagging its tail ready to hop up on your lap. It isn’t going to fetch you the paper or learn to perform tricks to impress your friends and neighbors. But, if those sorts of things don’t matter to you, a pet snake can bring you years of enjoyment and even spark a new addiction for a hobby that many have already discovered.

Handling a pet snake can be just as enjoyable and provide the same therapeutic health benefits as petting a dog or a cat. Also, if provided with a naturalistic enclosure, your pet snake can be as enjoyable and relaxing to watch as any exotic fish aquarium.

Keeping a Pet Snake

Snakes are fascinating animals that many people enjoy keeping as pets. Most can be kept in a reasonably small space and live out their entire lives, happy and healthy. In general, snakes will need only one meal a week and will defecate just as often. As long as you house them appropriately, keep their enclosures clean, meet their temperature and humidity requirements, and provide fresh clean water, your pet snake should be perfectly content for years to come. Many species live well over 20 years, in captivity.

All snakes are carnivorous, and you will need to feed them prey items. However, you may be surprised to hear that many snake keepers offer frozen/thawed rodents, rather than live feeders. This practice of feeding dead prey is preferable for several reasons.

1. Frozen feeders are less expensive than feeding live rodents
2. Frozen feeders won’t bite and harm your snake.
3. Frozen feeders are humanely euthanized ahead of time.
4. The freezing process kills many parasites that may potentially inhabit the gut of rodents.
5. You can keep a large number of feeders on hand, in a freezer, ready to go.

Your First Snake

Pet snakes come in all sizes, temperaments, colors, and care requirements, and for the potential first-time snake owner, there are many species that he or she should consider.
The following list includes species that I would recommend as appropriate for anyone considering such a pet. Please, research each species, thoroughly, as you consider your first snake.

o Corn Snake
o Bull or Gopher Snake
o California King Snake
o Milk snake 
o Rosy Boa
o Ball Python

While this list is by no means complete, it will give you a good place to begin in your research. All of the above snakes are small to medium in size as adults and are readily available as captive bred animals.

Where do I find my pet snake?

Avoid large chain pet stores and local pet shops. I say this because, the majority of the time, the animals available have inflated price tags, and you usually wont find staff to be terribly knowledgeable beyond the basics of their care.

Once you’ve decided what species you are looking for, it is best to locate a reputable private breeder. You’ll find they will offer their animals for a fraction of what the pet stores charge, and the animals tend to be much healthier. To illustrate the dramatic difference in what you’ll be paying, a baby ball python at Pet Co. will run you up to $80, whereas a private breeder or reptile specialty shop will have captive-bred offspring for as low as $30. A private breeder will also be able to provide you with the animal’s entire life history, ensure the animal is eating, and will often allow you to see the parent’s of the snake you are considering.   

Another good option is adoption! Many rescues will offer snakes for adoption for a small fee, and as long as you can show that you are prepared and capable of providing the animal a good home, rescues will be happy to help you in your search.

Once you researched the snake you are looking for, and you have the appropriate housing ready to go, you can begin searching for an individual animal to take home. Be sure you do plenty of information-hunting; read books and several care sheets, available on the internet, talk to owners and other keepers to get as much information to ensure you’ll give your new snake the best home possible. Internet reptile forums are another place where you can talk to experienced keepers and breeders.

Is a pet snake for you?

Snakes are beautiful creatures that can make great pets and be with you for a long time. They can provide just as much enjoyment for you as others receive from their pet dogs or cats. Snakes are a great option if you live in an apartment or rented house that wouldn’t normally allow furry pets. Or, maybe you’re simply not a dog/cat person and want to keep something a little different. Every year, many people discover the joy of keeping snakes and other reptiles as pets, and it is certainly something to consider in search for the perfect pet.

You wouldn’t want to miss them, would you?

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