Thinking of buying a pet reptile for the first time? Awesome! Whether you’re intrigued by their unique and dinosaur-like appearance, their quirky behavior, or simply the thought of owning an exotic animal, you’ll soon find that there’s, even more, to love about them. Still, buying a reptile isn’t something you want to rush into. As alluring as the snake, lizard, or turtle you are considering might be, there are a few things to consider before you buy a pet reptile to ensure that you have a positive experience.
Reptiles aren’t particularly affectionate
If you were expecting your new pet reptile to be as affectionate as a dog or a cat, you are going to be disappointed. Reptiles lack the emotional capacity to love their owners in the same ways that we’ve come to expect from traditional pets. Their brains are less sophisticated with emotions limited to those relating to survival: hunger, fear, etc.
However, that’s not to say that reptiles kept as pets are cold and indifferent towards their owners. When a snake feels safe and secure (the closest they feel to happiness), their behavior will reflect this. They will appear relaxed with slow and easy-going movement, and most importantly, won’t try to escape your grasp or hide from you.
They can live for a very long time
Reptiles age differently than mammals. Not only can some of them outlive dogs and cats, but some species could actually outlive humans! As such, owning a reptile as a pet can be a considerable commitment. Turtles can live for more than four decades and a few species of tortoise for more than a century.
But it’s not as simple as all of one type reptile lives longer than others. There can be a major difference in lifespan even within the distinct orders. Take corn snakes, for instance, a wildly popular beginner snake. This species typically only lives for 6-8 years in the wild. Ball pythons, on the other hand, the most popular of pet snakes, can live up to 30 or 35 years in captivity. Be sure to ask about the lifespan of the precise species (or subspecies) that you’re interested in.
Some reptiles never stop growing
In addition to living for a long time, a few types of reptiles will continue to grow their entire lives. Such organisms are called “indeterminate growers” and include sharks, coral, monitor lizards, and snakes. What does matter to a prospective or soon-to-be reptile owner? This is something you’ll need to be mindful of when it comes to choosing a properly sized enclosure. A too-small living environment isn’t just an inconvenience for your pet but can stress them out tremendously, directly affecting their health and well-being (which will end up costing you big-time in extra vet visits).
Like all animals, reptiles grow fastest when they are juveniles, you may need to size up their terrarium a couple of times until they reach sexual maturity (which is when they are considered adults). They will grow at a considerably slower pace at this stage, but be mindful that you may still need to size up. Overfeeding can also contribute to a reptile growing to an above-average size so be mindful that you only feed your reptile the recommended amount.
Heating isn’t the only condition you’ll need to think about
Being cold-blooded, reptiles are reliant on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. This means that reptile owners will have to ensure they have proper (and often multiple) sources of heat in their pet’s enclosure. As crucial as the temperature is to keep a reptile healthy, there are also other conditions you’ll need to attend to.
One of those is humidity. Some reptiles require at least some level of moisture in the air to keep their skin hydrated and their respiratory function working properly. Reptiles also need specific kinds of light to provide vitamins and minerals, such as UVA and UVB.
Major pet stores don’t have the best selection of reptiles
Last but certainly not least, when it finally comes time to buy your new pet reptile, your best bet is to look outside of the major pet stores. Their selection is likely going to be limited to a few of the most popular choices, not ideal if you had a specific species or morph in mind. More detrimental though, is that the store associates will likely lack intimate knowledge about the animals such as their temperament and how well they do with people (being handled).
Instead, the best place to find reptiles for sale is going to be at smaller retailers who have close relationships with the people who supply the animals, the breeders. Doing so increases the odds that animals were bred and hatched in healthy conditions and will thrive as your future pet.