Having a snake as a pet requires a lot of preparation, both for you and your family. The decision to have a snake as a pet rests with the whole family since it is necessary that all members are comfortable with the arrival of the new member to the family.
If there is someone in your family who is afraid of snakes, or you live in a rental apartment and the owner does not want reptiles in your home, a snake may not be the most appropriate pet. Also, keep in mind that snakes should eat whole prey, so they should be stored fresh or frozen somewhere in the house.
If your family agrees with the entrance of the reptile at home and all the necessary conditions are met to keep it healthy and happy, continue reading what types of care you will need to give it.
Creating the right habitat for your snake
1. Choosing a terrarium
A snake kept as a pet needs to live in a closed enclosure, the best being terrariums. Unlike what happens with fish, hermit crabs, birds, and horses, with snakes, a larger enclosure does not mean better.
Small-sized snakes can suffer from anxiety when faced with habitats that are too large for them. Generally speaking, tree snakes (which live on trees) need high enclosures, but snakes that live on the ground need, above all, wide enclosures.
Before choosing the type of enclosure that you want to buy, it is necessary that you investigate the habitat of your snake to be able to choose the correct size. Once you know the species and needs of your snake, buy the terrarium and configure it. Never introduce your snake at home without first having your terrarium ready, later we will explain why.
In addition, the terrarium that you will need must be prepared for this type of pets. It must have a cover and it must be able to close completely so that your snake does not escape.
2. Decorate the inside of the terrarium
Inside the terrarium, you must set up the bedding, which may consist of sand, gravel or some type of blanket. The background is what will reproduce the natural habitat of your snake so that the more similar it is to its natural habitat, the better.
You should also introduce rocks, climbing branches, vines, etc … depending on the kind of snake you have chosen. For example, small pythons mainly need rocks and climbing branches. On the other hand, all snakes without exception need a place to shelter, feel safe and relax. In short, a hiding place. Ideally, look for and buy some rock caves for snakes.
3. Heating and illumination
Some types of snakes need an ultraviolet-B (UVB) light to live, while others do not. However, most snakes meet this need with half an hour of sunlight per day.
You will need to previously and in detail investigate the lighting needs of your snake species. In the case that your snake needs specific lighting, you must put it in the upper part of the terrarium. The lighting manufacturer himself will tell you where and how you should put it.
What it is very possible that you need your snake is some kind of heating. And with heating, we do not mean that you put the stove in your house next to it. Use a heating mantle for reptiles, but beware! Never light the blanket and forget about it until the next day, because your snake could burn.
In addition, the most advisable is to put it in only one place in the terrarium, leaving a cold area for your snake to choose where to be according to what they need at the moment. Of course, try to measure the temperature at which is their hiding place, and set the temperature that is always optimal for the species of your snake.
Do not trust a light lamp to cover your snake’s heat needs. They do not work for this. You must use specific heating systems for reptiles. In addition, it is not advisable to use wall thermometers, since the important thing is to measure the temperature of the ground.
If you monitor the temperature of the terrarium floor, the temperature of the air and the humidity, for at least a week before placing your snake in your new home, you will prevent it from suffering a lot.
Snakes and exercise
Snakes do not require much exercise. With enough space in the terrarium and able to climb properly through the branches, it will be fine. Of course, some of the larger snakes like to swim.
However, this is sometimes complicated to satisfy. Ideally, you should have a patio or terrace at home, where you can set up a children’s pool and take it out from time to time so your snake can swim and have fun.
Feeding a snake
One of the problems that snake owners have to face is to satisfy the diet that this type of pet needs. All snakes are carnivorous. So far so good. However, snakes have to eat whole prey, and better still if they are fresh, or to put it another way, live.
Most snakes feed on rats and mice that can be purchased frozen. However, some can also feed on amphibians and other reptiles smaller than them. Even the smallest snakes are able to feed on large insects.
Fortunately, many snakes accept being fed dead prey, which means that the mice and rats will be frozen and the insects dehydrated. If your snake accepts this type of feeding, you can consider having an additional small-sized freezer in which to keep your food separate from your family’s.
Of course, you should always have at hand at least a dozen frozen rats or mice, since a snake could eat between 1 and 4 depending on what they want. In either case, make sure the food is at most the size of your snake’s head.
On the other hand, if your snake does not accept being fed with frozen prey, we are sorry to tell you that to maintain it, you will have no choice but to give it live prey. You can try introducing the frozen prey a bit to encourage your snake to eat it, but in many cases, it will not work.
If you are forced to feed your snake with live prey, you must arm yourself with courage, since you will have to see how your snake hunts and eats its prey. It is dangerous to leave a snake alone with its prey. It may get scratches or bites during hunting.
Hygiene needs of a snake
The most important moment in the hygiene of a snake is when it sheds its skin. If the temperature and humidity are right, and if all goes well, your snake will take care of the molt itself. Usually, a snake will shed its skin about once a month. This process can last more than a week.If there is a problem, or something worse, your snake has not moved the skin in a long time, it may need specialized help.
The most common cause of molting problems is a terrarium with excessively dry air. Increase moisture in your snake’s terrarium and introduce some moist paper, moss or other soft substrate material. This could be enough to solve the problem.
If after having increased the humidity and provided these materials, your snake still can not complete the molt, take it to the veterinarian immediately.
Handling a snake
Many snakes tolerate being manipulated, but do not attempt to tame them until they have fed at least four times in their new home. Also, you must wait until there are no lumps of food in their belly before trying to touch it.
When the lumps are gone, take it slowly and place both hands under their belly to support their weight. You should try to manipulate only the upper third of your snake’s body unless your veterinarian tells you that you can do the opposite.
A good environment for a snake is one in which they are properly cared for even after the novelty of a snake as a pet has disappeared.