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Your Guide to Selecting a Reptile

Snakes, lizards and turtles, oh my! With so many reptiles to choose from, which one is right for you? This guide will help you choose the reptile that best suits your home and lifestyle.

Selecting the Proper Reptile Species. To make sure your reptile of choice is the right pet for you and to avoid the common mistakes that make for a disappointing experience, it’s important that you do your homework before you bring your new pet home. How much does one usually cost? What sort of diet will your new pet consume? Do the research first.

Are You Ready for Big Reptiles? Pet owners often underestimate how much responsibility comes with keeping a reptile or amphibian. This is often because many “herps” are generally inactive and thus are perceived as requiring little care. Lack of foresight has resulted in a huge population of unwanted pets and has had disastrous consequences for the animals involved and for human health and safety.

Understanding Your Cold Blooded Creature. Reptiles are often called cold-blooded creatures, an assertion that mistakenly leads many people to believe they have cold core temperatures. In reality, reptiles are ectothermic animals, which means their metabolism does not generate enough heat byproducts to maintain body temperature above air or surface temperatures. Unlike warm-blooded mammals (including humans), reptiles regulate their body temperatures by behavior, such as basking in the sun or moving between warm and cold spots.

How Lizards Behave. Like other reptiles, lizards have certain basic behaviors. They seek out warmth and sunlight, so they can feed and digest the food they consume. If healthy, they will be alert to the world around them and find a receptive mate and reproduce. But there’s far more to lizard behavior than a positive response to heat, light, food and sex.

How Snakes Behave. What do snakes do? If we’re talking about captive snakes the direct answer would have to be not much. Except in rare instances, they don’t have the space to do much. However, in the wild, a snake’s behavioral pattern is much different than those of their captive brethren.

How Turtles Behave. An unhappy turtle is a lazy turtle. Like a reclusive child, an unhappy turtle will withdraw into its shell, physically and emotionally. He will remain quietly unobtrusive for minutes or even hours. When he does finally emerge, it is often only to try to escape. But if given ample space and naturalistic conditions, turtles and tortoises can be very active and entertaining and seem to feel quite at home.

Housing Your Lizard. Lizards need housing that provides them with emotional and physical comfort. Emotional comfort means that the animal feels safe. Physical comfort means that the cage temperature and, to a lesser extent, humidity, are within the same range as your lizard’s origin.

Housing Your Snake. Captive snakes can thrive and breed in either lush cages or spartan quarters, but the aim in all cases is to provide a healthy, secure and absolutely escape-proof environment. Some species do, of course, have more specific caging necessities. Terrestrial snake species, for example, do well in horizontally oriented cages, and arboreal species need vertically oriented terraria.

Housing Your Turtle. How you house your turtle or tortoise will vary according to the species of shelled-reptile you keep. Tortoises are creatures of dry land habitats. Some turtles are also species of dry land habitats, but most true turtles are semi-aquatic. Also bear in mind, that turtles and tortoises are long-lived. The life span of most exceeds 20 years and some are known to live for more than a century.

Feeding Your Lizard. Lizards can be herbivorous, insectivorous or they can be omnivorous. Before you buy your animal, make certain you’re going to be able to provide it the diet it needs. Most lizards have high metabolic rates and require five to seven feedings per week.

Feeding Your Snake. Pet snakes are generally easier to feed than other reptiles. While an anaconda might need a good-sized deer and a reticulated python a pig every few weeks, your own pet will most likely have more modest needs. Most of the common pet species require pre-killed rats or mice (or rabbits for large specimens). These require no nutritional supplementation and one meal a week is usually enough. But
there are enough special cases that one should check on the exact dietary needs of your particular animal.

Feeding Your Turtle. Many turtles eagerly accept a variety of foods. They like to eat and will “run” over to you at feeding time. But their dietary requirements are quite strict and an improper diet will lead to early death. Particularly devastating a lack of calcium required for both bone and shell growth.

Caring for Your Iguana. Keep in mind that your iguana will grow to be 4 to 6 feet in a relatively short time. Investing in a larger cage now will save the expense of replacing a cage he has outgrown. You will need to give your iguana 12 to 14 hours of daylight, followed by another 10 to 12 hours of full dark.

Caring for Your Snake. There are over 2,700 species of snake in our world. They occupy a diverse array of habitats including sub-polar meadows, tropical forest, the deepest oceans and the highest mountains. Ranging in size from four inches to 33 feet, this complex group defies generalizations as to captive care. So before you buy your pet, research its individual needs.

Caring for Your Turtle. Turtles, numbering more than 245 species, inhabit areas ranging from the hottest deserts to the coldest oceans. As proper care requires close attention to natural history, your pet’s needs should be investigated carefully before you buy it.

Choosing a Snake. Now some 2,700 species strong, snakes live on all continents except Antarctica and are most abundant in the tropics. Snakes can be found in deserts, oceans, forests and even cities. Their size is just as diverse: While the slender blind snake matures at a bare 4 ½ inches, the green anaconda may reach 30 feet and weigh more than 500 pounds. Reptiles must live in their own environment and are dependent upon you to provide it for them.

Choosing a Lizard. Lizards are the most diverse group of reptiles. More than 3,800 species have been identified, and they live on all continents except Antarctica, in habitats as varied as deserts, oceans, grasslands, forests, and cities. They range in size from the monito gecko, which matures at slightly over an inch, to the komodo dragon, which can reach more than 10 feet in length.

Choosing a Turtle. If any vertebrate on earth can be considered the winner in the evolutionary race it is the turtle, which has survived 250 million years nearly unchanged. They are indeed the ancient ones and if you decide to keep one as a pet it deserves some special respect. A well-cared-for turtle could certainly outlive you – many are known to have lived more than 100 years – so don’t take your responsibility lightly.