I am a veterinarian who is trying to bring a new taste to people's lives.
Snakes are long, slender, and solitary animals. They are neither cuddly nor very friendly, but they can be excellent pets for the right people. As the trends suggest, their popularity as pets is on the rise while only a fraction of owners know the correct way of feeding and keeping them.
Consequently, the majority of pet snakes die in captivity while the rest tend to escape or live unhealthy lives. Based on these observations, I have listed a set of instructions for the breeders and owners to keep their pets healthy and happy.
Peace at home is essential for all humans. Like humans, all animals share the same philosophy. Keeping a snake is different from other pets. They have specific requirements, and most of all, their homes (known as enclosures or vivarium) must imitate their natural habitats to prevent any discomfort. The following things must be kept in mind before designing an enclosure for a snake
The size of the enclosure depends upon the length and weight of the pet snake. The favorable size for a pet snake is no more than 8-10 feet. Longer snakes require a much larger enclosure. For a medium-sized snake, an enclosure of about 20 gallons is adequate. While bulkier pet snakes such as boas and pythons can't live in smaller aquariums and need larger homes ranging up to 100 gallons or more in volume.
Price of Enclosure
Here comes the most important question: What does it cost to make a medium-sized enclosure? Well, building an enclosure is not very expensive, and you can build one for your pet for 100-150 dollars. All you need is a sturdy tank, and the rest of the things can be done by watching tutorials on YouTube or reading online snake-keeping manuals.
As snakes in the wild adore their underground lifestyle, it is no brainer that they tend to burrow themselves while they live in captivity. Since most of the pet snakes have wild predecessors, their burrowing hunger can be only quenched by putting adequate substrate inside their enclosures. The substrate can be a newspaper/ soil or sand. The bottom of their enclosure can be lined with dry leaves, the bark of trees, and brown grass to give a natural touch. The quantity or thickness of substrate depends upon the snake. Some snakes require a substrate that is only an inch thick while others like it more than several inches to give them a calm and secure feel.
Being excellent swimmers in wild, the majority of snakes are water-loving. As established, an ideal enclosure must emulate the exact natural habitats. Unfortunately, a swimming pool of some sort is nearly impossible inside an enclosure. But to prevent any malaise to the pet, it is advised to place a small water bowl or a mini pool inside the enclosure. The water must be drained and the pool must be cleaned regularly. The temperature of the water must also be monitored and should be kept between 70–90-degree Fahrenheit. The water natatorium not only refreshes the mood of the snake but also helps in thermoregulation.
Temperature and Humidity
Thermoregulation is vital to the survival of the snakes. They are cold-blooded reptiles that mainly get and dissipate heat into the environment. The optimum temperature for the majority of pet snakes is 75–85-degrees Fahrenheit.
Apart from this, the substrate of the enclosure is primal in regulating the temperature of the reptiles' bodies. But one of the most important things in temperature maintenance is water puddle inside the enclosure. Thermoregulation for snakes is a complex phenomenon and requires a correct balance between the atmospheric, soil & water temperature to keep the metabolism of the snake on track.
Humidity is another aspect that must be kept in mind. Although the ideal value is different for every species, a value around 60% is suitable for most snakes. A water bowl inside the enclosure is vital in maintaining the mugginess. For ventilation, fans are installed to keep the air in circulation.
Feeding a snake is different than the other pets. While our regular pets make certain noises and gestures when hungry, snakes exhibit no such phenomenon, mostly remaining quiet and alone.
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As a result, snakes are not timely fed and they try to escape the enclosure. This thing forces the owners to sell their snakes and establishes a well-heard rhetoric “snakes can’t become pets”.
The point I am making is simple. Like other pets, snakes require regular feeding. I have simplified the feeding chart for your ease
When to Feed
Snakes exhibit signs when hungry but these signs are often very mild and are easily skipped by the beginners giving a false sense that their pet is not hungry.
Important signs that are generally observed by the experienced breeders are hyperactivity and escape attempts. Furthermore, a hungry snake may latch onto anything that comes within its radius.
What to Feed
In contrast to natural conditions, pet snakes in captivity are not fed live animals/rodents. Live rodents can seriously harm your pet which may result in life-threatening infections. To avoid any serious complications, pet owners are advised to give their pets thawed mice/chicken.
But freezing and thawing of already dead rodents will result in the growth of pathogenic bacteria. These pathogenic bacteria cause food poisoning in digestive issues. So, the owners are strongly cautioned in case of spoiled or contaminated food.
How Much to Feed
As a general rule of thumb, you must feed your snake once or twice a week depending upon the size & weight of the snake. For some species, once a month is okay. Anything that is fed to the snake must not be larger than the mouth of the snake to avoid any problem in swallowing.
But if you are not satisfied with the general feeding pattern then you must pay close attention to your pet. By keeping a close eye on the quantity of the feed and time taken by the pet to digest, pet keepers can crack the exact feeding pattern that suits their pets. But it is a time-consuming process and requires detailed observation of signs and activities shown by the snake.
Cost of the Feed
At present, the market is really small and no company specializes in making snake food. But you can buy frozen rodents and amphibians from certain vendors and pet shops. Although the feed is cheap, the quality is something to keep in mind. A frozen medium-sized mouse can cost 5-20 bucks. Considering the rule of feeding once a week, feed of a month will cost roughly 20-80 dollars. That is a broad range but you should have a budget of around $60 to keep your pet satisfied.
The most challenging aspect of keeping a pet as a snake is veterinary care. Even, when snakes are becoming popular as pets there are only a handful of vets that are qualified to diagnose and treat diseases of snakes. This makes vet care not only rare but also expensive. A veterinarian who can treat snakes charges twice as compared to a regular vet treating dogs and cats.
Owners may have to wait days to get appointments and pay thousands of dollars in just prescriptions. In addition, only a few medicines in the market are safe for snakes. So, it is not uncommon that vets may refuse treatment or charge extravagantly for minor-looking problems.
Finding a vet that specializes in snakes isn't an easy task.
There is no doubt that keeping and breeding snakes is a difficult process. Breeders and owners have to keep a close watch, hand feed, get in long queues and pay exceedingly high for their pets.
Despite all that, people are still getting snakes because of their beauty and calm nature. For some, they are only a showpiece but for many snakes are their friends. Once, the wild beasts that were feared are now tamed and made friends by the man.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Abdullah Iqbal