Pet Snakes Are Easy To Take Care Of
Of all the reptiles that can be pets, snakes are the most popular and the easy to take care of. In other words, a snake is easy to manage as a pet, without massive requirements besides a good terrarium and some attention to small details.
Snakes can be good pets
They can be shy or extroverted, it depends on the snake itself and the species, but they are usually easy to care of. There is advice below for anyone who wants to know how to care for a pet snake, for those who wish to add a new animal to their collection, different from the usual, and easy to maintain.
Let’s start first with the main common features shared by all snakes and then we’ll delve into the details on how to take care of a snake as pet.
Many people absolutely despise these reptiles and others are fascinated by them. Their long, slender and legless bodies, with no eyelids or ear flaps, distinguish snakes from any other reptile. They are covered with folded and flexible skin called scales and the skin between the scales is called interstitial skin.
Since snakes don’t have eyelids, they can’t close their eyes to sleep. Sometimes, people think that snakes are staring at them through the glass, but maybe the snake is just sleeping – it’s hard to tell.
These traits, radically different from us mammals, and even from other more common reptiles, induce fear in some.
But this fear is unfounded, justified just by the fear of the unknown, as snakes can be quite docile when raised from birth in captivity and become very interesting pets.
Snakes can be found living in almost every conceivable habitat, as well as on every continent, except Antarctica.
Snakes can be encountered in open oceans, endless deserts and rocky regions at altitudes of over 3.000 meters. Those who live in rather cold places during winter can hibernate in deep underground pits, staying dormant until spring temperatures, when they can wake up and leave their dens. Desert snakes often spend the hottest part of the day in burrows dug by other animals.
How snakes feed on nature
Snakes can’t see that well and seems to notice objects only when they move. In most occasions, they feel their prey through the movement-induced vibrations. Snakes are sensitive to vibrations, particularly those caused by the land animals they usually hunt, but their most acute sense is the smell, their driving force while preying.
All snakes are exclusively carnivorous and their diet is quite wide-ranging: they eat mammals such as rats and rabbits, fish, frogs and even other snakes! Some snakes only eat eggs, usually bird eggs. To avoid swallowing the hard shell, an egg-eating snake has sharp throat bones that cut the egg as it is swallowed and then they spit the shell bits out.
Snakes rely on different methods to find their prey: using their sight, which is weak, feeling vibrations with their body, or “tasting” the air with their tongue to see what is around them, since smell is their most accurate sense.
There are two main methods for snakes to find food: actively hunt for food or lie in wait, waiting for the food to come to them.
Often, larger snakes such as pythons, boa constrictors and vipers use this “sit and wait” technique, but even these may be forced to move periodically to another area if their waiting doesn’t work out.
Snakes are capable of attacking (or moving forward quickly to catch their prey) at an incredible speed. The speed of a snake is nothing short of astounding. By simply squeezing and relaxing the muscles on each side of the body, a snake can move forward quite quickly.
Some snakes in certain soils, such as sand, move sideways. In turn, snakes that are normally found in vegetation move straighter to avoid getting tangled up in the vegetation. And the desert snakes, where the sand is extremely hot, support only a small part of the body to move around.
Their traction comes from special flat scales, located in the lower part of their bodies, known as ventral shields. Snakes that only have shields in the lower part of their bodies tend to move more slowly; the faster snakes also have shields in sideways of the body and, the more shields a snake has, the faster it is.
Some capture small prey and swallow them right away, others grab and squeeze their prey, tightening it more and more until the victim loses its breath. These constrictor snakes feel the prey’s heartbeat and contract it until it stops.
Poisonous snakes inject into their prey a complex toxic protein that kills or paralyzes them, but these can’t be kept in captivity due to their dangerous characteristics. Only a few labs and breeders are allowed to have poisonous snakes as pets.
Snakes don’t use teeth to chew food – they swallow it whole. Snakes can eat prey that represents up to 20% of their body size! They start their meal by swallowing the prey by the head, holding it with inverted sharp teeth and they don’t let their prey escape even if alive.
Their mouth bones are loosely attached to each other and to their skull, and the lower jaws have an elastic skin band holding them together. So, their mouth can open wide enough to swallow prey larger than their own head.
Then, the throat and body muscles come into play, as they help pull the prey into the esophagus. On top of that, the opening for the trachea is movable and found in the upper front of the mouth, so snakes can breathe while swallowing.
The perfect food for your snake
Most pet snakes are fed with premature or tiny mice, although the latter can be only used for larger corn snakes. Rat puppies are perfect for feeding and the prey size will increase as the snake grows.
The prey size can be as large, or a little wider, than the snake’s head. For those who don’t breed mice, the best option is to buy them frozen and then take them out and let them thaw completely, before giving them to their pet snake.
In nature, these snakes eat almost everything they can find, from rats to birds and insects, so in captivity they can be fed likewise. Since breeding rats is not very comfortable for some people, and buying them can be expensive, purchasing quails for domestic purposes, cutting them into narrow and long pieces and freezing them to use as a regular alternative to mice is a good and much cheaper option.
Growing young snakes must be fed two to three times a week. In turn, adults only need to get one prey of appropriate size every week or 10 days.
Pet snakes often eat as much as they can and, depending on the meal size, snakes can’t withstand several days, weeks or months without eating anything again. But this is far from recommendable. The snake must be regularly fed food pieces not thicker than its head, although they can be much longer.
But, the appetite of your snake will decrease during their skin change, they also can’t see during that period stage, so reduce the feeding frequency, or stop it altogether if your snake is about to start changing skin, which you spot easily see, because their skin becomes opaque and their eyes become murky.
The perfect terrarium for your snake
They like to dig and hide, so, in order to make them feel good, a decent sized terrarium and loose substrate (lining) at the bottom is fundamental. Trunks and other objects can also be used as hiding places.
Several materials may be used as a substrate for your pet snake. Newspapers are the most useful choice, since they’re very easy to clean, but they don’t look that great as a surface. Internal/ external carpets can be used and, if you cut two pieces, you can rotate them, putting the clean one to wash the dirty properly; washing and drying thoroughly before using it again.
Pine bark chips are also a good choice. Dirty stool chips can be simply removed and a more thorough cleaning can be performed when needed. Wood chips can be used in a similar fashion, nevertheless it’s always a good idea to move the snake to a separate container during feeding time, so that the chips are not inadvertently ingested, since they can injure the snake.
Sand, soil, pine and cedar chips are not good options for corn snakes, although some people may use them. After all, land is their natural habitat.
Most pet snakes have terrific escaping abilities, so their compartments must be safe, without any possibility of escape, no matter how small. If a snake leaves your land, they can get lost or end up injured (they can also scare anyone who visits your place). And, trust me, finding a lost snake can be extremely hard.
Choosing a solid terrarium is needed to properly take care of a snake, just like any other captive snake. An 80-liter tank (a version of an 80/100-liter aquarium that is longer than wider) is a good-sized cage for a snake medium in size, the most used as pets.
The lid must be safe and fit the top, so it remains attached to the tank. Corn snakes can push the lid with their noses, looking for weaknesses and tiny openings, so the lid fit is quite important, a small flaw is enough for them to escape.
Provide hiding places for your corn snake. If there is no hiding place suitable for the snake to curl up and hide, it won’t feel safe. Cork bark chips can also provide hiding places for your snake, if in a substrate that allows them to dig under the bark.
Ideally, there should be one hiding spot available at the terrarium’s coldest end and another at the warmest. You should also include a branch for it to climb, since snakes love to climb to the top of the terrarium.
A large water plate is also needed and the water must be kept clean. Snakes often defecate in their water and, when this happens, the waste must be cleaned immediately. A heavy plate, with several centimeters in diameter, is a good water source, which serves both for drinking and for bathing, when it gets very hot.
The right temperature for your snake
Similar to other reptiles, they use the heat of the surrounding air to regulate their body temperature. Their flexible body allows them to stretch and warm up quickly, and they can also roll up to conserve body heat or just to heat a specific body part.
Nevertheless, this trait is more important in natural life. In captivity, snake terrariums must include several heat points (lamps in most cases) and the heat is more or less the same throughout the terrarium.
It’s also absolutely vital to keep your corn snake’s cage at the right temperature. Maintain a temperature range of about 21º to 29º C. Several forms of heating can be used, but they can make it difficult to monitor the earth warmness.
Incandescent heat lights or a tiny domestic heater connected to a thermostat, which turns off if the recommended temperature is exceeded, are preferable. But pet snakes are as a rule endemic to temperate climates, so they don’t need tropical temperatures. Make sure the habitat doesn’t get too hot.
We recommend starting with a snake that is easy to care for
Corn snakes (Elaphe guttata) are great choices for pet snakes. Corn snakes are closely related to rat snakes but are much more beautiful (rat snakes are also part of the Elaphe species), corn snakes are sometimes known as red rat snakes since they are bright orange.
Elaphe guttatas are native to the southeast of the United States, they are a land species for the most part, although they also like to climb shrubs, and are active mainly at night or at dusk and dawn. Its popular name derives from the fact that they are often found in large cornfields, hunting rats and small birds.
Often, corn snakes are docile pets, their maintenance is easily doable and they don’t get too big, so they’re a great option for beginners who want to have a pet snake.
They are also the favorites of quite experienced breeders, given the plethora of beautiful colors and patterns that selective breeding has produced. They’re one of the most beautiful pet snakes on the market.
Corn snakes can live from 15 to 20 years, sometimes even longer. Corn snakes reach an adult size of 1 meter to 1.5 meters, but occasionally they can have 2 meters.
These beautiful and unobtrusive snakes can be easily dealt with and are generally docile. Are perfect as snake pets for anyone!
At last… How to choose your snake
When choosing a pet snake, the best option is to go for a captive bred specimen, which is not particularly hard to find, as corn snakes reproduce promptly in captivity.
Look for a snake with no skin stuck in their body, with clear eyes, with no cuts or scratches, no signs of mites or ticks. And one that is alert, shaking their tongue.
If it looks sick, too quiet and rolled up, not responding to your gestures and touching the glass, it may be sick and so it should be avoided.