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Are Garter Snakes Good Pets?

Perhaps the most commonly seen snake in North America – garter snakes. They can be found throughout the U.S. and are known for their docile attitude. As a pet, a garter is a good choice because it does not have a strong venom and will quickly adapt to a human owner. They hunt their prey, so the owner can watch these often small predators, move around their tank as they hunt a live meal.

A garter snake makes an excellent pet. Their calm temperament and stunning appearance make them easy to identify. Unlike many other snakes, the garter rarely bites and does not cause long-term harm when it does so.

You wanted a simple answer to your question, about the garter snake, but there is much more to learn about these cold-blooded pets. Take a look through our guide to this snake species before deciding if the garter is the snake for you.

The Garter is a Loving Pet

Garter snake
Garter snake

One of the reasons why the garter has grown in popularity, among those looking for snakes as pets are their docile nature. A garter snake adapts to a new environment quickly. With no need for any long-term period change.

In the wild, a garter tends to be shy and hide away from humans and pets under rocks and beneath leaves. For a novice snake owner who may be looking to add more pets, garter snakes offer a great and safe option. The natural defenses of a garter are to slither away from potential danger and avoid a fight at all costs. Particularly when they are getting to know a new owner the garter will usually be high in their new habitat.

An Adaptable Pet

One of the main reasons why the garter has become so popular as a pet, is their ability to adapt to new surroundings and new owners. These snakes can recognize their owners within only a few days of meeting them. Because of their docile nature, they quickly become accustomed to being handled on daily bases.

As with all animals, the garter may be wary of their new owner in the first few days. This phase will pass quickly if you treat them with love and care. Even though it’s rare, this snake species does strike when provoked. That’s why they make an excellent choice for those who are looking to introduce their children to snake ownership.

Easy to Care for

One of the biggest bonuses of choosing a garter snake, is that they are easy to take care of. They don’t need a vast amount of equipment needed with some tropical snake species. The garter is native to North America. That means they are used to the temperatures in and around the homes of the U.S. and Canada. In other words – there is no need to invest in heat lamps and other accessories.

The only items that you have to buy is a terrarium where the garter can be kept safely. They are excellent climbers, so one important tip we have for you is – ensure a sturdy lid is available for the terrarium . Graters have been known to scale the glass walls of their terrarium and slither into a home where they can be tough to find.

A Smaller Snake

Small snake
Small Snake

One of the issues, faced by the owners of many species of snake, is their fast-growing nature. This leads to a small juvenile growing to a large adult that can quickly outgrow its terrarium. The garter is a smaller snake that grows to an average of around three feet in length. Meaning a medium-sized terrarium should be adequate for their needs throughout their life. 

The garter can to grow as large as 54 inches in length, but some have remained as small as 18 inches.

Make Them Feel at Home

The terrarium needs to be filled with two inches of soil, sand, or another material that allows the snake to move with ease. You need to replicate their natural environment where they would usually be found. 

One of the items that you need to buy is a piece of bark or stone. They use this as a medium for shedding skin throughout the year. The garter will also appreciate the added area to shelter and sleep as they would in their natural environment.

Feeding a Garter


The question of what to feed a pet snake is often a difficult one for an owner. Snakes should hunt as they would in the wild. The bonus of living with a pet garter snake is their varied diet. That way the owner gets to enjoy watching them hunt various prey.

The garter snake is known for its ability to enjoy the water and will often be found hunting in the shallows of lakes, ponds, and streams. Every garter snake should have a water bowl in their habitat that they can use for a range of reasons.

Many owners will look to fill the water bowl with small fish, such as live guppies which will make a tasty meal for the snake. The predatory instincts of the snake will take over and they will sneak up on their prey before striking and enjoying a live meal.

The garter is not a constrictor, which means it will strike with a bite and quickly swallow any prey. Any live meals can consist of crickets, earthworms, and rodents.

A Harmless Pet

One of the most important aspects of owning a snake as a pet, is knowing every member of a household is safe from being bitten.

For many years, the garter was thought to not have any venom. But, in the last few years, it has been shown that they can produce a venom.

Although it is too weak to harm a human, the bite is not pleasant. Children should wash their hands after handling a garter snake because they can carry salmonella.

Pew York

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