As time goes by, more and more people become cold-blooded pet owners, and snakes are among the most popular. These reptiles are fascinating, and, depending on species, they can be docile. But what do you need to raise a pet snake? Keep on reading to find out!
In general, you’ll need a vivarium that replicates the snake’s habitat as much as possible. Inside the enclosure, place some type of cave for the snake to hide, rocks, branches, and a substrate. Likewise, you must provide a steady supply of thawed frozen mice or rats for the snake to eat.
But what else do you need to set up a snake’s vivarium? How often do you feed a snake? We have the answers to these questions and more down below!
How to Keep a Pet Snake: A Basic Guide
Enclosure for a Pet Snake
Choosing a vivarium will depend on your pet’s species. If, for example, you buy a snake that tends to live on trees, you’ll need a vertical tank. But, if you get a snake that lives on the ground, you must get a broader, horizontal enclosure.
Regardless of the container’s size, you must make sure it has a secure cover. So, it would be best to get an enclosure that closes at the top and has no holes. Snakes are escape artists and will slide right out if they notice any crack in their home.
Once you settle on a vivarium, you’ll need to place a substrate at the bottom to allow the snake to move. You can find special substrates for reptiles at any pet store. But, if you want to save money, you could also use newsprint.
You will need decorating items such as rocks, branches, and leaves to make the snake feel welcome too. Likewise, you must provide a hiding spot for your pet, which can be a cave-like rock or cardboard if you’re on a budget.
But the trickiest apart about keeping a cold-blooded pet is lighting and temperature. And, we must inform you: Snakes are no exception.
As with the type of enclosure, the tank’s temperature and lighting will depend on the species. So, let’s look at the most common pet snake species and their temperature and lighting needs.
- Corn snake: These friendly snakes need the temperature in their tank to be around 70 and 85ºF tops. These pets don’t need particular lightning, so natural light from a window will do. That said, make sure the cage is not under direct sunlight that could hurt the snake.
- California Kingsnake: With an ambient temperature of 70 to 75ºF, these striking snakes will thrive. That said, you’ll need to set a basking spot of between 85 degrees and 90ºF as well. When it comes to lighting, set a fluorescent lamp for ten hours to replicate the snake’s habitat.
- Ball Phytons: The popular pet snakes need an ambient temperature of 75ºF or even a little over that. The basking area must be around 88 or 96ºF tops. You can also set a lamp and provide the snake with ten or 12 hours of light per day.
Diet of a Pet Snake
As we said before, snakes are carnivorous, and they eat their prey in its entirety. In the wild, these reptiles eat frogs, insects, rodents, lizards, and bigger animals. Of course, the size of the prey will depend on the size and species of the snake.
In captivity, the best option is to buy frozen mice at the pet store to offer them to your snake. Depending on the age, size, and snake species, you may have to feed your pet one mouse or several mice at a time.
The good thing is that, since snakes eat their whole prey, they don’t need health supplements. That said, you will have to place a large water dish inside the tank since snakes drink water. Some species soak when they’re shedding their skin, so please remember to change the water at least twice a week.
Also, sometimes, snakes may refuse to eat because they’re about to molt, which is normal. Yet, these reptiles may also stop eating because of stress, so it’s essential to always keep an eye on your pet.
Handling a Pet Snake
Handling a pet snake is possible, but it requires patience. Why? Well, for starters, the snake needs to become comfortable around you, so, at first, it may try to escape. But, if you keep doing it on a regular basis, you’ll realize these animals can be very friendly.
Also, you’ll need to be careful with the way you handle your snake, or it could end up badly. If you scare the snake, it could bite you, but you could harm your pet if you hold it in certain ways. So, to help you out, here are some tips on how to handle your pet snake:
- In most cases, it is better to avoid holding a snake by its head because that may stress the animal. Instead, put one hand under its belly slowly and then use your other hand for extra support.
- Likewise, don’t grab a snake only by its tail because it may end up twirling and sliding out of your hand. Thus, the snake could have an injury or even escape. The best alternative is to hold the snake by the mid-area of its body.
- Don’t try to hold a snake when it’s shedding its skin since that’s a very vulnerable time for reptiles. As a result, the snake could bite you.
- At first, it may serve you to use a medium hook to lift your snake while both of you get used to the handling process. The hook allows you to keep a safe distance from a snake that’s still getting familiar with you and its new home.
Related Questions About Keeping a Pet Snake
What Should I Do if My Snake Bites Me?
Although common pet snakes rarely ever bite their owners, they may if they’re hungry. Bites are also more frequent when the snake is shedding.
If your snake bites you, call the doctor right away and wash the wound with lots of water and antibacterial soap. While snakes available at pet stores are non-venomous, they can still pass bacteria. In fact, since these reptiles eat rodents, it is not rare for them to have salmonella.
So, after washing the wound and applying pressure, you may have to go to the doctor for a checkup. Doctors could prescribe pills for the pain, for inflammation, and sometimes, antibiotics.
But, if you own a poisonous pet snake (which we don’t recommend at all!), you’ll also need to get antivenom. Thus, medical attention is even more urgent.
That said, as we mentioned before, common pet snakes tend to be friendly and docile. So, cases of these reptiles biting their owners are fewer each year.
Can I Have a Pet Snake if I Have a Dog or a Cat?
As a general norm, cold-blooded pets don’t get along with other types of animals. And, as you can imagine, snakes are no exception.
A pet snake may see your cute cat or dog as an enemy or predator and run away. But, in the worst-case-scenario, the dog or cat could end up harming the snake, even only by playing. In turn, the reptile may also bite in self-defense.
Luckily, most common pet snakes can’t kill a cat or a dog because they’re not venomous. But, if your snake bites another one of your pets, you should still call the vet. Receiving medical attention fast can save an animal’s life if the wound’s infected. The vet may also give your dog or cat something for the pain.
Can I Have Several Snakes in the Same Vivarium?
Although it is better to keep snakes in separate tanks, you could house two of the same species in one container. But please, make sure that the species in question doesn’t have cannibalistic tendencies.
Also, we recommend you feed the snakes separately. How? By taking one of the snakes to a different tank when it’s dinner time. In general, these reptiles can be aggressive or territorial when they’re hungry.