Should Reptiles Be Kept As Pets?

How do the cold blooded differ from your everyday cat and dog? They don’t in terms of being sentient, affectionate and loving. The difference is that reptiles are not companion animals. They are a wild animal, and will display those instincts at certain intervals. Naturally their true place is to live in the wild. Unfortunately there are many species of reptiles sold in pet stores these days, and many of them are still being taken from the wild in order to start breeding programmes.

Taking any animal from the wild is highly illegal here in Australia and the penalties are harsh if one is caught, and is also one of the cruellest acts of selfishness to have an exotic animal to show off to mates at the expense of the animals welfare where they are unable to live life on their own terms. This is one reason we often hear that a snake has strangled his keeper. This is not surprising. The snake is kept inside a glass tank that has inadequate room for him to move about, forcing him to remain coiled up for hours and even days with barely any interaction with his keeper.

He then becomes highly frustrated with this type of situation, which is not natural to him. Imagine if you were locked up in a tiny room unable to move around. For those of you who already keep reptiles, there are quite a few books on how to set up vivarium’s which can be purchased in bookstores or library and online. I highly recommend seeking out people who run “herpetology groups.” These are groups of people who share a common interest in all reptiles. Although these books and groups give you information on setting up enclosures and vivarium’s, there is little information on how to interact with your reptile pet.

Reptiles respond the best to natural sunlight, and gentle quality human interaction on a daily basis. Be careful where you obtain reptiles. Pet stores are not a good place to patronize if you are wanting to purchase an animal. These stores support the vile and barbaric treatment of animals. The average person is not aware of the horrendous way animals are kept and bred all their life until they cannot breed anymore and they are often abused and starved at the end of their day. This is the back office of all the cuteness we see when we visit pet stores. Always buy from a shelter, you can be sure you are not condoning any form of animal suffering. If there were more people who bought animals from local animal shelter’s, it would force more pet stores to shut down- and rightly so.

Importantly for the welfare of your reptile is a vivarium or enclosure that is functional and works best for your pet, not one that is based on how good it looks. Over the past fifteen years, I have discovered for myself, the high level of intelligence reptiles have, and the personal affection they are capable of displaying if they are happy and contented with their environment. Don’t expect your cold blooded pet to run up to you as soon as you walk through the door with his tail wagging frantically. He will probably show no sign of being happy to see you.

It can take a very long time for a reptile to gain your trust and this works well on a one to one basis. They become very used to one handler. Talk to your pet, and show him the human side of your affection. Make lots of time to have him out of his enclosure or vivarium daily. Give him clean fresh water every second or third day, and try and get him into the sun for a few hours daily. There are special enclosures you can purchase that will house your pet reptile so he can bask in natural sunlight outside. UBV lamps are a second rate option, but are a good back up. You will need to keep an eye on the sun’s position if he is basking in an outdoor enclosure. Be sure he won’t become too hot. Reptiles are unable to regulate their own body temperature therefore needing access to a warm end and a colder end, within the enclosure.

Reptiles are extremely slow until they warm up either by basking in sunlight or by absorbing warmth from the atmosphere, therefore always have a basking light at one end of the enclosure so that he can move to the opposite end if he becomes too warm. A place to hide is also necessary, these can be made from a cardboard box with a hole big enough for him to enter and exit, you can also purchase various assortments online or form pet stores. Reptiles need a place to hide in order to feel safe.

Food is important, if there is insufficient calcium intake and no sunlight for long periods, it will shorten your pets life very quickly, and he will develop what is commonly known in reptiles as “metabolic bone disease” (MBD) Wambaroo is a trusted reptile supplement it is a mixture of crushed insects that I use for my twelve year old lizard. I add this to his freshly steamed mashed veggies once a week. Wambaroo is high in all the essential nutrients necessary for the proper care of your reptile. The directions are on the back of the packet. Vary your pets diet, they become bored with the same old stuff, as you yourself would. Most lizards are basic vegetarian’s by the time they reach adulthood.

If you are a responsible and caring reptile handler, and do all your necessary homework on how to care for them properly, keeping in mind that their level of tameness depends largely on your ability and willingness to embrace him. Give him love and lots of it. Reptiles will demand your respect, they will soon let you know what you are dong wrong. If you are at work most of the day then I don’t recommend a reptile, or any other pet. Having a pet if you are hardly ever home during the day is a selfish reason to have one. All animals love the company of human beings, all are sentient and equal to humans and all deserve a chance to be able to return their affection, which mirrors the way you treat them.

If you already have a reptile pet, ask yourself if you are giving him the best life you can give him. Put some money aside each week for his vet check ups and any treatment he may need. It’s easy for some of us to become slack with animals. There are vets that usually only specialise in birds and reptiles. They are the ones you will need, so find a good one and build a relationship with him or her. Reptiles are not for the faint hearted, but they are funny and loveable.

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