A cuddly puppy or purring kitty is an actual warm fuzzy pet — snakes? Not so much. There is some unfair prejudice against snakes. They may not curl up at your feet by the fire, but they will curl up under your shirt for some body heat. Contrary to what people might think, snakes can make great pets.
What Type of Snakes Make the Best Pets?
So, you have decided to bring a snake into the family, which one should you choose? Naturally, not all snakes can be pets, and not all snakes are legal to keep (check your state laws before acquiring a venomous, or any other, snake). Many people are afraid of all snakes, and think they are slimy, sinister, and dangerous. None of these things are (completely) true.
Snakes are not slimy. They are covered with scales that are smooth and dry. Perhaps the “slimy” is imaginary? Snakes are merely animals and no more “sinister” than any other animal, and, while snakes can be dangerous, only the venomous ones are remotely dangerous. Most snakes, whether in the wild or in captivity, are perfectly safe if you keep your distance. They have no more interest in you than you have in them, maybe even less.
Captive-bred snakes are the best choice as pets, as they will be easier to handle (having been handled since babyhood) and less nervous. The best snakes for first time snake parents are:
- Corn Snake
- King Snake
- Milk Snake
- Garter Snake
- Rat Snake
- Ball Python
All of these are docile, do not mind being handled, and very inexpensive to care for.
A Different Sort of Pet
Snakes are completely unique as pets. Dogs and cats may be more emotional and affectionate pets, but snakes are really very fascinating. Snakes are fun pets; they enjoy hanging around (your neck) and going for a walk. It is interesting to see people’s reactions when confronted with you and your snake out for a stroll. There are many people who will not come anywhere near you if you have a snake around your neck!
Snakes do not have eyelids, so they sleep with their eyes open. They do have transparent scales called spectacles to protect their eyes. These are shed with the rest of the snake’s skin as it grows.
Although snakes have teeth, they are not the right type to bite or chew food; therefore, they swallow their prey whole. Not all snakes have fangs. Only poisonous snakes have fangs, which are hollow structures connected to a venom sack. When the snake strikes, the venom is released, causing the prey to die so that the snake can eat it.
Snakes have flexible jaws consisting of tendons, muscles, and ligaments that allow the snake to swallow prey larger than themselves. They use their teeth to pull the prey in where it will digest slowly over several days, or even weeks depending on the size of the snake and the size of the prey.
Snakes are cold blooded, which means they cannot regulate their body temperature internally like warm-blooded mammals do. Their body temp is the same as the air temperature. To raise his body temperature a snake will find a place in the sun to warm up. The warmer the snake, the faster the food is digested.
Some snakes lay eggs (some snakes have live births) that are leathery textured. Baby snakes have an “egg tooth” to enable them to break open the egg sack. Soon after birth they will lose this tooth. Snakes can have up to 150 babies at one time.
Snakes are fascinating animals to study and observe both in the wild and in captivity. However, you should never approach a snake in the wild. Snakes can make excellent pets. They are clean, odorless, and do not require a lot of upkeep. If you are looking for a pet that is low maintenance, a snake might be right up your alley.
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com