1. What snakes are
hardest to keep as pets?
2. What do pet snakes eat?
- Wild-caught snakes often do poorly
in captivity, won’t eat, and are prone to disease.
- Water snakes,
boas, anacondas, and pythons have very precise requirements for their environment.
- Some snakes, especially large snakes, are dangerous.
Boas (tree boas or "pythons," red-tailed boas or "boa constrictors"), anacondas, reticulated pythons,
and Burmese pythons take special care and caution because of the threat they pose to humans and other pets.
3. Why can big snakes be dangerous?
- Snakes eat pre-killed small animals. Some snakes will eat only live animals.
You can buy pre-killed rodents (such as mice) or live animals, at pet shops.
4. Bigger snakes aren’t really dangerous to adults,
- Snakes cannot be tamed or domesticated, like a dog or a cat. They remain wild animals.
- You can never leave a child alone with a large snake like a python, boa, or anaconda.
Small children can, and have been, killed by such “pet” snakes.
- Snakes, including smaller snakes, can bite and
-- even if not poisonous -- can hurt a person, child or adult.
- For all these reasons, and also for the safety of your snake,
you shouldn't allow it to roam free in your home. This is true for other reptiles and amphibians as well.
How can I tell how big a snake will get?
- Yes, they are. Experienced
animal handlers recommend that you have one assistant with you for every 5 feet of snake. One strong assistant.
6. Are there places that will take my snake if I can’t
keep it any more?
only way to estimate the size of an adult snake is to learn all about that species before
you decide to take one home.
- Don’t get a pet snake on impulse.
Some snakes that are very small when young can quickly become very, very big. Do your homework.
- It is really hard to find a place
for an adult snake, especially a large one. Zoos usually have all the snakes they want. Pet stores prefer baby
snakes. Again, do your homework before you bring that neat critter home, because once you do, it will likely be your
responsibility for as long as it lives.
About other reptiles...
1. Do lizards and other reptiles make good pets?
- Some of the smaller lizards, like the anoles, are easy to keep as pets.
- Larger reptiles
can be aggressive or have a painful bite.
- Like some lizards, iguana and geckos must have live food.
- A number of reptiles (and amphibians
as well) carry salmonella, a bacteria that can infect humans. Salmonella can be a threat to babies and very young children,
to children and adults with immune system disorders, and to people who are elderly.
2. What’s wrong with just letting
my pet reptile go when I don’t want it anymore?
After all, it is a wild animal.
3. Can anyone own a snake, reptile, or amphibian?
snakes (and that includes many of those sold as pets) won’t survive the cold winters of the upper Midwest. Neither
will any of the crocs, caiman, or gators. Many of the lizards and other reptiles will also suffer and perish in our
- Before these animals die of exposure, they may hurt people or other pets.
- If you absolutely can’t find a home by
talking to other pet owners like yourself, contact an animal shelter for help. Be warned, however, that they may be
able to offer no other solution than euthanizing the animal.
- No. In many states it is illegal to own certain snakes, as well as other
reptiles and amphibians.
- Talk with your local veterinarian, animal
shelter, or wildlife officer about your state’s laws. (In some states it is also illegal to feed live prey.)
About alligators, caimans, and crocodiles...
Do alligators and caimans make good pets?
Can I keep my caiman or gator in an old bathtub?
- Crocodilians -- alligators, crocodiles, and caimans (a small South American relative of the
alligator) -- aren’t the pet for you if you want something that is friendly, responsive, and good-natured.
- Alligators get to be about 12-14’ long. Caimans are half this size
– about as long as a man is tall. In other words, both are large predators.
- To an adult gator or caiman, humans
look like lunch. This is true even with an animal that you have known, and handled, for many years. The feeding
instinct is very, very strong.
3. Will a croc, gator, or caiman stay small if you keep it in a small enclosure?
enclosure needs to be two or three times longer than the critter. As your caiman or gator grows, it will need a larger
- You will need to be able to move around inside the enclosure
to clean it. Most of the space inside the enclosure – about 75% of it – needs to be water. Clean
- Your pet will also need to have an area of dry land that it can always get to easily.
4. What do caimans and gators eat?
it will, just like a baby would stay "small" if you kept it enclosed in a tiny cradle. But it will suffer
from deformity, pain, and poor health. So will a crocodilian imprisoned in a small space.
Do crocodiles make good pets?
- Young caimans or gators eat insects (pesticide-free) or ground meat. Adults can eat small
mammals, fish, or commercial alligator feed.
- Feeding is a dangerous
time with growing crocodilians. These critters can run very fast for short distances. They can jump,
too. They may mistake your hand for part of their meal, so using tongs or laying food on the ground and then letting
the animal into the area is a good idea.
- It is important to be really careful during feeding times so that you aren’t
treated like a tidbit yourself.
- Crocodiles are
less predictable and more aggressive than either gators or caiman. For those reasons, they aren’t ideal pets.