What to consider when keeping reptiles

Reptiles are growing in popularity. Where once people automatically reached for fluffy puppies and cuddly kittens, now more and more people are choosing snakes, lizards and tortoises. If you're thinking of joining them, what do you have to consider? We've put together a few helpful guidelines.

Do you have the space?

Reptiles might seem small, but they need a surprisingly large amount of room. Snakes and lizards typically need large vivariums, whilst tortoises (even the smallest) will require a large tortoise table or similar enclosed space. The last time tortoises were popular as pets, thanks in part to Blue Peter's George, many people let them roam free in their homes or gardens. The reality is that all reptiles need a dedicated enclosed space to be as healthy as possible, and even the smallest tortoises need at least a 4ft by 4ft space. Like most rabbit hutches being too small for rabbits, tortoise tables typically available to buy are nowhere near big enough for tortoises.


Can you afford specialist equipment?

Many reptiles need heat mats, overhead heat lamps or UV lights. These will need to be run every day of the year. They can be costly to buy, and will increase your electricity bills. Bulbs will also need to be regularly replaced.


Can you deal with any involved risks?

Unless he chews through your cables, the average rat is not a particularly risky pet. Reptiles can come with additional risks. If managed properly these risks will never be a problem, but they shouldn't be taken lightly when you're looking for a new pet. You'll be dealing with hot lighting equipment and heat mats that need to be used properly. Fire risks can come from lamps that aren't properly secure, or are too close to your animal's enclosure and any wooden equipment or straw, for instance.


Can you deal with live food, or dead rodents?

That snake isn't going to be happy with the occasional carrot or tomato. Your lizard isn't looking for a sandwich. When you keep reptiles you might find yourself sharing a bed with an escaped cricket, or fishing around in your freezer for a frozen mouse.


Have you researched the specific requirements of your chosen species?

When keeping a cat or dog, most people follow the same basic rules for their animal's care. It would be a mistake to assume that all lizards are the same, or that all tortoises require similar attention. For example a Hermann's tortoise needs a green, leafy diet and moderate temperatures, whilst a red-footed tortoise needs a humid forest environment and will eat fruit and meat, live bugs, oily fish and eggs.


Can you find veterinary care?

Reptiles are considered to be 'exotic' pets. Whilst they're becoming increasingly popular, they're still not on the same level as cats, dogs, hamsters and rabbits. For that reason, not all vets are happy to work with reptiles and not all have the required knowledge and expertise. Before taking on a reptile, you should look around to ensure that you have good access to specialist reptile vets or veterinarians that are happy to work with reptiles. Also look into exotic pet insurance prices before taking on a new addition.

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