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Snakes As Pets? ... Are You Sure You Want To?

Updated on November 16, 2012
Pygmy Rattler (Sistrurus miliarius)  -  NOT FOR BEGINNERS!!!!
Pygmy Rattler (Sistrurus miliarius) - NOT FOR BEGINNERS!!!! | Source

Why Nots!!!

Are you the type of person that lingers by the reptile cages in the pet stores? Or, maybe, one that has developed an intense interest of snakes after having been beseiged with viewing them on the multiple television programs that present them as "loving" creatures?

Think again!

The decision to own a reptile is a major one to make. These are animals that, with the proper care, can live for decades. This entails constant feeding, watering, cage cleaning, added costs in electric bills for proper lighting and heating, and dealing with future landlords and local laws that prohibit their existence. Are you sure you want to face that for the the next twenty to thirty years?

And, if you're looking for a pet that will return the love you need so desperately to share, buy a warm and fuzzy dog or cat! Snakes have such tiny brains that love is never a factor in their life of instincts. When they're hungry they'll strike at anything considered to be a food source. When they're shedding, their vision is so clouded that any quick motion made can be taken as a threat and striking is their only defense. Keep the cage too moist and infections can require expensive medical treatment. Worst of all, they're natural born escape artists. Without proper caging you will one day awaken to an empty fish tank with a dislodged screen cover!

Standard Green Snake - Very easy to care for!
Standard Green Snake - Very easy to care for! | Source

Getting Started

So, regardless of the above, you still want one. You're either a glutton for punishment or think you're a true snake lover. Only time can decide.

Let's make sure you don't get into trouble. Here's a list of things you need to do before you ever make your purchase:

1) Check Local & State Laws

As I mentioned above, it's up to a landlord to say "Yeah" or "Nay" to you keeping one on rented property. Of course, that's a personal, or corporate thing. City, county and state laws have to be researched. Unless you want to find your animal(s) confiscated, heavy monetary fines and/or possible jail time, make sure you stay within the law. In addition, you may be required to purchase a license or permit to keep a reptile. Again, follow the law. (I hope I've made that clear).

Standard Green Snake Caging
Standard Green Snake Caging | Source

2) Purchase A Cage For Reptiles, Not Fish!

Too many snake owners have found themselves searching for an escaped serpent. Screen tops with plastic screws are offered by many pet stores as temporary abodes for smaller species. However, you don't want to keep an adult in one, especially if the snake grows substantially in size and length. I used to sleep with rattlesnake cages in my bedroom. When people asked how I could do such a thing, I simply told them that if I can't trust the cages I've got them in enough to sleep in the same room, then the cages weren't safe enough to keep them in at all! (No, I no longer sleep this way. Local and state laws now prohibit me from keeping venomous.)

There are many distributors of professional cages designed specifically for snakes that your local pet store can order for you. Most are lockable, front opening, easy to clean cages that give you full vision of where the snake is when you open the glass door, which is always a great thing to know. These cages cost below $200, and are worth purchasing. Otherwise, expect the worse!

Pueblan Milksnake (Non Venomous) - Another very easy going snake for beginners.  Notice the resemblance to our venomous Coral Snake!
Pueblan Milksnake (Non Venomous) - Another very easy going snake for beginners. Notice the resemblance to our venomous Coral Snake! | Source

3) First Snake Mandatory Rules

Rule One: NO VENOMOUS!!! There are stages to keeping snakes and venomous are about ten steps up the ladder from where you are now. Under no circumstances make the decision to start with a venomous species. Any responsible venomous keeper realizes the old addage "It's not if you get bit, it's when you get bit" is a true statement. When you find yourself knowing strike zones, learn how to handle a hook and grabstick correctly, spend time learning under an expert that has years of experience with venomous, and can afford your own 10-12 vials of anitvenom to keep in your refridgerator, then you might find yourself ready. Otherwise, forget them!!

Rule Two: STAY AWAY FROM BIG CONSTRICTORS! The largest I would ever suggest for a beginner is a Ball Python. These usually don't get over three or four feet maximum, and have moderate temperments. (One did bite my thumb once, but it was a feeding response.) And, the last thing we need are more big snakes being set loose in the wild. Florida is already suffering because of this in the Everglades and surrounding areas.

My choice for a beginner would be a milk snake or corn snake. These are generally very easy to get along with, have tendencies not to often bite, and make good starter snakes. Plus, they're plentiful, allowed by most laws, and not harmful to the indigenous species if they escape.

Eastern Hognose Snake - Make sure food is available year round if you go this route!
Eastern Hognose Snake - Make sure food is available year round if you go this route! | Source

4) Educate And Prepare Before Purchase

Read everything you can on keeping snakes before you buy. Properly prepare the cage with the right substrate, nature setting, and heating elements so that it's home is ready to move into when you get your snake home. Make sure you're familiar with where to purchase food that's available year round. (I once had to ship frogs from Louisiana to Kentucky because of seasonal availability.)

Another consideration is to ensure you have access to a food supply for your animal. I once found myself having to ship frogs from Louisiana to Kentucky in the dead of Winter to feed two Eastern Hognose snakes. Unfortunately, I received a bad batch of frogs (unknowingly) and awoke one Sunday morning to find both snakes as hard as rocks. One might say I was somewhat upset.

Be sure your local pet store carries the food required by the animal. Pinkie mice, mice, rats, frogs, other small snakes, crickets, and other food items may be required. Know this before ever purchasing, unless you like rocks!

A Final Thought

Remember, keeping a snake is not keeping a pet. A snake is a wild animal that lives by instincts. Don't humanize it and think otherwise. Snakes, with their various patterns and colors, can be looked at as beautiful in some aspects. They are remarkable in that they can live without limbs and bring fear to the toughest of bullies. They are to be respected and treated with care. Enjoy viewing them and remember it's not a short term commitment!

"If you're going to do it ... do it right!"

┬ęCopyright RCRUMPLE2012. All Rights Reserved.

Jim Stafford "Spiders & Snakes"

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    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Thanks for writing about the things to be taken into consideration before you get a snake as a pet rcrumple. Over here in the UK there was a recent newspaper report of a large python having been spotted in a park in Yorkshire. This was probably a pet that had either escaped or had been released because it got too big or too difficult to care for. This is so unfair to the python as it will never survive in our climate, and hopefully it was recaptured and taken to a rescue centre

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      CMHypno -

      Thanks for visiting. This was the first hub I ever published. Obviously, I had a lot to learn.

      I appreciate your kind comments. It is a shame that there are those that purchase on a whim, and then toss things out when they recognize their responsibilities. The animal is definitely the one to suffer.

      I stopped my life with all but a simple Western Hognose snake several years back. A heart attack, creating a daily dose of blood thinner need, made me decide to leave the venomous world behind (local laws installed also aided in that decision). Yet, I still am fascinated by the animals.

      I thank you for stopping in and sharing your comments. They are most appreciated!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Waaahhh i have phobia on snakes... your hub is just simply awesome about making decisions to have snakes as pets.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Myz -

      Most people do! I don't "love" them, but I find them utterly fascinating. To see a 6'6" grown man back away in fear from a harmless green snake is hilarious to me (not so much for the guy backing away).

      Thanks for visiting my very first hub! Hopefully, I've come a long way since this hit the pages two months ago!

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 4 years ago

      To be quite honest, I think snakes are really cool! If you write about clowns or something...then my phobia will show LOL

      Your hub is definitely awesome and I'm definitely considering getting a snake now :) Great Hub and sharing!

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 4 years ago from usa

      I enjoy reading about a snake as a pet and I surely would not want one.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Keith -

      Thanks for dropping by my very first hub. I had almost forgotten about this one! You do realize my next hub is going to be about deciding if you want to own a clown or not, don't you? lol

      Thanks again for stopping by! Many Thanks!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      flashmakeit -

      Good to see you here!

      I'm glad that's your decision! Too many people purchase one on a whim, and then decide they don't want it. The snake either dies of mistreatment, or is set free in an area that doesn't need it. Unless a person truly desires to make a long term commitment, then restraint is the best wisdom!

      Thanks so much for dropping by! Much appreciated!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      An engaging hub with helpful suggestions for snake enthusiasts! Sorry to disappoint you that I am not fond of snakes and I have deep fear of them! Only those who are very brave and responsible will have snakes as pets. It is amazing to know that you used to deal with these dangerous reptiles! A detailed and entertaining read! Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      ishwaryaa22 -

      Thank you for visiting this first hub of mine!

      I understand your fear as it is not an uncommon one. I wish it were true, the brave and responsible statement. Unfortunately, there are those that are very irresponsible also keeping. The future will be the telling of these individuals.

      I appreciate your comments! Many Thanks!

    • DS Duby profile image

      DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Great hub Rcrumple I am a snake owner myself but I stuck with a ball python. About 20 years ago I had a Burmese python but ended up donating it to a local zoo when it got to big, he was given to me by a friend that was moving and ouldnt keep him. I had him about 5 years. My ball python is actually in a 100 gallon aquarium with plywood lids that bolt down and has locks and metal screens built into them. I had my fill of big snakes especially having children in the house but I cherish my ball python even with all the added responsibilities involved with being a pet owner. Voted up, awesome, interesting and useful.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Scott -

      Good to see you, my friend!

      I've never really liked the large constrictors. One tends not to consider them as dangerous as venomous, but they definitely can be. I've been around many, but never really wanted to go the route of feeding rabbits to them and such. Bad thing is, many are finding zoo's overloaded with them and not willing to take on another mouth to feed in these days of budget cutting. So, if they can't find someone to take it, out the door it goes, either dead or alive. Not a good situation in any case. All I'm keeping at present is a Western Hognose. Local laws forbid much else.

      I'm glad you stopped in! Many Thanks!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      I think I'll pass on bringing a snake into the family fold. They can stay outside with all their wild little buddies and do what snakes do. Very interesting information and a good pause to think before hoping into the car and running to the store to pick up a snake.

      See, I do stop by once in a blue moon to visit your hubs. :)

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Terrye

      You visited the first hub I ever wrote on hubpages. See, I have gone backwards! lol

      Snakes aren't for everyone. That's why I wrote this. Too many get them and then, after a year or two, simply don't know what to do with them. That isn't good for anyone.

      Thanks for stopping in! See you next Blue Moon! : )

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      Snakes are cool to watch, and feel neat in the hands. I'm sure though I wouldn't have the guts to have a snake as a pet :)

      Amazing Hub rcrumple, voted up and shared

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Mike Robbers -

      Good to see you here!

      Some of the most beautiful colored patterns in the world lie on a snake's back. Usually, the more complex, the more venomous. I worked with them for many years and found it exciting, tedious, and down right dangerous. Yet, the fascination is still there.

      Thanks for commenting! Much Appreciated!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Abby -

      Oh my gosh, you've gone all the way back to the first hub I ever published on hubpages. lol My how times have changed!

      I either worked with, kept for a hobby, or assisted others with venomous snakes for several decades. I've had all types, been in the hospital twice (once when young from a Copperhead and once, on life support, from a Cape Cobra), and even assisted with venom extractions at a venom lab. Yet, as I get older and find myself on blood thinner, a bite from a venomous could be my last. So, I have to entertain myself with only a hognose (which is now classified as "mildly venomous"). I'm lucky that a local pet store carries the food it needs, but I agree with you entirely on the "food availability" comment. I'd thought I'd added it at one time, but obviously didn't. I'll try to have it in by the time you read this comment!

      Many Thanks, and again, welcome to Hubpages! You're gonna do great!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      This is a great article but I do think you need to follow Abby´s suggestion and discuss the food issue too. At the moment I only have a Tegu since he eats about anything I put down for him. I would like to have another Boa but I do not have access to mice like I did in the US. Snakes can be really fun, but they sure are picky!

      I realize you put this article up quite a while back but I am voting it up and will share it on my twitter feed. Thanks for providing an interesting hub.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      DrMark1961 -

      A pleasure to meet you sir!

      I'm happy you enjoyed this article. I've worked with Tegu's at a reptile zoo, but never owned one. Now, they are illegal to own in my state unless you're an AZA approved facility.

      I actually did add Abby's suggestion yesterday. It's the second and third paragraphs of Section 4: Educate And Prepare Before Purchase. I felt this would cover the topic for those truly serious about owning one, without getting into species specifics. I'm in full understanding about their tendencies to be picky. I once owned an Indian Cobra that wouldn't consider rodents, and forced me to find small live snakes for it to feed upon year round.

      Again, it's a pleasure to meet you. Many thanks for your support and comments!

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