Playful puppies and grumpy cats are perhaps the first animals that come to mind when you think of the word “pets.” What about irresistibly cute chameleons and other reptiles? They also deserve love, don’t they? Well, they sure do. And proof of this is the increasing popularity of bearded dragons, lizards and turtles being kept as pets.
Because they require little upkeep, these animals are excellent pets. Unlike cats and dogs, you don’t have to worry about unpleasant odours, chewed or scratched furniture, or excessive noise. They are also lifelong companions, noted for having incredibly long lifespans.
That said, reptiles also come with their share of unique challenges. They do require a certain level of care and attention, and they may not be the best choice for everyone. So, before you get that chameleon or bearded dragon, you should be able to meet the following requirements.
Set Up a Reptile Terrarium
Just like dogs need a good crate, choosing a good enclosure is an important part of caring for a reptile. Reptile enclosures are commonly referred to as terrariums. Here are a few factors to consider when setting one up.
When going through the range of reptile cages, make sure you pick one that’s large enough for the animal to move around and explore. The minimum size will depend on the species you have. For example, a small gecko may be comfortable in a 20-litre lizard enclosure, while a larger snake may need a 50-lire or larger terrarium.
In general, there are two terrarium shapes to choose from, long and tall. Generally speaking, land-dwelling reptiles prefer longer terrariums because they have more surface area to explore, whereas climbing species prefer taller cages.
For the occasional swim, marine species like turtles need some pool spaces in the terrarium. It’s also advised that you get an enclosure that will fit your pet when it reaches adult size because many of them grow quickly.
Different species have different lighting requirements. For example, some species need full-spectrum UVB lighting to help them absorb calcium and synthesize vitamin D3, while others do not. Research the lighting needs of your specific species and build a terrarium that can accommodate those requirements.
Most reptiles need a source of heat to help regulate their body temperature. Choose an enclosure with a built-in heating element or consider adding a separate heat source, such as a heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter.
Proper ventilation is important for these animals to help regulate their body temperature and prevent respiratory problems. Choose a terrarium with multiple vents or openings to allow for proper air circulation.
The substrate is the material that lines the bottom of reptile cages. Different species have different substrate needs. For example, some need a substrate that can hold moisture, while others need a dry substrate. Research the substrate needs of your specific species and choose a terrarium that can accommodate those requirements.
Many species such as lizards bearded dragons and snakes need a place to hide and climb, so consider adding branches, rocks, and other decorations to their enclosure. They also need a water dish and a food dish.
Provide Adequate Nutrition
The specific diet will depend on the species. In general, they require a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Here are some common food options for different species:
- Snakes: Most snakes are carnivorous and require a diet of whole prey, such as mice or rats. Some larger species may also eat birds or eggs.
- Lizards: Many lizards are omnivorous and need a diet that includes both plant matter and protein. Options may include vegetables, fruits, insects, and small rodents.
- Turtles: Both aquatic and terrestrial turtles thrive on a diet that includes both plant matter and protein. Options may include leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, and small invertebrates.
- Tortoises: Tortoises are herbivorous and should have a diet that is high in fibre and low in protein. Options may include leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits.
It is important to research the specific dietary needs of the species you are caring for and to provide a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. It is also important to avoid feeding foods that are toxic to them.
Give Them Your Time and Attention
While they may not be as needy and attached as dogs, they do need daily interaction and handling to stay healthy and happy. They also need regular feeding, watering, and cage cleaning. Make sure you are prepared to commit the time and effort required to properly care for a reptile before getting one as a pet.
Take Care of Legal Requirements
Finally, it is important to consider the legal requirements for keeping a reptile as a pet. In some areas, it may be illegal to keep certain species as pets, or there may be specific regulations that must be followed.