There are 4.5 million households in the United States that keep reptile pets. In those households is an estimated 9.4 million reptiles.
Snakes are the most popular reptile pet in the United States. Lizards and turtles are close behind. As reptiles, these pets are far more exotic to us than cats or dogs.
Unlike small mammals, reptiles need special enclosures to thrive. Reptiles are cold-blooded and thus have special needs.
The enclosures we use to house our reptile pets are called vivarium. Other common terms for these enclosures are terrariums and paludariums. The term terrarium is the most common.
Special Needs We Must Consider for Our Reptile Pets
Since they are cold-blooded, reptile pets do not regulate their own body temperature. Without any kind of insulation like fur, they are at the mercy of their environment.
This fact is true of all reptiles and must be considered first.
Reptiles are susceptible to both cold and heat. Since reptiles cannot sweat, they can’t cool themselves down.
In the wild, they compensate for this. Reptiles often move in and out of direct sunlight to help regulate their body temperature.
When we keep reptile pets, we have to simulate their environment for them. Most lizards and snakes come from areas that are both warm and humid. There are some exceptions to this, but it is generally true.
To give our cold-blooded pets as much comfort as possible we have to consider their species. There are many different types of reptile pets. What is going to work for a turtle will not be appropriate for a tropical lizard.
If you are an experienced reptile pet owner, you already know this. If this is your first reptile, let’s move on to the enclosure.
What a Basic Reptile Habitat Needs
The needs of reptiles are as varied as their species.
Here are a few examples:
The first thing that your reptile will need is space. This is not just so your reptile can move around. A larger tank will make it easier for you to provide your reptile with temperature variances.
The second thing that all reptile habitats need is access to good, clean water.
Make sure your reptile pet has constant access to water. It should be free of debris and any waste matter. This is important for ensuring the health of your reptile pet.
A key component of any reptile enclosure is access to shelter.
A reptile will know when it needs to get into the shade or out into the light. Make sure that they have access to protection against the sun and the light in your home.
Make sure the medium in your enclosure is safe for your pet. Whether you use rocks, dirt or some other bedding material make sure your reptile pet won’t be poisoned. Avoid using live branches and stay away from oily materials such as pine.
Many types of reptile pets will need access to standing water if possible. Make sure that this water is free of any metal contaminants or other items that may be harmful. You don’t want to accidentally poison your reptile pet.
The amount of moisture in the air and environment is of vital importance with reptile pets. Keep the humidity level as appropriate as you can all of the time. Using a reptile humidity gauge can help you with this.
You can introduce moisture into the air and environment in a lot of different ways. Commercially available humidifiers are a great way to go. If you need any help deciding what to get try looking at these cool mist humidifier reviews.
Nutrition is vital to all kinds of pets. Your reptile pet is no different in their need for food. They are different in what kind of food they need. There is no basic food for all kinds of reptiles.
Pet shops will often have frozen carcasses to serve meat-eaters. Some reptiles are vegetarians and need specific types of plant matter. Make sure to cater to both your food type and your food delivery to suit your reptile pet.
Your reptile pet is going to need warmth. That does not mean that they need it to be hot. Using a programmable or moveable heat lamp is important.
Make sure that your heat lamp is not inside the enclosure. The objective is to give gentle warmth to the animal, not burn it. Reptile pets need a good amount of ambient warmth in their habitat.
Difficulties With Reptile Pets
Creating a proper enclosure for your reptile pet can be difficult. The more exotic the reptile pet is the more difficult it will be to meet its needs. There are less commercially available tools to help reptile pet owners than other pet owners.
You will have to do a lot of the work yourself. Even building a habitat and locating the correct equipment comes down to you. Study up on the specific needs of your reptile pet and what it needs to survive.
Listen to experts on reptiles and ask questions of other owners if you can. Hearing what they have had success or failure with will inform you considerably. Keeping a reptile pet is not as easy as having a cat roaming about your house.
For a Reptile to Be a Great Pet It Needs a Great Enclosure
For your reptile pet to be successful, it will need help from you.
While some people choose to keep pets that are native to their area, this is not always possible. Decide from the very start whether you are going to want a semi-aquatic or non-aquatic reptile. Do your homework on what it’s like to own a member of the species you want to get.
As with any pet, owning a reptile can be a great experience.
Contrary to popular belief, reptiles have a lot of personality. Your reptile pet will not be like all the others.
Just like with a cat or dog you will get to know them over time, and they will get to know you. Keep them safe, happy, warm and humid to the most appropriate degree and they will be with you for a long time.
Read up on some of our other articles to stay informed on what matters most to you.