Seven reasons to love cold-blooded pets, too

Guest post by Rachael Jordan

Photo by Ben Hipple
My dad always had iguanas as I grew up, so some of my childhood memories are of those awesome green creatures crawling up his wall-papered apartment walls and attending Cold-Blooded conventions where I got to pet Burmese pythons and hold DuMeril’s boas. I wasn’t afriad of our first grade class’ Rosy boa and I had two fire-bellied toads at home named Yzerman and Federov.
When I started dating my partner, Funk, I was elated to learn he had six — six!!!! — snakes, and I earned awesome points for wanting to hold them. We’ve since downsized to three snakes and added three bearded dragons. We are, officially, a reptile family. And it’s rad.
Green Tree Python
There’s a lot to love about our cold-blooded pets, starting at the beginning. After initial set up, reptiles are low-maintenance. Sure, they need heat lamps and the right environment in their cages or tanks, but once all that’s set up, reptiles get fed every two weeks and need watering once in awhile. Other than that, the critters need to be handled occasionally — or all the time! — and sometimes need a little help shedding.

It’s a nice benefit that reptile tanks become instant décor — or even furniture! We have a gorgeous box tank that Funk’s grandpa built and Funk has turned an old bookshelf into a snake cage. The pieces look beautiful in our living room and the pets’ habitats have become part of our home décor.

Just like any other pet, our herps teach our kid responsibility. He’s definitely going to be helping out with the bearded dragons. We bought them when we were pregnant and have called them our son’s dragons since before he was born. As soon as he’s able, he’ll be helping clean their cages and feeding them meal worms. Plus, how rad will that be to have his friends who come over might not have seen a reptile before?
Female Snake Charmer

Reptiles get a bad rap with the whole cold-blooded thing, but reptiles can cuddle, too! Have you ever had a snake wrap around your arms or curl up in your lap and just rest in the warmth of your body? It’s not a death grip; the snake is smart and knows it can’t eat you. Bearded dragons, meanwhile, love chilling on your shoulder or chest. You’re sharing your body heat with a cold-blooded creature.

It’s important to note there are different options for feeding. I know many people freak about feeding the snakes live mice, but there are options. If you don’t mind the mice but aren’t cool with feeding them live, frozen pinkies are available for your snakes! Also, there are water-dwelling snakes which eat fish, if that’s easier for you. And don’t forget about the other reptiles out there — most turtles and tortoises are vegetarians, bearded dragons eat meal worms and crickets, and iguanas eat everything from lettuce to corn.

While I’m definitely against the exploitation of exotic animals, they are pretty awesome as moving, living art. Our green tree python looks like a mix between a dragon and the snake, Kaa, from The Jungle Book. She is gorgeous.

Little Lizzy  (DSC_0028)

It’s my hope that the more people that own snakes and other herps, the more education gets spread about them. They aren’t “bad” animals. Snakes do bite. They strike when they’re hungry and they think food is in front of them. Sometimes the heat signal from a hand reaching in their cage, especially when they’re hungry, can be mistaken for a warm mouse squirming around. But dogs bite, too; cats scratch; birds nip. All animals come with “what if” situations. Because of cultural mythology and a lot of hype, reptiles get a bad name. Like with any animal, it’s all about safe handling and good pet ownership practice. Our herp kids have become part of the family and overall experience of our home.

And no, none of our snakes are going to eat our son.

Comments on Seven reasons to love cold-blooded pets, too

  1. My boyfriend brought up getting an iguana last night, oddly. It’s the first I’ve ever heard of him wanting a lizard. His reasoning, “Have you ever seen them run? Hilarious!” But, our one cat is already enough for me in our teeny apartment- and I have no idea how my kitty would feel about an iguana- and vice versa. So iguanas are out. And so are all other pets. For now.

  2. I could have written that post! We have had niles, bearded dragons, boas, ball pythons, box turtles, garner snakes, frogs, iguanas, etc… we love the reptiolian and amphibious kind! We have 3 kiddos and they all love to handle the not furry friends! We are dog lovers as well and have 3 furry friends too!

    • Reptilian not reptiolian. Although that is a lovely word, say it out loud rep-ti-o-li-an.

  3. I’ve had fire-bellied toads for the past 10ish years and love/d having them. I was raised in the sticks and finding a frog in the yard was a good time when I was little.

    Having pet frogs, and telling people that they are poisonous makes me happy.

  4. When I was in college I dearly missed having pets so I got geckos. LOVED. Small, inexpensive to feed and care for, made me feel more at home.

  5. I love lizards and other reptiles and amphibians but could never have a snake, which sometimes confuses people. They have no idea how I could be fine playing with lizards and letting them ride in my hair but can’t watch the Animal Planet when there are snakes on it…seriously full on phobia…I had to read the article by closing my eyes almost all the way and scrolling reaaaaaally fast at each picture

    but I do love lizards
    haha
    end slightly off topic ramble

    • I was hoping I wasn’t the only person who did this. I didn’t always have a snake phobia, but these past couple years if I even hear someone talking about them I get shivers.

  6. Remember, as with any pet, to make sure your home is suitable before you let cold blooded friends out and about. There’s nothing worse than being woken up by the guy in the apartment upstairs screaming in hysterics cos your snake has climbed the hot water pipe into his bathroom and curled around his feet whilst he’s trying to pee in the dark.

    • Haha SO true. And make sure the same for their food… escaped crickets are never fun and we have definitely had some very tricky mice before, too! 🙂

      • That’s a point actually, if you’re considering live feeding make sure to check your local laws as it might contravene local cruelty guidelines (stress to the rodent/bird and potential injury to the snake), though usually insects are ok.

        • agree’d! im an Aussie with a gorgeous Carpet python and it is illegal over here to live feed herptiles (with obvious exclusion for mealworms crickets etc) i find it easiest to kill the mice and rats myself as my baby does not take well to the frozen ones but most petshops do sell frozen mice and rats for herptiles

  7. Best pet I EVER had was a land tortoise. We lived in Southern California, so we could keep her (and her boyfriend, who we later purchased) outside in a special fenced in part of our garden. She at lots of different fruits and veggies (taco night at our house was the best – everyone took the leftover lettuce/tomatoes/corn/etc. out to the tortoises and would just sit and watch them eat).

    I will definitely be getting more once I leave my winter wonderland.

    • Tortoises are great. Being located in Southern California, my dad has had a tortoise who has roamed the backyard for years now. We’ll probably be passing him on to our son since they live so long!

  8. When we lived in Asia geckos would live in our house, they we’re great for keeping the insects away!

  9. Whatever you do though, don’t release your pets! Even if you live in a warm place. I live in Florida, and invasive snakes, lizards, and other reptiles, not to mention fish, are a huge problem here. People buy them, keep them until they get large, and then release them because it’s Florida so it must be okay.

  10. i have a pet boa constrictor named Lucius and he is the sweetest boy ever! i’ve had him for over 5 years! my boyfriend isnt too keen on him, but will touch him every one in a while. i guess he doesnt like him because he feels reptiles don’t have personalities which is SO not true! Lucius is picky, cuddly, inquisitive and bold. im allergic to pet dander so my sweet little snake is the best pet! i love feeding him live mice. i would never feed him something thats not in his natural instinct to eat so why give him dead feeder mice? yuck!

  11. I love this post, Reptiles make fantastic pets. My roomate has a rescued blood corn who is a little derpy but a wonderfully calm snake. And I have Leopard Geckos for the longest time. I wish more people would show the reptile/amphibian love!

  12. I’m another reptilian advocate. I have 8 different pythons – all Australian because we aren’t allowed to have ‘exotic’ reptiles (aka anything non native) over here. I have also owned two bearded dragons. They are the most fascinating creatures to watch and can make a great talking point. They are great focal points instead of furniture if you have the right set ups. They do keep certain people away unfortunately – one of my aunt’s won’t even drive in our driveway because she is petrified, and I can understand that too, but most people who meet mine come around to them not being such a bad thing to own. They’re also pretty addictive, owning one in most cases, isn’t enough! It’s illegal to feed live here (and I’ve seen some shocking photos of snakes that have been fed live and have been attacked by the mouse/rat and consequently have died) but they will easily take dead rats and mice that have been thawed. It is always amazing watching them dislocate their jaw etc. They are certainly a pet that shouldn’t be discounted if you’re not afraid of them!

  13. I’m holding my ball python, Noel as I write this 🙂 She is wonderful, and beautiful. I was able to get my mom to touch her once she realized how sweet Noel is!

  14. Oh I love this article! I have wanted a snake for a pet since I was little – still haven’t acquired one, but one of these days! Hopefully sooner than later, I just adore them 🙂 I always see garter snakes out on the farm and just smile, I think they are just the most fantastic creatures. Of course where I live it is illegal to have constrictors but you can still have some of the other varieties of pet snakes, corn snakes are pretty popular. Thank you so much for writing this, hopefully more people will open their minds about this. I’ve always had dogs, but when people hear that I want a snake they give me the strangest looks.

  15. this post makes me both happy and sad. my first pets were leopard geckos, and i lost all three of them to a nasty parasite.

    i also adopted an old lady corn snake (anerythristic morph – gorgeous girl) whose owners were moving out of the country…she passed 2 years ago to old age (seriously, she was in her 20s).

    eventually i’ll have more lizards. right now, though, i’ve got a fish tank going and two cats, and that’s plenty for me.

  16. I had box turtles growing up. They were the best. My favorite thing about them: every time we fed them, it was guaranteed that four or five hours later they’d be mating. You haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed turtlesex. They were surprisingly noisy when they got it on.

  17. 1) I heart names like Yzerman and Fedorov and more so people who know where they came from and how to pronounce them. (my first ball python was named Sid after Sid Abel)
    2) yay for cold blooded pets! My current ball python is 12 or 13 years old and i’ve had him for 11 years. He’s my travel buddy through a few different moves.

  18. Ahhhh, I love my friends pet snakeys! Buttercup and Lazarus are the cutest things in the world, and I totally wish they were mine. It’s also totally true that herps are awesome for cuddles… my favourite time to hang out with them is while wearing a hoodie and having a sweet snakey curled up in the hood. This is a great post!

    Related, Lazarus and I a couple of years ago: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3593/3505568342_14c38995ac.jpg

  19. Does anyone know how much the cage heating heightens an electric bill? This article may seriously have me convinced, but I worry that the ongoing cost (besides the initial cage and what not cost) will be really high.

  20. Very awesome! My fiance and I are also a reptilian household with 3 snakes (California King, Ball Python and Western Hognose), an Egyptian Uromastyx, a Tiger Salamander, 2 tarantulas (Mexican Red Knee and a Rose Hair) and 2 bark scorpions.

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