Choosing and Preparing for a Reptile as a Pet

by Shannon Hammond
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Reptiles are becoming very popular as pets, but unfortunately that means more people are buying them on impulse and not researching their needs. This can lead to poor husbandry practices, causing the reptile to become ill or even die. There are also many more species available now than ever before, but not all commonly available species are suitable for beginners. The first step in buying a reptile should be done before even going to the store. Research is the key to a healthy pet.

Choosing a Pet Type

The first research to do is what species is right for you. Do you want a lizard, a snake, or a turtle? A vegetarian, insectivore, or carnivore? Are you willing to provide a very large cage, or do you have limited space? Asking yourself these questions will help narrow down your choices. For instance, that little iguana may look cute at the store, but it will quickly grow into a 4-6 foot lizard that has special dietary and habitat needs. Every animals needs should be considered when choosing a reptile.

Bearded Dragon

Once you have narrowed down your choices, you need more details on its care. Read as many care sheets as you can, and learn as much as possible about the care of the animals you are considering. You may find that an animal you previously thought was a good choice is not at easy to care for as you think. Chameleons are getting very popular, but they are not a good species for beginners. They require very high humidity, but an all-screen cage, which is a difficult combination. In a glass cage they don't get enough ventilation, and they can be very stressed by seeing their own reflection in the glass. They often get picky about their insect prey and go on hunger strikes for no known reason. So before you make a decision, learn a species special needs.

Preparing for Your New Pet

Now you know what you want, but don't rush to the store just yet. What kind of cage do you need? What about food, heat, light, etc? You may have read some care sheets, but books are even better. Buy at least one or two books on your species, to get more information. Some even have some great tricks of the trade that a shorter care sheet may not mention. This will help you prepare for the next step-setting up the cage.

Cage setup is an important step. You want to do this at least a few days before getting your reptile, so you can monitor temperatures and adjust accordingly. Simple cages are often best at first, to monitor your animals health and prevent any parasites from hiding in decorations.

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