Choosing and Taking Care of A Snake
Sat, April 17, 2021

Choosing and Taking Care of A Snake


Most of the snakes you see in pet stores are easy to handle and most importantly, they are not usually aggressive, said Laurie Hess, DVM and Rick Axelson, DVM of VCA Hospitals, an operator of over 1,000 animal hospitals in the US and Canada. Serious reptile owners keep certain species of snakes that are aggressive in nature, which are not typically available in pet stores.

Only captive-bred animals should be sold as pets, ideally speaking. Wild snakes are less tolerant of stress and are more likely to refuse food. Wild-caught snakes tend to have higher numbers of internal and external parasites. The needs of your pet snake will depend on the species. Hence, it is recommended to consult a herpetologist or a veterinarian specializing in reptiles if you have specific questions about your pet.

Australia’s National Survey on Pet Ownership (2019)

The most popular pets in Australia were dogs (39.9%), cats (27%), fish (11%), birds (9%), small mammals (2.7%), reptiles (2%), and other pets (2%), according to the Animal Medicines Australia, the voice of the animal health industry. Turtles and tortoises were the most commonly kept reptiles, up from 15% of all reptile owners to 2019’s 44%. Lizards (32%), snakes (25%), and frogs and salamanders (14%) were also other reptiles commonly kept by owners.

These pet owners had kept reptiles for an average of nearly six years, including those who had kept reptiles for less than a year (11%). 3% of households across Australia had kept reptiles at some point, including those that did not currently have any type of pets (2%). Interestingly, reptile owners were more likely than others to be living in NSW (New South Wales) (3% of households versus 2% nationally).

Owners cited companionship as their rationale for choosing to get a dog (42%), cat (35%), bird (30%), or small mammal (27%). Meanwhile, owners chose to get fish (39%) and reptiles (17%) for relaxation. For 21% of owners, they chose to get a reptile because they are seen as lower-maintenance pets, so as those who got fish (16%).

Other reasons for choosing a reptile were rescue animal/to give them a home (18%), companionship (16%), and for education/responsibility for the children (7%). 10% owned a reptile because it was given to them. For reptile owners, 37% spent <1 hours with their pet and while 31% spent one to <2 hours. Others spent two to <3 hours (18%), three to <4 hours (5%), four to <6 hours (4%), and six plus hours (5%).

28% of reptile owners had taken their pet to a vet in the last 12 months, with similar percentages for bird owners (27%) and aquarists (13%). However, more respondents said they had taken their dog (84%) and cat (68%) to the vet.   



Which Species of Snakes Can Be Kept As Pets?

1.     Burmese Python

Burmese pythons can be kept as pets, growing as long as 15 to 20 feet or longer, wrote Adrienne Kruzer, RVT, LVT of The Spruce Pets, a pet website. They are docile but they are a bit more active than ball pythons. Burmese pythons make great pets for adult snake owners. 

2.     Corn Snake

A corn snake is a species of rat snake and is a popular snake for beginners because of its small size. Experienced owners also love taking care of corn snakes because of their colors. Corn snakes grow up to five feet. Not only are they excellent escape artists, but they are also docile and non-biters.

3.     Red-Tail Boa

The red-tail boa, which is a kind of boa constrictor and known for its distinct red tip on the end of its tail, is commonly seen in the pet trade. Red tails grow to around 10 feet long. Red tails do not make good snakes for owners who do not like to commit to taking care of a snake that lives for about 30 years and feeds on large rats or rabbits.



How to Take Care of A Snake?

1.     Diet

Snakes are carnivores and your pet will love to consume a varied diet of mice and birds, stated Pet Barn, a pet shop and pet warehouse. If your snake leaves food, don’t worry! Snakes have a slow metabolism and do not need much food to stay healthy. Some snakes have specialized diets, noted NT.GOV.AU (Northern Territory Government), a provider of Northern Territory Government information and services.

For example, slaty grey snakes like to consume frogs and other reptiles. Your snake needs fresh water every day. Water containers should be heavy and wide so your pet cannot tip it over. Water containers can also be used as a bathtub. Since snakes love to bath, it should be large enough for the snake to fit.

2.     Housing

Consider the length of your snake when it is fully grown before choosing an appropriately-sized terrarium. For substrates, try using bark mulch, dry leaves, sand, newspaper, or rolled corrugated cardboard. Add branches, rocks, and logs. Install a heat map or ceramic heat emitter to maintain at least a temperature of 32–35°C.

Your terrarium should be disinfected at least once a week. Use household bleach diluted 1:10 with water and rinse the terrarium well. Spot clean the enclosure as necessary and wash your hands before and after handling. An outdoor enclosure can be made of wire. Some snakes try to find a way to escape by rubbing their noses along the wire, injuring themselves in the process. This means your snake is stressed. Remove it from its enclosure if this behavior persists.

Snakes both need UVA and UVB lighting. UV lighting is needed for vitamin D3 to enable calcium absorption. Your snake will get sick if it does not get enough vitamin D3. UV lights can be purchased in pet shops, increasing your snake’s activity levels, natural behaviors, and appetite.

3.     Handling

Handle your snake quickly, safely, and gently. Snakes can bit and they should be treated with caution. Support your snake’s body as evenly as possible. Avoid making sudden movements, especially when it is done near the head. Your snake may also be held behind the head. However, you can only this when you are with an experienced snake owner. Bear in mind that a snake can bite by twisting its jaws sideways or by pulling backwards. Venomous snakes should be handled by experienced carers.


Be careful when handling snakes, as they can bite when you make sudden movements. Beginners can start off with raising a corn snake or a Burmese python. Snakes should undergo an annual examination by a veterinarian to check for diseases and other health complications.