Those of you who care for more unusual pets will know that providing a suitably stimulating and safe living environment is essential for their health and well-being, and just as important as offering the right diet. This week we take a look at some of the key considerations when caring for reptiles and amphibians, for those of you who may be at the beginning of your friendship with an indoor pet. Of course, the introductory information included here is necessarily basic – we always recommend researching the needs of your pets fully before you welcome them home, along with speaking with the re-homing centre in order to ensure that you’re comfortable with the level of responsibility required and can accommodate the established routine of your new pet.
This week we take a look at the basic needs of some popular reptiles and amphibians:
Leopard Geckos are perhaps the most suitable lizards for anyone new to lizards and exotic pets – they are small, easy to handle and do not require specialist UV lighting in their tanks as they are nocturnal creatures. Bearded dragons are also popular in the UK as they generally have a docile temperament, although their housing requirements can be more complex due to their larger size and need for UV lighting.
Welcoming a lizard into your life requires commitment – as with any pet it’s important to make sure that you understand the responsibilities and time involved in providing a full and happy life for your pet. Some basic considerations might include:
- Check the adult size of your pet and choose a suitably large tank
- Is there a local vet who specialises in the care of exotics?
- Remember that geckos can live for 20 years
- Geckos can be housed in groups of two or three, but there should only be one male per tank (and obviously housing females with a male will inevitably lead to baby geckos!)
- As insectivores, geckos require a steady supply of insects in order to remain healthy
Like any animal, snakes have their own individual temperaments and personalities, and so the relationship you develop with him / her will be truly unique. Popular species here in the UK include corn snakes and Royal Pythons. Caring for snakes is very rewarding but we would always recommend thoroughly researching the requirements of your chosen species in order to make sure that the tank and diet you provide are appropriate.
- Feeding snakes is not for the squeamish – you’ll need to provide a ready supply of mice pinkies, smaller than 1.5 times your snake’s girth.
- Snakes can live for 10-20 years.
- Handling should be limited to 10-15 minutes at a time in order to prevent the snake’s core temperature dropping.
- All reptiles, snakes included, require a thermogradient in their living environment. In practice this means placing a guarded heat lamp at one end of your pet’s vivarium, with the opposite end left cool. The ‘basking zone’ temperature should be 28-30 oC, and the cool end 20-24 oC.
- A humidity of 40-50% is also required in order to prevent your snake developing breathing problems and skin problems.
As with all pets, it’s important that your tortoise comes from a reputable home – please consider re-homing animals in need of a forever home as a first choice. We do not recommend pet shops or garden centres for finding a pet tortoise, instead details of reputable UK breeders who are passionate about these amazing pets and who follow strict welfare codes can be found at here.
- Happy tortoises are famously long-lived, so it’s important to consider future plans for your pet.
- Tortoises need a diet high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, but low in fat and proteins – they feed mainly on green leaves such as charlock, chickweed, clover, dandelion and groundsel. Salad and green vegetables should be fed raw and in moderation. Please be aware that ragwort is toxic for tortoises.
- If you also share your home with a dog, great care must be taken to ensure that your tortoise has a safe and secure enclosure that the dog cannot enter.
- Tortoises are not native to the UK and thus require daily access to heat and light in order to stay healthy and happy. Your indoor enclosure should feature a specially-designed UVB light and heat lamp.
- Winter hibernation is a normal part of a healthy tortoise’s life, and it’s important to prepare your pet properly. The topic is covered in far more detail here.
Of course we have only been able to cover a very small introduction here to the complex care requirements of these exotic animals. Please always research thoroughly and consider carefully the particular needs of your pet before making the commitment to his / her care; this is especially important for exotic animals such as lizards, snakes or tortoises.
Until next time, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support
Please note that The Ralph Site very strongly encourages people to only bring new companion animals into their home that they have rehomed from a rescue centre or that are otherwise unwanted or being subjected to mistreatment; with so much over-supply of unwanted animals, we cannot condone private breeding or indeed removing non-domesticated animals from their natural outdoor environment to be kept as pets.