Your First Snake
A few of the basics that you need to know and consider before getting a snake as a pet.
Snakes can live for many years, so you need to find out the lifespan of your intended pet and consider how it will fit into your life. Keep in mind your future commitments and intentions and determine if a snake is still a good idea. Generally it is best to start out with a smaller species, whilst you become accustomed to handling. Ensure you know just how big your snake can grow to. Also enquire how large an enclosure it will require when fully grown. Generally start with a snake which is fairly placid and tolerant of handling, such as a corn snake or milk snake.
When choosing a healthy snake look for one that is alert with good muscle tone and can move with ease. Check the eyes and if they are sunken, it may have mites or be dehydrated. Check the skin for any wounds or retained skin. Check for bubbles, froth or any discharge around the mouth, which could be signs of respiratory illnesses or mouth rot.
Snakes are ectothermic – cold blooded and rely on external heat sources to regulate their temperature. In captivity, we need to provide a heat source and a temperature gradient across their enclosure, so that they can continue with their natural process of moving between areas. It is best to control your heating device with a thermostat to avoid over heating or a cage that is too cold
Substrates are necessary to soak up waste products so that your snake isn’t lying in it. Newspaper and kitchen towel are often the most appropriate choice for hatchlings as they are cheap and easy to clean.
All common pet reptiles must have access to drinkable water at all times. Try to use a flat heavy water dish with sloping sides so that the snake can easily access it and even lie in the bowl if it needs to. A hide box for the snake to retreat to is essential for a happy snake. Make sure the opening is in a U shape and not a hole in which it could one day get stuck.
Most pet snakes feed on a variety of rodents, birds, lizards, etc. Most foods are bought frozen and defrosted on the day of eating. Feeding live food is dangerous for the snake and should be avoided. Do not handle your snake for 24-48 hours after it has fed, or it may regurgitate its food back up.
Always wash your hands with warm soapy water after handling any animals.
You can never have too much information. Buy a few good books and look for reptile forums on the internet where you can get advice.