CARING FOR YOUR PET SNAKE
Snakes are interesting and easy to care for. There are a large variety of species suitable to the home environment. Most snakes at Petland are members of the Boidae, Colubridae, or Pythonidae families. The Boidae family consists of Boas, while the Pythonidae is home to pythons. The Colubridae family is incredibly diverse, and includes Kingsnakes, Cornsnakes, and Milksnakes.
Snakes can be found in deserts, savannas and rainforests with conditions ranging from temperate to tropical. Different species have adapted to living in trees, in water, on the ground or in burrows.
A Snake's Social Graces
Snakes do not require social interaction. In fact, most snakes are quiet and reclusive, spending much of their time in their favourite retreats conserving energy between feedings. Most snakes can be handled for short periods at a time, but over-handling can cause stress. There are times when they will prefer to be left alone, including shedding periods and feeding times.
One, Two or More?
It is never wise to mix different species of snakes together as they may interpret one another as a threat or competition for food. Some species are cannibalistic, and may predate on each other if allowed the opportunity.
Some snakes may be kept in colonies, such as Corn Snakes, but this is best left to the experienced hobbyist as even these docile snakes have been known to attack one another during feeding time.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your pet, Petland recommends the following necessary accessories. We have listed them as your new pet's four basic needs: Nutritional, Environmental, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your snake can live a long and happy life.
Your Snake's New Home – When choosing an enclosure, make sure you accommodate your snake's natural behaviours. Arboreal (tree-dwelling) snakes prefer a tall environment with strong branches to climb. Terrestrial (ground-dwelling) snakes require more ground space to crawl around in. Glass vivariums and aquariums are excellent homes. They can be easily climate-controlled, while offering excellent viewing. A locking screen top is essential for ventilation and security. Snakes are curious by nature, and so an insecure lid is a recipe for trouble!
Warm Surroundings – Snakes, like all reptiles, rely on their environment to provide them with enough heat to function. They require warm areas within their home to increase their body temperature, and cooler areas to reduce it. Ensure your tank has a warm (not hot) and cool (not cold) side to enable your snake to regulate their temperature. A wide variety of heat lamps are available to keep areas in your snake's home warm. Each bulb has different properties, your pet counsellor can help you find the perfect bulb for your pet. A Heat mat may be placed under the tank or on the side to provide heat day and night. If being used under the tank, heat mats must be used with a thermostat (See Temperature Control) as burns may occur if the snake burrows too close to an uncontrolled mat.
Each species requires a different temperature during the day. At night, it is quite common that the temperature may drop. To learn the best temperatures for your snake, just ask a Petland pet counsellor.
Temperature Control – Using a Thermostat designed for use with reptiles ensures safety while also reducing energy usage. These devices are able to detect when the environment is too cool or too warm and control your heating devices appropriately. Some devices are even able to detect light levels and switch automatically between nighttime temperatures and daytime temperatures. A light fixture with a dimmer can be used to control the amount of heat given off by a heat lamp. Thermometers allow you to measure the temperature in the tank to ensure it is perfect for your snake. Ensure you can accurately measure the temperature on both the warm side and the cool side.
Humidity Control – For snakes that require more humidity, the use of foggers, fountains, and handheld misting bottles can recreate their natural environment. Be sure not to mist or spray the snake directly, but rather their environment instead. Incorporating moss into your substrate or hides aids in maintaining humidity. A hygrometer allows you to measure the air humidity in the tank to ensure it is perfect for your snake.
When almost ready to shed their skin, a snake will become less colourful and their eyes will often develop a milky blue opaque quality. During this time, they appreciate slightly higher humidity levels – keep them on the higher end of the range recommended by the Petland care guide for their species.
Lighting – Snakes can be active both day and night, though are they are often especially active during dawn and dusk. In captivity, many people choose to illuminate their terrarium for aesthetic purposes. Many snakes spend most of the day in their favourite hiding places, keeping safe from predators. There is no adverse effect to providing a full spectrum fluorescent bulb, which will highlight the natural colouration of your snake. If you choose to have a light on your snake's home, be sure the snake can retreat to areas of darkness and that the light is turned off every night. A Day & Night Timer can automate turning lights on and off, saving you time and effort.
For more information ask a pet counsellor for a copy of the Ultraviolet Lighting for birds and Reptiles tip sheet
Frozen Dinners – A natural diet for most snakes consists of small rodents and birds it has captured. Captive-bred snakes will readily accept freshly thawed frozen rodents, which are both safer and more convenient. Frozen mice and rats must be completely thawed out prior to being fed to a snake, and be warm to the touch. Thawing is typically achieved by placing the feeder item in a bag that is then submersed in a larger container of warm water until the desired temperature is achieved. Never microwave feeder items. If the need arises, ask a Petland pet counsellor for tips to encourage feeding.
Fresh Water – Snakes are very particular about the water they like to drink. Fresh water must be offered at all times in a water dish large enough for the snake to fully submerge themselves in.
Safe Handling - Contact with reptiles, their environments or frozen feeder rodents can be a source of human Salmonella infections. After handling a reptile, their environment, or their food, it is recommended that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Clean and disinfect any surfaces where frozen rodents are prepared, thawed and stored. Use feeding tongs when feeding your snake to increase safety.
Substrate – The bottom of your snake's home should be easy to clean, while mimicking the snake's natural surroundings. Snakes from humid tropical environments benefit from bark and coconut-style substrates to retain humidity. Desert snakes prefer aspen substrates for its ability to maintain the shape of their burrows. Reptile carpets can be useful for all varieties of snakes, although ground dwellers may hide under them.
Clean bedding is very important. As snakes typically defecate once or twice a week, spot cleaning is the best method for ensuring cleanliness. At least twice a week, fecal matter must be removed. Every few weeks, substrate should be replaced with fresh substrate. Reptile carpet may be cleaned with a mild reptile-safe cleaning solution, dried and then replaced.
Spot Cleaning Supplies – A scoop allows you to spot clean with ease, and allows you to sift fine substrates to minimize wasted bedding. A pair of tweezers or tongs help you to remove fecal matter in difficult to reach places, while keeping your hands clean.
Secure Temporary Container – Although your snake will spend the majority of their time in their tank, there will be times when that won't be possible and they must be secured in an alternative. A plastic terrarium or similar enclosure, ensures your snake stays put while also being easy to clean and use. Such a container is also helpful in the event that the snake needs to visit a veterinarian, or needs to be transported.
Hiding Places – Every living creature needs an area to call their own. A hideaway is necessary in reducing stress and makes snakes feel secure. Tree-dwellers prefer plastic plants or hollowed cork bark suspended near or around a high branch. Ground-dwellers prefer natural and artificial caves as their safe havens, though plastic plants are often appreciated too. Ensure both the warm and the cool side of the tank have their own hiding places, to allow the snake to regulate their temperature effectively.
Rocks and Logs – All reptiles, including snakes, require rough surfaces to be able to shed their skin properly. Snakes will rub against these decorations to break free of their old skin. A well-decorated home will help you to reduce your snake's stress level and allow them to feel secure at all times.
A Pool of Water – Prior to shedding, snakes will often soak in water to loosen the old skin. Ensure the container used for this purpose is large enough for the snake to fully submerge, and cannot be tipped over by the snake, as water-soaked litter can cause the snake to be uncomfortable and may lead to skin infections. For larger snakes, cat litter pans work well!
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your particular pet's needs, as snakes are so diverse.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their environments. Regular cleaning of your pet's environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, are necessary routines. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.
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