|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on June 16, 2020 at 7:20 PM|
Snakes as Family Part One:
Are Snakes being overlooked as the Perfect Pet Family Members?
As an animal trainer, director of an animal sanctuary, and someone who has shared a home with animals their whole life I am always surprised by people who do not share their life with at least one non-human animal. Common reasons that I hear from people regarding why they don’t share their home with a pet go something like this: “I really like animals but I just don’t have the time to spend with one”, “I would love to have a pet but I’m gone a lot”, “I don’t have the money to take care of one”, and “I have allergies to animals” or “I’m allergic”.
When I think about these reasons and then I think of snakes, I really believe that they are being overlooked for consideration as what could be the perfect pet family member for many people. Here is why:
Snakes do not need you to spend much time with them. Depending on the type of snake you share your home with, they may be perfectly content to remain in their habitat and be left alone much of the time. Snakes are not inherently social, although recent research indicates some species of snakes are social with each other, they do not typically seek social interaction with people, in fact, most of the time they prefer to avoid people.
For someone who would like to share their home with an animal but who has very little time to care for or interact with them, snakes are quite possibly perfect. Besides not demanding your constant affection and attention as a dog or cat might, snakes eat infrequently. Snakes may eat anywhere from once a week to one a month or more, depending on the species and their age. This equates to infrequent elimination, so enclosure cleaning does not have to be done very often. Making sure the animal has clean water and is being housed at the proper temperature are really the most involved things a pet parent would have to do.
People who would like to have a pet while at home but who are gone a lot or travel frequently may find that a snake is perfect for them. Why? They eat only once every 1-6 weeks and are content to remain quietly alone. Going on vacation, traveling for work, working long hours or working overtime would not really affect a snake. When traveling, the most you would need to do is have someone check periodically that your animal has water and that your environmental controls are working (i.e. lighting and/or heating which you can easily control with a timer and thermostat).
For those who say they would like to have a pet but cannot afford to take care of one, snakes are fairly inexpensive to keep. Once you invest in the initial enclosure set-up, which can be anywhere from simple to complex depending on your preference, the cost of maintenance is not that much. Most snakes eat a rodent per meal and those cost on average $1 - $4 each depending on the type and size. If your snake eats once a week, even with the largest size rodent, that is about $4 a week to feed your snake and if they eat once a month, like some of mine, that is $4 a month. I really do not know of a live pet that costs less to feed.
They can drink the same water consumed by humans in the home and the only other upkeep costs would be to replace bedding and light or heat bulbs if in use. As with any animal, including humans, there is always the potential for medical bills due to injury or illness; however, snakes do not rack up any annual medical costs for things like vaccinations or teeth cleaning. It is a good idea to have a fecal check done every now and then to check for internal parasites, but that would be optional unless a problem comes up.
That brings us to those irritating allergies. For those who love animals but are allergic to many of them, snakes could be the perfect solution. I did a little research (of course) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology actually recommends snakes as pets for people who are sensitive to allergens from animal dander. It is very rare for a human to be allergic to snakes and other reptiles because they have no hair or epidermal dander (Damien Campbell, 2019, Sciencing). Humans with allergy issues would just need to pick out bedding and enclosure furnishings for their snake that they are not allergic to.
If all of those pros are not enough to make snakes attractive pets, consider that snakes are quiet, no barking or yowling to bother family members or neighbors. Quiet does not mean they are incapable of meaningful interactions though. They are beautiful to look at and enjoyable just to watch. Depending on the type of snake, they can range from mellow to outgoing. Snakes may climb, burrow, swim, and display other behaviors to captivate the attention. They can also be trained via classical and operant conditioning in a similar manner as other animals, and they can be socialized to handling for those who want some physical interaction with their pet.
Just to review, snakes do not demand much time to care for because they eat and eliminate infrequently, they do not demand physical attention, they can be left alone while away at work or traveling, and they are hypoallergenic. Their upkeep costs are very little and in return they provide the companionship of a beautiful living animal to share home and hearth with. I know that for me it is comforting and enjoyable to just sit and watch them whether they are resting in a tree or on a ledge, or actively moving around their habitat exercising. Snakes provide enjoyment and companionship while I am doing other things such as reading, working on the computer, doing household chores, etc.; and I am able to interact with them when I have time because they are trained and socialized. Their presence is tranquil and comforting and I would miss them in their absence.
Campbell, Damien. Sciencing. 22 November 2019. 16 June 2020.
Burghardt, GM. (2017) Keeping reptiles and amphibians as pets: challenges and rewards Veterinary Record 181, 447-449.
Using Operant Conditioning and Desensitization to Facilitate Veterinary Care with Captive Reptiles (Hellmuth, Heidi; Augustine, Lauren, et al., Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice, Volume 15, Issue 3, 425 – 443)