Reptile Awareness Day.

Some of you will be aware (most perhaps won’t) that it was Reptile Awareness Day on 21ST October 2019, so I thought I’d do a little piece about all things reptilian. Some people keep Lizards and Iguanas as pets, as well as snakes and if you do your homework they can make great companions.

Snakes ……..

Corn snakes and Royal Pythons are popular to have as ”beginner” species if you haven’t kept snakes before, as they’re generally good-natured when handled regularly. Both species can live for 2o years plus, with Corn snakes growing to around 6 feet in length; Royal pythons grow to between 3 and 5 feet, but a lot heavier weight-wise than Corn snakes.

Firstly, you’ll need a Vivarium (viv), which is a special cage with glass doors, and it needs to be an appropriate size for the snake species it’ll be home to. Young snakes, i.e. smaller ones, may prefer a more compact Vivarium or smaller places to hide in a larger one, so that they feel safe and secure. Make sure that your viv is closed securely; you’ll be surprised by how strong your snake is and they can soon have a loose lid or door open. Cue screaming mum or siblings, barking dogs and hissing cats!

Try to keep the environment in your viv as close to your snakes’ natural one as possible; do your research as to whether sand or soil is best, and add rocks, bark, foliage etc. to give them stimulation.

Most snakes are carnivorous, so be prepared to feed them a meaty diet – which most commonly is pinkies (small mice). Again, look into the specific needs of your snake, but remember to use long tweezers when feeding; a hungry snake can easily mistake your pinkies for a pinky! Your reptile will also need fresh water providing daily which you perhaps don’t think of straight away, as you don’t usually see snakes drinking on wildlife programmes really do you?

All reptiles are, by definition, cold blooded creatures, regardless of whether they are predominantly land or water dwellers. They naturally raise their body temperature by lying in the sun and lower it by finding shade, so replicating this for them in an artificial environment makes them fairly high-maintenance pets.

Terrapins …….

Terrapins are another popular reptilian pet here in the UK, living in fresh water as opposed to salt water like their marine cousins, the Turtle. The water needs to be warm though, they don’t like it cold – can’t fault their style, I feel the same!

Their tank will need to be a decent size as shell length is often over 30cm in adult red-eared Terrapins; they’re not exactly small. In common with snakes, terrapins are carnivorous so you’ll need to clean their tanks at least once a week to prevent any uneaten meat from polluting the water or filling up your room with a nasty niff! After a while it would be a pungent pong, trust me!

As well as needing their version of a private pool to be kept clean, your terrapin likes nothing more than to indulge in a spot of (indoor) sunbathing. Therefore you, their very own housekeeper/butler/general dogsbody, will have to purchase a top-notch basking lamp for them and set it to 30-32 degrees Celsius. I think I might need to channel my inner terrapin, this sounds blissful!

That isn’t all you’ll need though: stop moaning, I did warn you that terrapins are high maintenance! A 7-12% UV reptile lamp will also need to be on your shopping list; without it (and the artificial light it provides) your pets’ shell and bones won’t be strong and healthy. Oh, and don’t forget to provide some chic finishing touches such as natural stones and rocks so that your ravishing reptile can bask in its warm tank and dry off after a relaxed lap or two in its bespoke pool.

Tortoises ……

If you fancy something a little lower down on the maintenance scale (but still exotic), then a Tortoise may well appeal. Mr or Mrs T will be perfectly happy plodding around in your garden for the majority of their laid-back days, but they’d appreciate having an enclosure too. Having a little haven of safety from predators (that also gives them shelter and warmth) will make their lives much happier, and let’s face it, happy pet=happy human. Feeding-wise tortoises are pretty easy; they are omnivores, i.e. vegetable and meat eating, so a varied diet will be simple to provide. One thing to note is that they don’t eat fruit in their natural environment, so swerve that (or eat it yourself and get that 5-a-day target nailed!).

Not all species of tortoise hibernate either, so research whether yours needs to fully or partially hibernate, or whether it doesn’t need this extended slumber at all.

Most reptiles carry Salmonella bacteria on them, so always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your reptile, cleaning it out, and disinfecting lamps, filters and accessories. Safety first folks, always!

We don’t tend to get too many terrapins or snakes brought to us at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre, but we have had the odd tortoise or two. As always though, if you have any concerns about your reptile friend then please do get in touch with one of the team.

Enjoy Reptile Awareness Day on 21st October, and until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂