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Do Reptiles and Amphibians Make Good Pets?

Millions of people keep snakes, lizards, and turtles as pets, but that doesn’t mean that the practice is beneficial to those creatures. In fact, herpetologist Clifford Warwick reported in a 2017 issue of Veterinary Record that 75 percent of reptiles die during their first year in a home environment. Warwick said that at least 30 signs of behavioral stress are regularly observed in “captive reptiles,” all linked to poor care, leading to what he called “controlled deprivation.”

Not like the family dog:

  • According to Warwick, it is impossible to guarantee that a reptile kept at home will be free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, and fear, or that it will exhibit normal behavior.
  • Reptiles can spread illnesses to humans. Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites can enter through a caretaker’s mouth, or be transmitted through a break in the skin.
  • One of the most common diseases spread from reptiles to humans is salmonella. Other possible ailments include botulism, campylobacteriosis, leptospirosis, worms, and ticks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I consider before getting a reptile or amphibian as a pet?

Before adopting a reptile or amphibian, consider their specific care requirements, such as habitat, temperature, humidity, and diet. Research the species' lifespan, as some can live for decades. Also, assess your ability to provide consistent care over time and ensure you're prepared for potential veterinary costs. Remember, these pets often require a significant commitment and specialized knowledge.

Are reptiles and amphibians suitable for children?

Reptiles and amphibians can be suitable for older children who understand the importance of gentle handling and proper hygiene, such as washing hands after contact to prevent salmonella. However, they may not be ideal for young children who might inadvertently harm them or forget to maintain their habitat. Adult supervision is crucial to ensure the safety of both the child and the pet.

How much maintenance do reptile and amphibian pets require?

The maintenance level for reptiles and amphibians varies by species. Some, like certain snake species, require minimal daily care but need specific habitat conditions. Others, like amphibians, may need daily attention to maintain proper humidity and water quality. Research the needs of the species you're interested in to ensure you can meet their care requirements.

Can reptiles and amphibians be handled and cuddled like other pets?

Reptiles and amphibians generally do not seek out human affection and can be stressed by excessive handling. While some reptiles may tolerate being held, it should be done with care and for limited periods. Amphibians have sensitive skin that can be damaged by oils and salts from human hands, so handling should be minimal and hands should be thoroughly rinsed before touching them.

What are the health benefits and risks of owning a reptile or amphibian?

Owning a reptile or amphibian can be rewarding and educational, offering insights into unique ecosystems and animal behaviors. However, there are health risks, such as the potential for salmonella transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reptiles and amphibians can carry salmonella bacteria, which can cause serious illness in humans, so proper hygiene is essential.

Do reptiles and amphibians need to visit the vet?

Yes, reptiles and amphibians require veterinary care to maintain their health. It's important to find a vet specializing in exotic pets, as they have different health requirements than traditional pets. Regular check-ups can help prevent and treat common issues such as parasitic infections, nutritional deficiencies, and other health problems specific to these species.

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